Feet in Your Shoes

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. – Dr. Seuss

Dr. SeussTheodor Seuss Geisel, the man behind the Cat in the Hat, was born 107 years ago today.

He is the beloved creator of countless whimsical literary characters. His books promote the fun aspect of literacy, education and morality as well!

He wrote The Cat in the Hat in response to an article which was published in Life magazine in 1954by John Hersey, titled “Why Do Students Bog Down on First R? A Local Committee Sheds Light on a National Problem: Reading.” The piece criticized school primers as intensely boring, unchallenging, and responsible for causing harm to children’s literacy. The article called for more primers to up the excitement by energizing the language and including drawings like those of “imaginative geniuses among children’s illustrators, Tenniel, Howard Pyle, Theodor S. Geisel.” Using the piece as a call to action, Geisel and his publisher came up with a list of 400 “exciting” words, which Seuss than narrowed down for the book. The Cat in the Hat uses a total vocabulary of 236 words.

Oceanhouse Media took Seuss titles and made them into rich, interactive apps-Books for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Each book has the option to read to your child or allow them to explore the book themselves. Turning pages is as easy as swiping the screen. The apps from Oceanhouse Media not only hit that ideal middle ground between book and interactive game, but are specifically geared toward word recognition and reading. The user can tap just about any item on the page to hear and see the word for that item.

Seussville (Random House) is also a great way to explore his books, characters and have some online fun at the same time.

Were you celebrating today? What is your favourite Seuss book?

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…  — Dr. Seuss

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On the Same Page

“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.” — Henry Miller, The Books In My Life (1969)

Online book clubs are a place where book lovers can connect online to meet, chat and share news and views about books.

Book Club: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

This month in the Literacy Forum we are reading Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.  It was 9 months on the Canadian bestseller list.  Head to your local library, bookstore, or Costco and borrow/buy this book and join the discussion!

Eve’s Lit Picks is a virtual gathering of avid readers that discusses new topics and books.

You might think that reading groups are simply an arena for book worms to indulge in their favourite passion or for you to have enjoyable argument about your favourite story or characters with like-minded individuals…but book clubs actually offer more lifelong benefits than you realize:

  • Everyone knows that reading expands your horizons and book clubs help to do this at an even greater level, with the in-depth discussions and assimilation of different viewpoints all contributing to increasing your knowledge and appreciation of the world around you.
  • Joining a reading group can also help to extend your reading, as you’ll be tempted to try different types of books that you might not otherwise have chosen by yourself. Many people can become accustomed to the comfort of reading in a favorite genre and may not realize how much they might actually enjoy an altogether different type of book, until they are persuaded to try by other members of the reading group.
  • Despite not having a formalized classroom structure, reading groups are actually a fantastic place to promote learning. Discussing books helps to reinforce things in your mind and enable you to retain information better.
  • Book clubs enable you to appreciate otherwise “dry” topics within the context of an involving story – for example, reading books set in certain periods allow you to learn more about history, without the dread of boring facts and dates.
  • Book clubs can also be great ways to travel and appreciate other cultures – not only through the books themselves but also through any members with different backgrounds. And discussing these differences helps everyone to understand them by placing them within a larger context.
  • Participating in reading group discussions does wonders for your communication skills, teaching you to listen to different points of view and different ways of expression, as well as “discuss and disagree” without resorting to emotional arguments.
  • Book clubs are a great way to start practicing expressing your opinions to an audience or summarizing information and presenting it in a coherent and engaging way.
  • Book clubs can help you appreciate books that you had rejected in your childhood or within the confines of your school curriculum, as the imminent discussion motivates you to read with more purpose and attention.
  • For those with writing aspirations, book clubs can be a wonderful breeding ground for ideas as well as provide the motivation for you to pen your own literary masterpiece. Listening to other people’s assessment of a book and their discussion of likes and dislikes about plot, character and style, can help enormously in your quest to become a better, more successful writer.
  • If you are prone to depression, a reading group can keep you engaged with others.
  • Stimulating your brain cells may help to protect against or delay memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, studies suggest.

Come read with us!

Sivilized

Freedom to Read Week takes place in Canada during the last week of February. This yearly observance is meant to highlight the problem of censorship in Canada and to promote the belief that the freedom to read whatever you want is a fundamental right in Canadian society.

While many people believe that censorship is a thing of the past, books are still being banned yearly.  The latest example of book banning in Canada was To Kill a Mockingbird in October of 2009. Anyone who has read this classic novel knows that the language used in the book must be viewed within the context of the novel. 

Mark Twain’s classic of American literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most frequently banned books in the school curricula because of its repeated use of the N word.

According to Publishers Weekly, NewSouth Books plans to redress it, and release a version that cuts the “n” word and replaces it with “slave.” The slur “injun,” referring to Native Americans, will also be replaced.

In the novel, Huck describes how “the Widow Douglas …took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me.”  Widow Douglas was never able to, but 126 years later, it seems that NewSouth Books will.

Does substituting ‘slave’ for the N word sivilize it and scrub it clean of the stains of slavery? Does it defile the novel’s context, denying readers the opportunity to discuss the implications of using denigrating language in reference to other groups and people? Isn’t the contested language an opportunity to explore the painful complexities of race relations? Don’t the new clothes cover the painful complexities of race relations and undermine them?

“To substitute a euphemism . . . for nigger robs students . . . of a valuable learning experience,” says Peaches Henry, an English professor from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. An African-American academic, Henry thinks that dropping the word is a mistake, as it “erases the historical accuracy of the novel” and “the use of nigger . . . opens up an avenue for teachers and students to deal with the complex issue of race and racism as it has impacted the United States historically and contemporaneously.”

Stephen Railton, an English professor at the University of Virginia suggests that “(the word) is crucial to the novel’s powerful exploration of the possibility of freedom.”  He  believes Twain wrote the book because he wanted to “explore racism as a dramatic example of cultural conditioning,” and because he thought it would be popular among his racist American readers.

In the novel Huck recounts how the Widow Douglas “put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn’t do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up.” Huck didn’t like his new clothes then.  Do you think he’ll like them now?

Check out this list of famous examples of banned books.