“Be who you are, and say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
These wise words were penned by Dr. Seuss, the best-selling author and philosopher whose characters such as the Cat in the Hat and the Lorax have become icons. Dr. Seuss was one of the first authors to write “real stories” with limited vocabulary specifically designed for beginning readers. March 2, Dr. Seuss’s birthday, is therefore an appropriate for the annual Read Across America Day, which encourages children and adults to celebrate reading.
This year’s Read Across America theme, appropriately for Fairfax, is “Read for the Trees,” and features the Lorax as its spokesperson. The will be participating with teachers dressed up and community members reading to the kids.
If you are lucky enough to have children in your life, I encourage you to find a way to celebrate Read Across America with them. I have friends who read aloud over the phone to their grandchildren in other states. I had the opportunity to be a guest at Read Across America events when I lived in Plumas County; here are several selections that are wonderful read-alouds for children and grown-ups.
A Story for Bear by Dennis Haseley, illustrations by Jim LaMarche: A bear who is fascinated by words comes upon a woman reading outside a cabin. He visits every day and listens to her read aloud, and when she leaves at the end of the season, she leaves her books for him. The fall colors depicted in the soft illustrations set the mood beautifully and the story is sweet as well as poignant. This picture book, like so many well-written children’s stories, conveys its message on more than one level depending on the age of the reader or listener.
Mole Music written and illustrated by David McPhail: When mole hears a violin for the first time, he knows what has been missing in his life, and he practices long hours until he can create beautiful music. Unbeknownst to him, those who hear his tunes above ground are inspired to lay down their arms and be peaceful. McPhail’s illustrations do as much to further the plot as his words, and a reader can encourage young listeners to “read” the pictures and describe the story’s action.
Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes: I especially like Lily, a strong-willed child blessed with supportive parents and a fabulous teacher. Lily brings her brand-new purse to school and shows it off, even though she knows she shouldn’t. She must then deal with her own anger, embarrassment, and remorse after it is confiscated. Adults may also learn a thing or two about classroom management from the very cool Mr. Stringer. Henkes' characters, usually depicted as small cute rodents, are delightfully realistic portrayals of the strong emotions experienced by human children.
The Children's Librarian at your library can offer plenty more recommendations, and can probably recite excerpts from Dr. Seuss books at the same time.
“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. And an elephant's faithful, one hundred percent.”