Read Across America to Celebrate Literacy and Dr. Seuss

I will read all through Montana
I will read across Alaska
I will read in New York City
I will read in Mississippi
I will read way down in Texas
And throughout the state of Kansas
I will read from California
All the way to North Dakota
I will read tucked up in Main
And from the sea down through the plains
I will read out in the mountains
Then find my way back to Wisconsin
I will read in the middle of the country
Now will everybody join me?

Pardon me. It looks like I caught a case of the Seuss. I’m better now.

It’s Read Across America Day, and what better time for that holiday to land than on the day Dr. Seuss was born? The National Education Association declared the birthday of the famous Theodore Geisel a national reading holiday back in 1997.

A day of reading sounds like something we could all use. I spend so much time working in publishing, but a lot of that involves proposals, pitches, emails, drafting, editing, marketing, and analyzing stories. So sometimes reading gets pushed aside. But reading is an essential aspect of growth and continued communication, so I have to find a way to fit it in.

Dr. Seuss crafted nonsense and silliness mixed with beautiful lessons of caring for the planet, each other, and those in need.

Writers need to read, but so do teachers, doctors, truck drivers, cooks, cashiers; parents and children alike.

You can easily tell the difference between a person who reads and one who doesn’t.

How we speak to others is refined by the literature that influences our speech and our interactions.

Kids sometimes struggle with reading because it slows them down and keeps them from running around chasing life. They are also just learning the depths of language and etymology, which can be overwhelming. My middle child hated reading when she started to learn because she felt like she couldn’t compete with her older sister who was an avid bookworm. Finding material for her to enjoy was a struggle.

Luckily, she latched onto animal stories, especially nonfiction about pets or wild animals who were orphaned and raised by people.

Struggling to find material that really speaks to a person is not uncommon, even for adults. My brother in-law hates reading. I have friends and family members who just can’t stand sitting down to go over a book when they have so much to do. Some have bad eyes.

It may seem silly, but a national day of reading reminds us that we can’t always avoid rest.

Illnesses and severe weather attacks us and says, "Nope, you need to slow down!" 

The world doesn’t stop, but we can take a little time to sit back and enjoy someone else’s perspective when we’re ailing, or a foot of snow falls in our lap. When I'm feeling yucky, I need to smile. Laughter is my favorite way to connect with others, so the funnier a book is, the better, in my eyes.

Dr. Seuss had this down. He perfected the art of immature whimsy. Instead of trying to make perfect rhymes out of already existing terms, he made up his own words. He crafted nonsense and silliness mixed with beautiful lessons of caring for the planet, each other, and those in need.

His start was impressive. A Dartmouth graduate, he played with illustrations and comedy in magazines like Life and Vanity Fair, but eventually he turned to children’s publishing. He struggled to break through until a friend in the industry gave him a foot in the door. (Not very inspiring for those of us who don’t have buddies in publishing, but it was meant to be).

He published over 60 children’s books, 44 of which were under the name Dr. Seuss, and many of his titles are unforgettable classics that continue to captivate readers young and old.

I will never tire of reading Horton Hatches the Egg.

That specific story always stuck with me, as did The Butter Battle Book, The Lorax—of course and my husband’s favorite The Sneeches. But the best laugh I get from Geisel’s writing is reading the lesser known tale, What was I scared of? It takes absurdism to a new level. 

Whether you enjoy Seuss's work or books of a more serious nature, I want every one of you to take at least 10 minutes to sit down and read today. 10 minutes. That's it.

You can do that while pooping
You can do that by stewing
You can do that on a bus
You can do that with Gus….

You get the point. Sure, I’m no Dr. of children’s books, but I’m a bit of a book nurse and we can all appreciate a good read.

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Jessica Marie Baumgartner

Column by Jessica Marie Baumgartner

Jessica Marie Baumgartner is the author of The Golden Rule, The Embracing Entropy Series, My Family Is Different and more. Her writing has won 3 Bards and Sages Magazine Awards, 2 New Apple Awards, 2 Missouri Writer’s Guild Awards, and a Summer Indie Book Award. She is a current member of the Missouri Writer’s Guild, SCBWI, and works mostly with children’s stories and non-fiction, but sometimes fantasy and horror. As a dyslexic Wiccan, Jess loves all types of people, but also writes about Pagan issues and the fun of a brain that works differently.

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