Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss
Reading is key for a child’s development. Kindergarten and pre-school students must start learning to read. But what books have enough individuality and uniqueness to capture their attention and imagination?
Few authors (children’s or otherwise) compare to Dr. Seuss. With his outlandish ideas and drawings, humor, and playful words, his books are ones that parents, teachers, and children enjoy.
Reading Dr. Seuss’s books aloud to your students will do so much more than boost their reading level. Many of Seuss’s books contain life messages that children can ponder and carry with them for the rest of their lives.
About Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel, who later became known as ‘Dr. Seuss’, was born March 2, 1904 to Theodor Robert Geisel and Henrietta Seuss Geisel.
He graduated from Dartmouth college in 1925. He started work on a doctorate degree at Oxford but had to drop out before achieving it.
Although Seuss’s creativity and fun-loving style eventually led him to be a children’s book author, he started in the advertisement industry. He is most noted for his work for Flit Insect Repellant.
During World War II, Seuss put his talents to work for the U.S. Army in the documentary division. Seuss helped animate training videos, draw propaganda posters, and write films for the army.
Seuss’s first book, And To Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was published before WWII in 1937. His career as an author took off after the war.
Horton Hears a Who, published in 1954, pushed Seuss into the limelight. But The Cat in the Hat, published in 1957 made him a household name.
Over his career, Seuss wrote over 60 books, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, and Oh the Places You’ll Go! Seuss was also involved in turning many of his award-winning books into films.
Seuss died on September 24, 1991. Sixteen of his books remain on Publishers Weekly’s list of the “100 Top-selling Hardcover Children’s Books of All-Time.”
All People Have Value
A common theme in Seuss’s books is that all people have worth: regardless of, well of anything.
In one of his most popular books, Horton Hears a Who, an elephant finds people (who’s) on a speck of dust. No one believes him, and he must protect the who’s because “a person’s a person, no matter how small”. Horton’s protection of people that he can’t even see demonstrates the value all people have.
In his classic story, The Sneetches, there are two kinds of Sneetches on the beaches: those that have stars on their bellies, and those that don’t. The star-bellied Sneetches believe that their star makes them superior to the plain Sneetches and refuse to invite them to their parties or to do anything else with them.
The Sneetches try very hard to ensure they can distinguish between the two groups, but after using a machine that can remove or add stars, they are unable to tell who is who anymore. Finally, they realize that it doesn’t matter if they have a star or not: they’re all Sneetches, and Sneetches (star or no star) are the best Sneetches on the beaches.
In a world that would love to distinguish the value of people by their social or economic class, this is a great story for children. It helps everyone realize that none of these things matter. At the end of the day, we’re all just Sneetches, and it doesn’t matter our skin color, height, or weight. We all are the best Sneetches on the Beaches.
Education is the Avenue to Success
Technically, Dr. Seuss isn’t a doctor. He never earned a Ph.D., but he still recognizes the importance of a good education. In his book, I can read with my eyes shut! and others, he emphasizes that “The more that you read, the more things you will know; the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.
Education gives a person experience that otherwise would be unattainable to them. Without it, it’s hard to get where you want to be.
Don’t Be a Bystander
The Lorax is one of my favorite books by Dr. Seuss. Although there is an underlying message about the proper way to treat the environment, it’s also clear this story teaches children the need to make their voices heard.
In The Lorax, the Oncler travels to find a material to make what all people need: the Thneed. Truffula trees turn out to be the perfect material for Thneeds. After he begins chopping down Truffula trees, the Lorax appears. The Lorax stands up to the Oncler and predicts the awful consequences of continuing to chop down Truffula trees.
The theme of this story is summed up in a single line: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
The Lorax teaches children they have a voice and to use it to help make the world a better place.
Failure is a Part of Life
Not all of Dr. Suess’s books have happy endings. In The Butter Battle Book, Zooks and Yooks war over whether butter should be face up or face down on toast. The book ends with uncertainty. Both sides have a way to destroy the other, but will they do it?
I think it’s poor storytelling if every book ends with the main characters having everything they want. Nothing in real life happens like that.
The better lesson to teach children is how to get back up. My favorite line from Oh the Places You’ll Go, which has become a popular graduation gift is: “And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed.”
Not one hundred percent guaranteed. Sometimes, you will fail, and things may not work out the way you would like. After all, Dr. Suess didn’t get his PhD. A lesson everyone should learn is how to handle failure.
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By: Emeline Haroldsen
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Seussville. Random House Children’s Books. 2021. https://www.seussville.com/
Lindholm, Olle. “11 Important Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss”. Lifehack. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/11-important-life-lessons-from-seuss.html
“Dr. Seuss Biography”. Biography.com. 2021. https://www.biography.com/writer/dr-seuss#citation
"Dr. Seuss". Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dr-Seuss.