“That’s why I tell you to keep your eyes wide. Keep them wide open… at least on one side”.
– Dr. Seuss
I went to an old bookstore the other day, and while browsing the selection of books catered for children, amid the Spongebob Square Pants and Dora the Explorer cartoons, I spotted a treasure trove of possibly the best books ever written. I probably didn’t think so much about the significance and meaning behind each book when I was younger, since the colorful visuals and rhymes stimulated and entertained me to no ends. For example, months after reading Green Eggs and Ham, I stubbornly refused to eat anything that remotely resembled eggs or ham, and it was a perfect excuse to reject anything green as well. I’d simply repeat “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am” over and over until my parents backed down. It was then that I realized the power of Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss was also probably the reason why I loved writing and coming up with my own stories–well, Dr. Seuss and, of course, the endless praise I seemed to receive every time I showed these stories to my mother. His books incite so much creativity and endless possibilities; it is no wonder why they are simply timeless. For children taking their first steps with literacy, I highly recommend using Dr. Seuss as a starting point, not only to encourage the child to read but also to instil fundamental values that seem to have been lost with modern-day offerings.
Here are some key lessons that are highly comprehensible for children and might give them some inspiration to think creatively and express themselves through words.
- “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” This is from the book I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. This brilliant read starts really simply and ends with the Cat in the Hat explaining to the Young Cat the excitement and joys one can get from reading and how expanding one’s knowledge can get one to go places.
- “Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say.” I don’t think anyone is unfamiliar with Green Eggs and Ham. No matter how reluctant a child is to read and write at the beginning, don’t give up. Get them to try different mediums other than the traditional paper and pen. Read on interactive technology like the iPad, which has excellent graphics that come to life. When toddlers are just learning to write and even holding a pencil is difficult, try layering the table with shaving foam and allow the learning to get a little messy.
- “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than you.” From Happy Birthday to You! A child who understands this will be way ahead of many adults. Any author would tell you that the best kinds of writing are the kinds that are sincere and genuine, and those feelings can’t be created. They have to be felt and then simply expressed.
- “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.” From the book, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. When a child starts writing stories, they might contain flying unicorns or pink elephants. Let their imaginations run wild; it’s the best trait a child has. We are only limited by our own imaginations.
These few life lessons are my favorite ones that inspired me as a young child and have remained with me ever since. Hard copies of books are getting increasingly difficult to find, so as soon as your children are old enough, expose them to technology and the abundant offerings that are available online. Moreover, allowing your children to come up with their own short stories is a brilliant way to encourage them to write. Always be diligent in going through their stories with them and encouraging the right use of grammar. After all, mastering a language starts with a good foundation. One program that I have found very useful in this regard is Grammarly, an online proofreading site that is ten times more accurate than any of the word processors available. From grade school up, Grammarly will be that perfect tool to make learning grammar fun, especially for children who are working with their own writing.
“Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained, and delighted.”
– Dr. Seuss