Today is Dr. Seuss Day, or “National Read Across America Day”. It occurs annually on March 2nd, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The National Education Association created the holiday in 1998 to encourage reading. It is celebrated on March 2nd unless it falls on a weekend and then it is celebrated on the closest weekday to Dr. Seuss’ birthday. I wish we had had it when I was a kid.
When our girls were young their teachers did an admiral job of celebrating the day. In preschool the teachers cooked green eggs and ham for the children’s breakfast and then read the book for the kids. Our Elementary school did a great job when my kids were in kindergarten and 1st grade celebrating Dr. Seuss and reading with our children. They have made Cat in the Hat hats, drawn the Lorax and long-necked birds from If I Ran the Zoo, turned a picture of themselves into a character from Ten Apples on Top, made One Fish, Two Fish Jello, and even dressed up as their favorite Dr. Seuss characters (Cindy Lou Who and the Cat in the Hat). They had costume contests, parades, and of course read lots of Dr. Seuss books.
It was sad to see, however, as the children grew older that their teachers decided that they were “too old” to participate in the fun. In the second grade my eldest daughter wore a headband with a miniature Cat in the Hat hat and ears on it and a cat’s tail to school. Her sister, Peyton was in kindergarten and was dressing up as Cindy Lou and Presley was so excited about it. Her teacher had told them that the class was not dressing up that year but I didn’t see the harm in a headband and tail. I was wrong. You would have thought the poor thing wore a shirt with foul language to school the way her teacher made her feel. She was made to remove her “costume”. And her imagination and enthusiasm still bear the scars today. Gone is the outgoing kid who embraced outward displays of fun and individualism; now she is very careful to follow the rules. No more out-of-the-box actions or outfits for her. Dr. Seuss would be ashamed! Not of her, but of a teacher’s decision that 8 years old is too old for make-believe or dress up.
Kids should be allowed to be kids and we should celebrate the fact that they are kids and still able to find the joy in small things, like Dr. Seuss. I’m afraid the same is going to hold true for Peyton this year; her third grade teacher has made no mention of Dr. Seuss in the days preceding today, so much for childhood. Middle School has proven no different and no mention of Read Across America Day or Dr. Seuss’ birthday has been made during Presley’s fourth or fifth grade years, which is a shame. Their stoicism can’t keep us from celebrating at home, however. We will at least sit down today and read one of our favorite Seuss books like Green Eggs and Ham or Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now?
I don’t think the National Education Association could foresee that attaching an imaginative children’s author to their National Reading Day would pigeonhole it into only being participated in by the 6-and-under crowd. I’m sure their intention was to find a fun “theme” for their cause that everyone could relate to (old and young). Perhaps some us would do well to remember that and celebrate the day as it was intended: to share the joy of reading and its ability to transport you to different times, places, and worlds (both real and imagined). Reading is perhaps our greatest educational tool and any way you can get a child interested in it is worth the effort.