We know him as Dr. Seuss. And it's hard to find anyone in the United States who hasn't picked up one of his 44 books at one time or another. But March 2 – the anniversary of the day in 1904 on which Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, Mass. – has taken on a deeper significance.
Thanks to Read Across America, an initiative organized by the National Education Association 11 years ago – March 2 has become an overall celebration of reading. On that day, in schools everywhere in the US, reading is the focus. In hundreds of towns, community members – often wearing the striped stocking cap made famous by Seuss's rascally "Cat in the Hat" – read out loud to students. Celebrity readers sometimes join in as well. This year two of the best known will include First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
But for many Seuss fans the day is also about celebrating the words and works of the prolific writer – the children's book author who managed to speak to adults as well. For some it's as simple as Tweeting a beloved Seuss saying. ("Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You" is perhaps the most popular although “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple” seems beloved as well.) Or the celebration may involve a Seuss-like form of dress, like the school kids who wore crazy socks to school.
On a more cerebral level, some Seuss enthusiasts hope to share deeper messages, for instance: What are 8 lessons in economics that you can learn from Dr. Seuss?
And then there's Christine Assange, the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. When she gave a recent interview to the Sydney Morning Herald, she spoke about the intellectual development of her home-schooled son. She read to him every night, she says. "He liked Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Greek legends, stories in which good triumphed over evil – and Dr Seuss."
The article appeared a few days before March 2. But it wasn't too early to link the story to the wave of reader interest in Dr. Seuss's birthday that was already circling the globe. Although the piece also discussed Assange's legal troubles, his possible extradition, and the enemies that he faces around the world, the paper's savvy editors led with the important celebrity connection of the week.
The story's headline: "Julian, me and Dr Seuss."
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.