(This post was originally published on May 2014, updated in honor of the discontinued Dr.Suess’ books.)
Theodor Seuss Geisel. Does the name ring a bell? It probably won’t at first glance. However, if I were to tell you that some of his famous works include “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Lorax,” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” then you would definitely know who he is.
Of course, probably everyone has heard of the beloved Dr. Seuss. Not only is he famous for his words of wisdom but he is also an American writer, poet, and cartoonist who is widely known for his children’s books and illustrations. Dr. Seuss once said, “Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks”. What did he mean by that?
It’s simple, really. He was basically encouraging everyone, particularly parents, to make sure they have enough books in their house for children to read. I am assuming that while Dr. Seuss’ words apply to all ages, these were specifically aimed at young children to help them develop a fondness for books. What brought this about?
Early reading benefits
Well, according to Wikipedia, Life magazine published a report in May of 1954, and in it, the magazine disclosed the high level of illiteracy among schoolchildren. According to the report, the reason why children were not too fond of reading was that their books bored them.
Hence, Dr. Seuss was commissioned to write a 250-word book using a list of 348 words that were vital for first-graders to learn and recognize. After nine months, Dr. Seuss completed “The Cat in the Hat” using only 236 words from the list. The fact that the book used simplified vocabulary made it a hit amongst children who were just starting to read.
Other books written by Dr. Seuss that were similar to “The Cat in the Hat” became popular, too, and continuously sold numerous copies. This was a clear sign that not all is lost as far as encouraging children to read and love books went.
Love Books, They’ll Follow
Personally, I love books. In fact, I consider myself a bibliophile, and as much as possible, I try to encourage my kids to develop the same love for books and reading. I’m telling you, though; it’s no easy feat. Times are so much different today. Technology has gotten more advanced, and gadgets of all kinds are within easy reach of children. I’m sure you know a handful of kids who would rather play games on their Wii (or Switch), Xbox, or iPad than read books. It should be alarming, but unless parents try to do something about it, children will continue with their ways.
Most children hate reading because they think it’s boring. They would even say they don’t have time for it or the book they’re reading is too hard to understand. As frustrating as it looks, the reasons are understandable for the simple fact that children typically have very short attention span. Therefore, it’s up to you, as the parent, to think of ways to make the task appealing. You need to remember, though, that nagging, bribing, setting unrealistic goals, criticizing your child’s book choices, and making such a big deal out of reading will not get you anywhere.
Make Reading Fun
Rather than force it to your child, try to make it bearable for your kid. Before long, he’ll grow to appreciate books and develop genuine fondness for these. How can you do that?
Take time to read with your kid. Grab a book and snuggle under the covers while you and your child read his favorite story. If you can, customize a book all his own. Believe me; reading together is a great motivating tool to get your child to start loving books.
Moreover, since children generally consider reading a boring task, make sure to keep it fun for him. Make the storytelling or reading time interactive, even at bedtime. Ask questions or make him finish the sentences, sort of like filling in the blanks. You’ll both have a good laugh as he thinks of the right words to finish the sentence off. You could even re-enact some of the scenes on the book or create funny sound effects while reading.
Stack Books, Download Them Too
If you’re familiar with the website Goodreads, they have there an annual reading challenge wherein you will challenge yourself to read a certain number of books in one year. You can do something similar with your kid. Create a chart or graph that would serve as a visible record of your child’s reading achievements. Every time he marks his progress, he’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. This, in turn, would egg him on to continue reading.
Update: Ceased Publication
In the beginning of March 2021, it was announced that publication of ix Dr. Seuss books will be stopped. The said books include “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”
Why would these books be discontinued? “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement.
The said books’ prices have now skyrocketed in second-hand shops going for more than 400$ each.
Fill your House with Stacks of Books, It’s never too late
The past year proved to be a good reason why books should be readily available at home. Idle hands and idle minds were something kids aren’t that ready for. With the many books they can re-read, the stay-at-home protocol became bearable.
It is never too late to fill your house with stacks of books. If you have a small collection, continue with it and add new ones that your kids will enjoy. Teach your kids to love books by showing them.
Also, give your children a free hand in choosing which books they want to read. Take them to the bookstore and let them find one for themselves. And gift them books they really like. Their choices would give you an idea what genre they’re interested in and you can use that knowledge to develop their interest in reading further.