Books of famed children’s author still teach children the joys of reading decades later

By Nocole Daughhetee

Courier Staff

I am a planner and an organizer, and when I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, my skills went into some sort of hyper-drive. Filled with excitement and anticipation, I wanted to create the perfect environment to welcome her into the world.

Along with the traditional matchy-matchy crib, changing station, armoire, cutesy animal-themed bedding and oodles of pink (a color I never before would have considered for a room in my home), I also joined a book club for her.

My then-husband and I were both teaching English at Clemson and, as you might imagine, two self-proclaimed book-worms and word-nerds exposed our daughter to books in utero. I wanted — still want — my daughters to appreciate literature and enjoy the wonders of reading.

As a little girl, I grew up on Dr. Seuss. My mom had enrolled me in a book-of-the-month club, and I can remember being filled with excitement every time that corrugated brown box appeared with the rest of the mail. I couldn’t wait to get upstairs into our apartment and rip into the packaging.

Inside I would always find a brightly-colored, shiny hard-covered Dr. Seuss book, but beyond that was a portal into a new world filled with adventure, words that were fun to read aloud because they tickled, and interesting characters who were always a little strange, but in the most wonderful way.

The small collection of Dr. Seuss books was an enormous part of my early childhood. I can remember the sense of pride I felt in being able to choose a book off of my shelf, find a cozy nook to sit down and read the book from cover to cover without having to ask my mom for help.

Fox in Sox, The Cat in the Hat, There’s a Wocket in my Pocket … these books built my foundation for reading and created a passion for words and language that inspired me to continue reading throughout my life.

Of course I wanted to share this experience with my daughters, and I have. During both of my pregnancies I would read to my belly and the baby girls developing within. Once they were born I would sit in the rocking chair, holding them and reading.

Last week, as I sat in the carpool line at Forest Acres, I noticed a bunch of little kids leaving the school building wearing hand-made paper hats in the distinctive red and white striped Cat in the Hat style. It hit me that their classes must have been celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and curiosity made me do a little research.

The National Education Association (NEA) celebrates reading every year on March 2, the birth date of Dr. Seuss, through an annual reading motivation and awareness program.

NEA’s Read Across America also provides NEA members, parents, caregivers and children the resources and activities they need to keep reading on the calendar 365 days a year.

In cities and towns across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and others develop NEA’s Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. Governors, mayors and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And teachers and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students’ reading.

In May 1997, a small reading task force at NEA came up with a big idea.

“Let’s create a day to celebrate reading,” the group decided. “We hold pep rallies to get kids excited about football. We assemble to remember that Character Counts. Why don’t we do something to get kids excited about reading? We’ll call it ‘NEA’s Read Across America’ and we’ll celebrate it on Dr. Seuss’ birthday.”

And so was born on March 2, 1998, the largest celebration of reading this country has ever seen.

Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong successful readers. Research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.

Enjoy this small tribute to Dr. Seuss — an author whose books have inspired so many young readers to develop into adult readers — and some information about how you can encourage reading in your own home.