Read Across America, held each year on March 2nd, marks the birth of Dr. Seuss by encouraging young children to read. This year, the Storytelling Club, advised by Mrs. Kaplan, travelled to Red Bank Elementary School to read stories to small children. The Lorax, an allegory about taking care of the environment, was his year’s story of focus, in part because of the recent release of the film version.
Dr. Seuss is a man that almost all children have grown up knowing, and we each have our favorite story. Some of us laugh at the curious antics of The Cat in the Hat, while others enjoy the maniacal man grene monster whose heart grows 3 sizes in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Whatever your favorite, Dr. Seuss has found a way to influence you and inspire a love of reading.
However, as I reflected upon this day, I also began to wonder about the man behind the persona.
Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1904 on March 2 in Springfield, Massachusetts. His main influence was his mother. When he was little she would often “chant” rhymes remembered from her youth. Many of his books are also inspired by his hometown of Springfield. As a teen, Seuss attended Dartmouth College and became editor-in-chief of the Jack-O-Latern, a humor magazine at Dartmouth. During the time that he was there ,Seuss managed to get into some trouble.
Due to some disciplinary actions, he began to sign “Seuss” on his pieces so the administration wouldn’t identify him as the author. After Dartmouth, Seuss ventured to Oxford University to begin studying, became bored with his studies, and went to study abroad in Europe.
As Seuss became older he wanted to join the army so he could go to war in WWII. He was too old to draft into the war so he made training movies instead. While making the movies, he was introduced to the art of animation and developing illustrations. Seuss also continued to work with Life, Vanity Fair, Judge, and other magazines.
After he began to get noticed, he wrote and illustrated his first book entitled And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. This book was rejected 27 times before it became published. However, it was the book The Cat in the Hat caused Dr. Seuss’s career to skyrocket. The Sneetches, an earlier book, was again inspired by his hometown of Springfield. The truck driver in this book was most likely inspired by the Knox tractor he saw as a young boy in the streets of his birthplace.
Dr. Seuss has encouraged many directors to make movies, beginning with the 1953 movie The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. The movie follows the same lines as The Wizard of Oz. Newer movies that may be noticeable How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, and Horton Hears a Who.
Dr. Seuss has motivated many people across the world. An author who went through endless editing and writing jobs became one of the most popular writers. Happy reading, America!
Photograph courtesy of Mrs. Kaplan