The more you read, the more you know

Ruth Griffiths

Today is Dr. Seuss Day and national Read A Book Day in the United States. Dr. Seuss is the pen name of author and illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel. His birthday, March 2, is celebrated by the National Education Association to endorse the importance of reading.

Dr. Seuss Day is a full 24 hours to make a mess with the Cat in the Hat, dance around with the Fox in Sox, hear a Who with Horton, count the red and blue fish, help the Grinch see the error of his ways, and listen to Sam I Am’s friend complain about his dish of green eggs and ham!

Dr. Seuss was a writer, poet and cartoonist. Though best known as a children’s author (he released 46 books for beginning readers), he was also an illustrator for advertising campaigns and a political cartoonist during the Second World War. Like many writers, he got his start as the editor of his university newspaper.

He was also a perfectionist, known to discard 95% of his material before settling on a theme for a new book For example, The Cat in the Hat, one of his most widely-read books, took him a year and a half to write.

In the mid-50s, William Spaulding, then the director of Houghton Mifflin’s educational division, reacted to a magazine article “Why Johnny Can’t Read.” Spaulding thought the traditional “Dick and Jane” readers were too boring for beginning readers. He challenged Dr. Seuss to write a new primer for American children and gave him a list of words that six- and seven-year-old children were expected to be able to read. Seuss thought he would dash off the book in no time, but it took a year and a half. He underestimated how hard it would be to write a book using just over 200 words. Seuss was so frustrated with the word list Spaulding had given him that he finally decided to scan the list and create a story out of the first two words he found that rhymed. The words he found were cat and hat. When published in 1957, the book was immensely popular and cemented his reputation as a children’s author.  Unfortunately, the Cat in the Hat never replaced Dick and Jane.

Seuss’s first book for children, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,”  was rejected 27 times before it was finally published in 1937. But times and sensibilities change. In 2021 Mulberry Street was one of six books withdrawn from publication. The other books that will no longer be published are “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”  According to a statement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the decision to pull these titles from publication was made after reviewing Dr. Seuss’s work with a panel of experts. The books that were withdrawn from publication portray racist imagery of Asian and African people.

Dr. Seuss was born March 2, 1904 in Massachusetts and died in 1991 in California. His many bizarre, colourful and zany tales are still cherished by young and old alike. Many of his book were translated into more than 20 languages are read all across the world.

Let us celebrate reading today and heed a couplet penned by Dr. Seuss:

The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.