Since everyone is celebrating Dr. Seuss's birthday this week, I thought I would throw in my two cents on why Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) is such a celebrated figure in the world of children's literature.
1. His illustrative style is unique. It doesn't matter if you're reading his political cartoons or his famous books -- you know Seuss style when you see it. I remember as a young child thinking everything had either a sort of "feathery" or very rounded effect to it. Even standard animals and trees had that distinct style. Although I'm not a fan of the non-animated Grinch movie, I bet the costume designers and makeup artists had SO much fun trying to translate Seuss style to real life.
2. He's not afraid to make up words. I was reading Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! to the girls today and was reminded of how it seems so effortless when he makes up a creature like a "beft" or "guff" because it rhymed with something else he had in mind for the story. Who wouldn't love the ability to make up a word and then physically create it on a page? Because of his gift we now know what sneetches are :) A lot of children make up words (I hear my daughter do it all the time) which is why reading Seuss books are so enjoyable to them. They don't always have a paradigm like adults do about what should and should not be. The linguistic world is their oyster and I think Dr. Seuss never lost that wonder for words.
3. Everything rhymes. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Seuss' books (excluding his first few that were prose) rhyme in anapestic meter, whatever that is! You don't have to be an expert in poetic meter to appreciate the sing-songy quality to his books. When children are learning to read and sound things out what books could be better than ones that rhyme constantly? Use words they are familiar with and let them anticipate and have fun. Parents actually want to read these books to their children because there is certain comfort that comes from rhyme. Having go-to books contributes to parents and children spending more quality time together and learning to love reading - a win-win!
4. He had a good grasp on what beginning readers need. He generally uses simple words and yet creates this amazing story from them. You draw the children into your world, but make the reading accessible.
5. His books lend to so many other fun activities. There's a reason elementary school teachers make such a fuss over Dr. Seuss' birthday. You can have literacy lesson plans all year based on his books. Stay at home moms have them all over their Pinterest accounts. I love seeing people being inspired to create activities based on a popular work.
Caveat: I have chosen not to see the new movie versions of things like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, and Horton Hears a Who. From the reviews I have read and my friends who have seen them most of the movie versions are either overly PC or distort the original intent of the books. I say stick with the books and enjoy them together with your kids. I also think it's perfectly okay to appreciate some of his books more than others (or even completely ignore a few).
Which are your favorite Dr. Seuss books? Why?
Here are a few activities (beyond just literacy) to help you celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday:
- Dr. Seuss Book Guessing Game Printable
- 75+ Dr. Seuss Activities
- Build a Dr. Seuss City (Totally awesome!)
- 20 Math Activities -- Dr. Seuss Inspired
And for those who are of a more cynical nature about the actual MESSAGE of Dr. Seuss... this popped up when I was searching for Dr. Seuss images: