I come from the “Dick and Jane” reading generation. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, these were sets of books used to teach children to read. They included the riveting (NOT!) adventures of Dick, Jane, and their dog, Spot.
Nevertheless, if you ask me what the first book I ever read was, I would reply without having to scratch at my memory one bit. It was The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss. I loved reading about “Sally and I,” Little Cat A, and Little Cat B and how they all are faced with the ring in the tub from the infamous Cat in the Hat. That big long pink cat ring that looked like pink ink soon spreads throughout the entire house.
I loved it. When I finished, I read it again. Then I read the prequel, The Cat in the Hat. After that, I proceeded to read 150+ books during my first grade year. I know because we had to keep a list, and my poor mother had to listen to me read them all.
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back started me onto the path of reading. Once I picked up books I enjoyed, I’ve never put them down. To this day, reading remains my favorite activity.
Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was born 112 years ago today. Libraries and schools across America celebrate it, some as National Read Across America Day. What a good time to talk about reading.
Reading should be fun and engaging. If it is, then people won’t hesitate to read other things, even things not as fun or engaging.
However, some people want to dictate what should be read or even available to read. I’m not talking about age suitability issues. And the whole book banning thing deserves its own post. Today, I’m talking about purists who look down their nose at graphic novels or silly or scary books.
Years ago when my oldest child was in elementary school, a book fair was held at his school. The advertising for the book fair showed Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine. My son happened to be a big fan of the series at the time. They were just scary enough to keep a nine-year-old’s interest without giving him nightmares.
When he got to the book fair, no Goosebumps books were to be found. I asked. Apparently, the mom in charge of the book fair and the current school librarian deemed the Goosebumps books unsuitable and made an executive decision not to offer them at the book fair. Furious, I took my dollars to a bookstore that allowed me a choice.
At age 6, my middle child had all the mechanics to be a reader without the desire. He could identify any word you pointed out; he just wasn’t putting the words together. His very wise teacher began reading a popular series of books to the kids, Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. The books reminded me of young children telling a joke–they get to a punchline that makes no sense and laugh hysterically. I’m sure people once thought the same of Dr. Seuss.
Captain Underpants ignited a spark in my middle child. Suddenly, he wanted to read and did. Everything. His reading scores eclipsed everything in his standardized testing repertoire.
What does it matter if beginning, emerging, or reluctant readers want to read books about a super hero in underpants or comic books? Isn’t it more important that people learn to read? And wouldn’t it be even better if they enjoyed it?
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss.