Please, tell me you know what today is?! It’s the birthday of the greatest American doctor who ever lived...Author of more than 60 books (counting those he didn’t illustrate and wrote under different names)...Possibly the first books you ever read...
You guessed it - DR.SEUSS aka Theodore Geisel! HAPPY DR. SEUSS DAY!! At my house, this is a “put the birthday banner up” holiday, and so here at Moxie, we’re gonna celebrate with a week of Seuss-ical posts. Seem a little weird? Let me tell you why it’s NOT!
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t equate reading to breathing. With teachers on both sides the family and avid reader parents, I didn’t know any better. Before I could read on my own, my Mom’s favorite excuse for not cleaning the house was that I followed her, dragging a clothes basket full of books, insisting I be read to every time she stopped for a breath.
Through so many stages of my life, reading has been a sanctuary. Reading is where I find my MOXIE, it’s how Devin and I came to be gal pals (more on that to come this week!) and it’s become a beautiful way to connect with my children.
I was reading out loud to my boys while they were in the womb. The two best things about July 2007 were the birth of my son and the arrival of my pre-ordered copy of The Deathly Hallows (which I proceeded to read out loud to my infant). I truly believe that reading aloud to your young children is one of THE BEST things you can do for their futures. Research shows that early literacy is absolutely critical to future school success. The more words we expose our children to before age 3, the better the language and communication development, equating to a higher readiness for formalized literacy learning in school.
From this passion for early literacy growth and reading in public schools, the Nation Education Association created Read Across America Day. The day has traditionally been celebrated on March 2nd - Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, though since 2017, Read Across America has made a move to focusing on reading everyday and on multicultural texts. It is so critical that ALL children see themselves in the books they read! That said, for so many Read Across America continues to be a time to celebrate Seuss’s work. Even just last week I saw the walls of a California elementary school plastered with the well-known logo.
My mother-in-law (Nana) was a Kindergarten teacher. When my oldest was born and March came along, Nana introduced me to my first Read Across America week. That year they were honoring Ferdinand, and we celebrated by adding it to our library at home. And since then, we’ve always celebrated, though at our house we lean a little more into Seuss.
I love the beauty and the whimsy of Dr. Seuss’s art, the colorful world of nonsense that he imagines, and how so many of his books look at human existence and ask how we can make a difference. With that said, one can’t deny that Theodore Geisel’s representation of race is often stereotypical, and in some cases openly racist. As a white woman, I recognize the privilege I come from. That is one of the reasons I believe (and research supports) all kids need texts that are diverse - they need to see themselves mirrored in texts, but also see true representation of others as well. That’s how our kids will begin to learn empathy and begin dialogues about the importance of racial issues facing our country today. There are some Dr. Seuss books that we just don’t read as a family because I don’t approve of the message - that’s the case with any author. But I also don’t believe in shielding my kids from this - this year, I’m going to show them examples of the representations of race in his books, and we’re going to have an honest conversation about the WHY. We’re going to talk about the power of Seuss books, about their beauty, and about how no one person can be all good or all bad.
So - why celebrate Dr. Seuss’s bday? We celebrate because we love books! We celebrate because his words show wisdom and compassion (and we talk openly about the scenarios in which they don’t).We know that in a country where we can’t agree on much, we can all believe that reading to kids makes a difference. Stay tuned all week to read more on reading!
AND oh yeah...in San Francisco and want to celebrate? Check out The Art of Dr. Seuss - an incredible gallery on Geary Street. See one of a kind, original Theodore Geisel art, talk to the curator, pet the dog, and be AWED!!
I even made Dev take Linc when they came in 2017 because I KNEW she'd love it. And she did...of course.