The Times West Virginian

February 26, 2014

Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ many works, magic words

Times West Virginian

— You know his words.

You know them well.

He probably helped you read and spell.

And this week, students across the nation will immerse themselves in the works of this famous writer as they mark Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America, a nationwide reading celebration that takes place on March 2 of each year.

Locally, schools are celebrating over the next two weeks by organizing special activities, inviting parents to come to their children’s classrooms to read and displaying special decorations that encourage reading.

It’s all part of an effort to help children develop a lifelong love of reading, and it’s one that Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, perhaps did better than anyone through his popular children’s books like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Phrases like “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose!” from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and “We’ve got to make noises in greater amounts! So open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!” from “Horton Hears a Who!” are catchy. Even better, they’re easy for children to understand and remember.

And that’s the whole point of Read Across America. One simple act of reading aloud to a child can quickly evolve into a weekly activity, and from there, a constant request from children for more stories and more books.

The benefits, as research has long suggested, are virtually countless.

Education leaders around the globe point to statistics that say children who come to school with a large vocabulary do better than the children who come to school with little familiarity with words and a low vocabulary.

There are neurological benefits as well as psychological and social ones, too. Young children who are read to are likely to have enhanced concentration and discipline. They will have better communication skills. They’ll be able to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, and recognize cause and effect.

The fact that these benefits are possible thanks to such a simple activity seems almost impossible. Yet parents and teachers know that instilling a love for words and reading will open up a world of possibilities for their children as they embark upon their scholastic careers.

Academic careers based on a foundation of reading are destined for success. Why? Because as Dr. Seuss himself wrote, “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”