By Dr. Seuss
(Random House, 1978)
In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, this post focuses on one of the master’s lesser known works, a book I believe deserves more attention.
When I pull out I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!, not many children or adults recognize it. The book is not a Dr. Seuss classic and, heavens, it will never become a movie starring the hot comedian du jour. This despite the fact that the Cat in the Hat is the main character.
Still, I like to use this book as one of my first read-alouds at the beginning of the year. In fact, I often read it two or three times. I challenge the audience to think critically about the message. Is there even a message other than that crocodiles look silly in pants and knees on trees are even sillier?
At its core, this book goes beyond helping beginning readers. It is a springboard for thinking about how we read and why we read. One part rubs me the wrong way: “You have to be a speedy reader ‘cause there’s so, so much to read!” The last thing I want is for young readers to race through the pages of a book the way they whiz through math facts or run to the sycamore tree to avoid being the rotten egg. Reading goes deeper. (Yes, so does math.) Reading is an interactive experience between an author’s words, an illustrator’s pictures (when they exist) and a reader’s own thoughts and images. Speed reading compromises all components, but may wholly eliminate the reader’s own contribution to the process of understanding and appreciating. I have always been a slow reader. I like to ponder the word choice, the message and my own thoughts and reactions. I can’t imagine short-changing my experience for the sake of speed.
Thankfully, one of Seuss’s most quoted statements also appears in the book:
The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you’ll go.
That is something the good Doctor and I can agree on!