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

Can a Rapper Make Reading More Attractive?

“Persuasion is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do, and to like it.” -President Eisenhower

I have heard from many secondary school educators that their students experience a declining interest in reading.  Why do they “lose both the skill and the will to read when it is clear that both traits are necessary to function as a strategic reader in a complex society?” (Paris, Lipson and Wilson, 1983)

Some students seem naturally enthusiastic about learning, but many need-or expect-their instructors to inspire, challenge, and stimulate them.  Unfortunately, there is no single magical formula for motivating students. Many factors affect a given student’s motivation to work and to learn (Bligh, 1971; Sass, 1989): interest in the subject matter, perception of its usefulness, general desire to achieve, self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as patience and persistence.  And, of course, not all students are motivated by the same values, needs, desires, or wants. Some students will be motivated by the approval of others, some by overcoming challenges.

I wonder why the onus is on the school to motivate students to read when clearly family and society play an equally significant role. What if community stakeholders were to form a collaborative persuasion effort and covertly market reading?

Persuasion strategies have been used successfully by advertisers to motivate consumers. Look at these old advertisements that persuaded people to smoke.

Our environment is rich in visual images and print, very little of which is aimed at encouraging reading. What if we were to use advertising to persuade people to read?

Children’s author Vi Hughes asks, “why don’t we make reading experiences available to children in their neighbourhoods and in the larger community by placing brightly illustrated stories and poems in public places?”  (Follow the discussion in the Literacy Forum)

Imagine replacing TV commercials and perfume and beer ads with teens reading.

It was this YouTube video that got me thinking.  Although I find his body language and some of his words offensive, do you think Julian Smith will entice the “Now Generation” to pick up a book?

The Power of Words

“Reading aloud to children can awaken their sleeping imaginations,improve their language skills and change their attitude toward books. That’s very important in a nation where so many children can’t read, won’t read or hate to read.”
–Jim Trelease, author, The New Read Aloud Handbook

In the fourth century, Augustine of Hippo walked in on Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and found him . . . reading to himself:

When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.
(The Confessions, c. 397-400)

Whether Augustine was impressed or appalled by the bishop’s reading habits remains a matter of scholarly dispute. What’s clear is that earlier in our history silent reading was rare.

But reading aloud in school and at home, often stops, or is greatly cut back, once a child learns to read on his own.  It is assumed to be suitable only for very young children.

Why?, wonders author Jim Trelease in his book The Read Aloud Handbook:

“Reading aloud is a commercial for reading. …Think of it this way: McDonald’s doesn’t stop advertising just because the vast majority of Americans know about its restaurants. Each year it spends more money on ads to remind people how good its products taste. Don’t cut your reading advertising budget as children grow older.”

Reading aloud to children helps them develop and improve literacy skills — reading, writing, speaking, and listening, Trelease adds. And since children listen on a higher level than they read, listening to other readers stimulates growth and understanding of vocabulary and language patterns.

Instructionally, reading aloud books, poems, articles, and short stories gives teachers and parents endless opportunities to highlight great writing and model reading strategies.

Reading aloud removes roadblocks to comprehension like unfamiliar vocabulary and contextualizes words the readers do not know. Listening to a fluent reader gives the listener a reading role model for their own oral reading skills.

Reading aloud builds community.  Shared experiences create memories that connect us to each other. Reading aloud offers unifying moments. While reading together, we laugh and cry together, comrades on the same journey.

We are never too young or too old to be read to.  What book are you reading out loud?