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On March 12, 53 years ago, Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat hit stores and revolutionized the childrens’ book industry, and possibly the way children would think and read for decades to come. Before Dr. Seuss, children were following the adventures of the traditional (and oh so polite) Dick and Jane and their dog, Spot. But when Dr. Seuss introduced us to a pair of bored siblings and their pet, a responsible fish called, well, “Fish,” we realized that our kids would never be bored again.
Dr. Suess actually wrote The Cat in the Hat to help teach literacy. He used a list of 236 distinct beginner reading words, of which 221 were monosyllabic. The only three syllable word in the entire story was “another.”
Dr. Seuss spent the next 50 years describing the places we could go, the things we could see and the “thinks we could think” using simple and often silly terms. He promoted imagination, literacy, equality and self esteem. He taught us about our differences, and how to embrace them through rhyming with Loraxes, Sneetches and Whos. We counted fish, we hopped on pop, we hatched eggs, and we ruled all that we could see. Dr. Seuss offered something totally unique to children, and to this day, his books continue to do so.
In my opinion, there are few books that compare with Fox in Socks, Yertle the Turtle, There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, or Green Eggs and Ham. Just last week, my son brought in my childhood copy of And To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street for his class's Dr. Seuss celebration. Though it was tearing at the spine and discolored from age, I didn't hesitate (well, maybe a little) to let him show it off. In fact, I saved my own Dr. Seuss books so they could be read and enjoyed by my children --the way that generations of young children have done for a half century. I hope that one day my grandchildren ride their hovercrafts to school with my dilapidated Dr. Seuss books in their virtual backpacks.