Today is the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as the children’s author Dr. Seuss. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1925. Before he began writing children’s books, Geisel wrote humorous articles and cartoons for Judge magazine.
On May 25, 1954, Life magazine published a story by journalist John Hersey called “Why Do Students Bog Down on the First R?” The article criticized the boring books used to teach students how to read. Primers like Fun with Dick and Jane did not have captivating narratives, and despite the title, there wasn’t anything “fun” about them. In response to Hersey’s article, William Spaulding, director of Houghton Mifflin’s educational division, challenged Geisel to write a story that would captivate young readers. Spaulding’s challenge included a requirement that the book’s words be limited to 225 distinct words from a list of 348 words from the standard first-grade vocabulary.
Geisel took the challenge, and nine months later he presented Spaulding his book, The Cat in the Hat, which was published in 1957. Although Geisel exceeded the word limit by eleven words, Spaulding was pleased with the book, which sold over a million copies in its first three years of publication.
Geisel’s classic book Green Eggs and Ham, published on August 12, 1960, was written with an even more stringent word limit. Geisel’s editor, Bennett Cerf, challenged him to write a book using 50 or fewer words. When the book was finished, it used the following 50 words:
a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you. (2)
Dr. Seuss also deserves credit for coining a word that lives on with frequent usage in the 21st century. His 1950 book If I Ran a Zoo contains the first known instance of the word nerd, which originally referred to one of the zoo creatures in Seuss’s book.
Today’s Challenge: Kindergarten Convocation
If you were selected to present a convocation address to a group of kindergarteners, what would you say to inspire them at the start of their academic careers? The word convocation comes from the Latin convocare, meaning “to call or come together.” Many schools kick off the school year with a convocation address, the purpose of which is to welcome and to inspire students to make the most of their educational opportunities. Write a convocation address for kindergartners using clear, simple words that will inspire them for the educational adventure they have ahead of them. Challenge yourself to use the clearest language possible. For a real challenge, in the Dr. Seuss tradition, try to write using only single syllable words. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
Quotation of the Day:
The more that you read,
The more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
The more places you’ll go.