Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Read Across America celebrated on Dr. Seuss' birthday

March 2, 2014, marked the 110th birthday of Dr. Seuss (born Theodor Seuss Geisel), children's author and illustrator. NEA's Read Across America' has been celebrated on Dr. Seuss's birthday since March 2, 1998, to promote interest in reading.  (This year, with March 2 falling on a Sunday, the 17th NEA’s Read Across America Day was celebrated March 3.) Originally created by NEA and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., as a one-day event on Dr. Seuss’s March 2nd birthday, NEA’s Read Across America has grown into a nationwide program that promotes reading with F-U-N activities every day. 

After Life magazine published a report in 1954 suggesting that children were not learning to read because their books were boring, William Ellsworth Spaulding, the director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin, compiled a list of 348 words he felt were important for first-graders to recognize. He  asked Geisel to cut the list down to 250 words and use those words to write a book "children can't put down". Nine months later, Geisel, using 236 of the words, completed The Cat in the Hat. It retained the drawing style, verse rhythms, and all the imaginative power of Geisel's earlier works, but because of its simplified vocabulary, it could be read by beginning readers. The Cat in the Hat and subsequent books written for young children have achieved significant international success, remaining very popular today with todays children and their parents who remember them fondly from their own childhoods.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax appeared in the 1970’s at the start of the environmental movement, just before the first anniversary of Earth Day. “The basic message of The Lorax deals with ecosystems and the interrelatedness of all parts - living and non-living - as a viable, functioning unit." The now remorseful Once-ler, a faceless narrator, tells a tale of the Truffula Trees he chops down to produce and mass-market Thneeds. The Lorax, who speaks for the trees, repeatedly warns the Once-ler against mindless progress and the danger it posed to the earth.   After pondering the meaning of a rock engraved "UNLESS" left behind when the Lorax departs,  The Once-ler  gives a visiting boy the last Truffula seed, telling him to plant it, saying that if the boy grows a whole forest of the trees, "the Lorax, and all of his friends may come back. Their fate now rests in the hands of a caring child, who becomes the last chance for a clean, green future.   The Lorax is an ecological warning that still rings true today amidst the dangers of clear-cutting, pollution, and disregard for the earth's environment.

When Ted needed to clear his thoughts or relieve creative block, it is said he often took an afternoon walk through his garden. Ted considered gardening and tending to his trees other art forms altogether, and his work in this “media” created a soft, pastoral setting in La Jolla, California.

A rare 1957 photo of the Ted Geisel and his first wife, Helen,
 outside their La Jolla, California home.
This Lorax statue at the Geisel family estate in La Jolla,
 was the only existing duplicate of the statue created by
Audrey Geisel’s daughter, sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cate,
 for the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden dedicated 
in 2002 in her stepfather’s hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts


A statue of the Dr. Seuss character "the Lorax"  was stolen from  the
 oceanside garden of the Ted's widow, Audrey Geisel, in March 2012.

The Lorax statue was returned to the
Geisel estate in August of 2013
 after a tip led the police to it's recovery
from thick brush in a nearby canyon.
The La Jolla Farms Geisel Home was donated to the UCSD along with millions of dollars and thousands of prized personal drawings, sketches and books done by the late Theodor Geisel.

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