National Read Across America Day celebrates Dr. Suess’ birthday

By Melissa Huber, I-O Reporter

As schools all over America gear up for National Read Across America Day, held annually on March 2 (or the school day closest to that date), one cannot help but remember the famous children’s book author, Dr. Seuss, who’s birthday inspired the event.

It’s hard to believe that this paramount of children’s literature, whom always had encouraging things to say in his books (things like “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”) was of the opinion that approaching a story with a blatant moral in mind was damaging to the overall idea.

Peter Bunzel explained it further in his 1959 Life magazine article about the famous author, whose full name was Theodor Seuss Geisel: “Most of Geisel’s books point to a moral, though he insists he never starts with one. ‘Kids,’ he says, ‘can see a moral coming a mile off and they gag at it. But there’s an inherent moral in any story.’”

This is an idea echoed by Philip Pullman, a very different writer from Seuss, who has said that “Try as hard as you can, you can’t leave out morality from a book. Everything we do, however small, has consequences. The greatest fiction always has a sequence of actions followed by reactions, followed by consequences.”

This is true of Dr. Seuss’s work, as is his use of analogy to expose these moral lessons. Many of his works are analogies for bigger issues, and some have even been banned for it. The Butter Battle tackled the very complex issue of the Cold War and arms race, and was initially banned for it. Furthermore, The Lorax, a book with very clear environmentalism themes, was banned from a Californian school for being unfair to the logging industry.

These incidents were not the only time Dr. Seuss would be the subject of controversy, which makes his overall loyalty to the story, whatever it may be, that much more inspiring. His focus had ever been on making a fun and exciting story. In fact, The Cat in the Hat was born out of a desire to make traditional Dick and Jane primers more entertaining and fun to read, a feat he accomplished using a list of 348 words every six-year-old should know.

It cannot be said that the illustrious Dr. Seuss did not remain true to his readership, even if that audience was often no older than 10.