The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” – Dr. Seuss
Today is Read Across America day in honor of the birthdate of Theodor Geisel – better known, of course, as Dr. Seuss, author of some 50 books, primarily for kids.
Born on this date in 1904, Geisel started his career as an ad agency writer. While on a 1936 cruise to Europe, he was inspired to write his first book, And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street. But the book was rejected so many times he was about to burn the manuscript in frustration when a close friend urged him to give it one more try as a “shared cost” publication. It immediately clicked with kids. So Geisel wrote a second book, The 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and was on his way as one of the most successful children's authors ever.
Seuss’ most famous book started as a publisher’s dare. In May 1954, Life Magazine published a report on illiteracy, concluding that children were not learning to read because their books were boring. William Ellsworth Spaulding, director of education at Houghton Mifflin (later to become its chairman), compiled a list of 348 words he felt were important for 1st graders. He challenged Geisel to cut the list to 250 and "bring back a book children can't put down."
Using 236 of the words, Geisel wrote The Cat in the Hat, the most successful beginners’ book ever created. Still selling more than half-million copies annually it’s found in nearly every American home, school and library and undoubtedly being read by thousands of kids today. “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,” Geisel said. “It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
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