Did you know Dr. Seuss won three Academy Awards, two of them for filming war documentaries during World War II?
Did you know he also won two Emmy awards and a Pulitzer Prize, and that his first book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” was rejected by 43 publishers before a friend paid to have it printed?
Did you know that he wrote perhaps his most famous book, “Green Eggs and Ham,” to win a bet from a friend who said he couldn’t write an entire book using 50 or fewer words?
You might know these things, if you have read a biography of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, whose birthday we celebrate this month. His Cat in the Hat character has been taken as the official mascot of the effort to encourage reading and literacy in our nation’s children.
Encouraging our children to read is a worthwhile endeavor, one that parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts and big brothers and sisters should take to heart. And it doesn’t matter if these parents have difficulty with English. Literacy is important, and reading to children in Spanish is just as valuable as doing so in English, as it promotes the idea of using books to learn valuable information that will help them in school, or merely expose them to new worlds of fiction, historical knowledge, or even silly stories and humor.
In this vein, actor and social activist Edward James Olmos has launched a Spanish-language reading initiative with the National Education Agency. “Lea con NEA” is a year-round program designed to use literary proficiency as an aid to close the achievement gap between Latinos and the population at large, according to the agency.
Parents and educators can find information and materials regarding “Lea con NEA” on the agency’s Web site
Included are lists of recommended multicultural books and books that are available in both English and Spanish. Both lists are ranked according to the grade level for which the books were written.
We applaud these efforts and others that strive to increase literacy in all parts of our population. The ability to read is perhaps the most basic skill for success in our society. From reading traffic signs to being able to fill out employment applications, people rely on their literacy skills to the point that much of our reliance on the skill is almost subconscious.
But it is a skill that can’t be taken for granted. Any help we can give our children will help them advance even farther scholastically and professionally.
At the same time, it will open worlds that many children otherwise wouldn’t even know existed.