For literary fans across the nation, March 2nd is a glorious day for two reasons: It’s the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, and it’s the birthday of our favorite children’s author, Dr. Seuss. Students young and old can recall enjoying Dr. Seuss’s quirky and enchanting books when they first began to read, and they carry a fondness for his work well after moving on to the more challenging sides of literature. Because of that continued love for Dr. Seuss and his books, we commemorate his inspiring life with Read Across America Day, meant to celebrate the pure joy of reading and sharing that happiness with young readers throughout the country. As we enter into this time of literary promotion and celebration, let us also reflect on some of the lessons left to us by the man whose unique perspectives on art and literature have left an unmistakable mark on the world of children’s books.
1. Perseverance is Key: Before Dr. Seuss became the literary giant we all know and love today, he was known as Theodore Seuss Geisel, or Ted for short. Ted received his bachelor’s degree in English in the 1920s from Dartmouth, and moved to New York City shortly after in an attempt to start a career as a cartoonist. After being tossed out of numerous ad agencies, production companies, and magazine offices for three months, he landed his first job as a freelance cartoonist with The Saturday Evening Post. Years later, his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was born. Geisel had to withstand 27 rejections of his manuscript before it was accepted for publishing. His distinct style wasn’t for everyone at first, but his determination and commitment to his goals are core factors of his eventual success.
2. Forge Your Own Path: Ted Geisel’s artistic style was entirely his own from the very start, a mixture of surrealism and pure fantasy that made his work unique. Because of this very distinctive style, publishers were hesitant to produce his pieces. Despite the seemingly endless bouts of rejection, Geisel stayed true to his personal style, and held on to his artistic identity even in the face of consistent negative feedback from others. Now, his work is admired by millions and considered properly and perfectly Seussian.
3. Humility Is the Best Policy: While the work of Dr. Seuss became quite successful even while Geisel was alive, he never let the fame and recognition affect him negatively. Ted was known as someone who could light up a room and add laughter to any situation. His fame was simply a part of what he did, not who he was. Geisel’s ability to remain true to himself through the flood of success also allowed him to become one of the biggest philanthropists in Dartmouth’s history. He and his wife were some of the school’s most significant donors on record, and the Audrey and Theodore Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth was named in their honor.
4. Shine a Little Light: Soon after the publication of his first book, World War II broke out. At that time, Ted served in the military as a captain, attached to Frank Capra’s wartime documentary filmmaking unit. His scripts focused on the morale and principles maintained by troops, and he later received the Legion of Merit for his efforts. Geisel also created military cartoons to boost the men’s spirits while he served, creating laughter with his zany character Private Snafu during one of the darkest moments in the world’s history. With nothing more than a pen and a little imagination, Geisel was able to spark happiness in an environment where joy was extremely scarce.
5. Use Your Talent to Help Others: One of Seuss’s landmark works is the classic and wildly popular The Cat in the Hat, which used an anapestic tetrameter structure meant to help children learn how to read through the use of cadence. With the emergence of this achievement, Geisel founded Beginner Books, a publishing company focusing on creating books for children. His company was soon absorbed by Random House Publishing and is still one of the most successful branches of the company today, creating books to be used as tools to help children unlock the gift of reading.