Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oh, the Returns of the Day!

In case you haven't heard,                                    
or read Jeanne Marie's post,                       
this week,
all week,
all across America,
celebrating Dr. Seuss’ Birthday!

I know, I know: if I was really being true to this most beloved and prolific author, I’d have written my opening in rhymed prose (maybe anapestic tetrameter?) and included at least 13 invented words.

NEA’S Read Across America is the largest reading event in the United States. Children participate in read-alouds, read-alongs and all sorts of reading marathon activities to honor, remember and celebrate Theodor Seuss Geisel who was born March 2, 1904. (Yes! You subtracted correctly! Were Dr. Seuss alive today he’d be 108!)

As NEA wrote in its tribute, Dr. Seuss “changed the landscape of children’s books with his controlled-vocabulary tales of antic cats, colorful meals and dozens of other zany tales.”

Really what he did was grow READERS, at a time in our history, 1954, when children were turning away from uninteresting primers, not to mention Dick, Jane and Sally.
Proud readers.
Happy readers.
Smarter and affirmed readers.
And because, as Richard Peck says, we write in the light of every book we read,
writers are readers!
So Dr. Seuss grew WRITERS too.

Those are the exact words I shared Monday when I had the good fortune to visit
Glenview, Illinois’ Henry Winkelman Elementary School to jumpstart the school’s Read Across America Week!

We talked about pen names,
and how Theodor chose his,
and created ours (the possibilities were endless),
and his invented words (too many to list)
and his identifiable rhymes,
and the word Seussian, his eponymous adjective,
and created  ours (the possibilities were endless),
and the 236 words he used to write The Cat in the Hat,
and how different the story might have been,
had only queen and zebra and bird and wings been on the 300-word list from which he was writing,
and of course,
finally, where Dr. Seuss got his story ideas.
(Every August 4, he visited the town of UberGletch, in Switzerland and while his cuckoo clock was being repaired, he walked about the town talking with the zany residents.)

The day was aWinklemazing! (think Zwinkle! Zwinkle!)from beginning to end, with a Young Writers Lunch and Meet-up smack dab in the middle.

As I often do when visiting a school that bears the name of an individual, I asked the Kindergarteners and First Graders,
“Just who was Henry Winkelman?”
It turns out Mrs. Rudnik knew: Henry Winkelman was a long-ago beloved janitor.

Later that morning she took her Kindergarteners on a Treasure Hunt, visiting various spaces throughout the school.
I’m happy to report that by the end of the day, Mr. Winkelman celebrated Dr. Seuss’ Birthday too.

Sonia’s Thank You letter punctuated my day at Winkelman with an exclamation point!

What better way to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday than to celebrate with his fans.

They remind me non-stop why I choose to write for children.

Esther Hershenhorn

Thanks to Mrs. Christine Kolbuk, Winkelman's Learning Resource Center Director, and the Winkelman Kiddos and their teachers for being especially terrific reminders.


Susan J. Berger said...

One of my best memories is being read to by my second grade teacher "To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street." I still write Seussicals in loving tribute.

Carmela Martino said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate Read Across America! Lucky you, Esther.