Written by: Dr. Melissa-Sue John
Theodor Seuss Geisel, born March 2, 1904, was an American children's author, political cartoonist, and animator. He is known for writing and illustrating over 60 books under the name, Dr. Seuss. His work includes many of the most popular children's books of all time, selling over 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages by the time of his death.
Read Across America Day is a nationwide reading celebration that takes place annually on March 2—Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Across the country, myriad schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books.
Although Dr. Seuss has been a part of great controversy due to stereotypical caricatures, Ann Neely (professor of children’s literature at Vanderbilt University) says “We should not judge Theodor Geisel by today’s standards, but we must evaluate his books that we decide to share with children using today’s standards. We cannot wallow in our own nostalgia when we make choices for the books we share with young children. There are simply too many outstanding books available.”
Lauren Simone Publishing House celebrated "Read Across America Day" by visiting local schools and sharing their books with amazing children.
First, Miss Teen Florida, Katia Gerry, read Elijah and his invisible friend to a host of elementary school children.
Imani Ariana was invited to read to Riverside Magnet School to present her book Disco Balls of the universe.
Professor John presented Olivia Lauren’s Things We Wear to Sunset Ridge Middle School.
She shared that her daughter, Olivia Lauren John was her inspiration for writing diverse children's books and the main character, "Olivia Lauren" and both her daughters, Olivia Lauren and Alyssa Simone were the motivation behind Lauren Simone Publishing House, so she became a publisher to help promote other authors.
She discussed ways the students could become authors and illustrators. And she gave raffle tickets to all the 6th grades and announced two winners. The first winner chose Things We Wear and the second winner chose I May Not Be Like You But We May Be friends. The winners shared their books with their peer groups and passed them around to read.
We ended the night at the LOL Book Club, where Olivia Lauren read Things We Wear and the book club members completed a host of fun activities including: Identifying clothes different cultures wear, describing rituals of their own culture, doing research on other cultures, coloring apparel worn by different cultures, and then a dance off to different cultural songs.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”- Dr. Seuss
Philip Nel, a professor of children’s literature at Kansas State University argues that “Racism lurks in children’s culture in ways we are not aware of, and can recycle images and ideas in their work without being aware of it. People don’t take children’s lit seriously, they think kids are not going to notice this, only grownups notice. That underestimates their intelligence and doesn’t take into account that we learn things without being aware we’re learning things.
To use Dr. Seuss’ own words, “A person is a person, no matter how small.”
As a Social Psychologist, I second this perspective and strongly encourage parents to examine the content of the books they purchase for their children. Please visit Lauren Simone Publishing House bookshop to see an assortment of books that promote the message that people with diverse backgrounds are what makes America great! Each book is co-written or illustrated by a young author or illustrator and builds on the idea of the imagination, science, and community.