Editor’s Note: Today is Read Across America Day, in honor of the birthday of Dr. Seuss. As a result, Joyce wanted to share this paper she wrote for a class at the Community College of Rhode Island about the good doctor who wasn’t actually a doctor.
Getting any point across to children today is hard. They are either lost in their smartphones and hand held gadgets, or too busy on social media liking this and poking that to even listen to anything a parent has to a say.
There is a man who has mastered the art of the moral lesson, someone we all know and love. Mr. Theodor Geisel uses different styles and techniques to train and entertain our brain into learning. While some parents can lecture their children for what seems like hours using thousands and thousands of words, he can do it using a mere 50 simple words.
Although it may seem a little sneaky, effective it is. His books are not without controversy, and some have been renamed, banned or just plain frowned upon, but this does not take away the fact that Theodor Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, is the most effective educator in the world.
Dr. Seuss has found a way to teach lessons to children with his whimsical delightable, Seussable rhyming and timing. He can get you through the book in no time flat, bringing you around the world and teaching you this and showing you that.
How does he do it? How does he get a point across? Is it the creatures we see on the pages of the books we so loved as children, or is it something more? Does the rhyming really help? We remember song lyrics, but not the book assigned last week by our English teacher, why is that? Why can I remember the words to any Taylor Swift song heard on the radio, but I’ve forgotten the lyrics by Sappos of Lesbos?
It’s all in the rhyming and timing and the choice of words too, and sometimes the made up words that gets us all through. Don’t know what I mean, stumped at a stop, give this a read, then “go ask your pop.” (Seuss, 1960, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish.)
- I am Sam
- I am Sam
- Sam I am
- That Sam-I-am
- That Sam-I-am!
- I do not like that Sam-I-am
- Do you like green eggs and ham
- I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
- I do not like green eggs and ham.
This is beginning of the book, Green Eggs and Ham. (Seuss, 1960, Green Eggs and Ham.)
Last listed as the fourth-bestselling English-language children's hardcover book of all time (Publishers Weekly, 2010), Green Eggs and Ham came merely as a way for Geisel to prove his friend and editor wrong.
Bennett Cerf challenged Geisel, saying that an entertaining and intelligent book could not be written using 50 words or less (Jenny’s Noddle’s, 2010).
This was shortly after Geisel penned The Cat in the Hat. A book and character we have all grown to know or love as the silly cat, in the red and white striped stove pipe hat. He goes against the grain to teach young children to listen to authority, but to never stop questioning it.
The Cat in the Hat was a story Geisel wrote using only 225 words, so Cerf challenged him with a $50 bet to create another using just 50 or less words, and that’s all he wrote, 50 words (Jenny’s Noddle’s, 2010).
He would spend up to year writing most books, which can be hard to wrap our minds around, since most of his children’s books are a few pages in length. Yet Geisel would take his time choosing the right words, and making the right rhyme, and this book was more than just another book, it was a bet he had to win.
Green Eggs and Ham was dissected by Geisel. He counted every word and had charts made to show the amount of times each word was used; for example, in this book he used the word “I” 81 times!
Not to be forgotten is the word “not”, it was used 82 times in this children’s book. All the words are single-syllables, all except one, and that one was “anywhere,” which was used a meager eight times in this classic (Best-books-for-kids.com, 2010).
Geisel writes this book in the style of ‘iambic tetrameter.’ Also called long measure, its rhyming in the second and fourth lines and often in the first and third. Here, read out loud and see if you hear!
- I do not like them in a house.
- I do not like them with a mouse.
- I do not like them here or there.
- I do not like them anywhere.
- I do not like green eggs and ham.
- I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
We read, “I do not like them,” over and over again, and we rhyme house, mouse, there, anywhere and ham and am as well.
According to the Northern Michigan University’s Academic and Career Advisement Center, your brain is a muscle, and repetition helps the brain to form a stronger connection related to that piece of information.
Repetition is one of the most basic learning techniques. Infants use it to learn to speak. Athletes use it to perfect athletic skills. People can only hold an average of five to nine pieces of information in their short term memory at a time, therefore concentrating on only a few pieces of data at a time is important. Geisel uses repetition and very few words and we remember this because we read and or say it, over and over again.
Now this children’s classic is not without its controversy, oh no! It seems almost every Seuss book has been put under a microscope of scrutiny. When first you read Green Eggs and Ham, it’s a simple story of a fox named Sam, who loves green eggs and ham so much he wants to share them with the unnamed grouchy guy. One thinks that this is a story about trying something new, or you don’t know if you don’t like it until you try it… a lesson many parents have attempted to teach at the dinner table to young children about broccoli and brussel sprout, and have failed!
Yet some may find it is a story about peer pressure, that Sam is a pushy fox, who is bothering someone to try his “good” stuff. The grouchy guy says no until he can’t take Sam’s pushiness anymore and he gives in, or gives up, and finally tries it.
What if the fox was pushing cigarettes or a drink, or drugs, would you look at the story the same? If looked at in that way, a parent might be upset, upset that the moral of the story is give in to peer-pressure?
I happen to look at this story in many different ways. First, it’s a children’s book, meant for the “Beginners readers” (Beginner Books Publishing). Sometimes a children’s book is just that, a book with no moral, just a cute story.
Another way to I look at it is from the view of Sam the Fox – if at first you don’t succeed… Then try, try and try a million more times again! Don’t let someone’s “NO” stop you from doing things.
In this case, Sam the Fox wanted to share his yummy breakfast, nothing more. There was no exchange of currency, no beat down on the grouchy dude, just sharing. Sharing is just another lesson one can take from this book.
Geisel never started writing any of his books with a moral in mind, he just wanted to write a story, and in this case, a story to win a bet. A bet he happened to win, and until the day he died in 1991 he claimed Cerf never paid up on their little wager. Yet somehow I think he did just fine without those $50 (Seussville.com).
Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, Margaret Wise Brown, Crockett Johnson and Maurice Sendak all share a fact with Geisel – Sadly, none of them had any children.
These children’s authors taught our children some of their first life lessons, yet had no children of their own. When asked how he, Geisel, a childless children’s author could possibly write for that which he does not have, he simply replied, “You make ’em. I’ll amuse ’em.”
Not only did he amuse us, but like I stated in the beginning, he educated us. Since the late 1950s, Geisel has done his best in teaching us the simple meanings in life, sharing, caring, manners and more. All this is done in little books with silly characters that don’t require cords, batteries or chargers, just paper and ink.
Seems so simple, don’t you think? Now I am NO Ted Geisel, and this is a fact, but I am a lover of Seuss, and his Cat in the Hat.