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"Nonsense wakes up the brain cells
and it helps develop a sense of humor,
which is awfully important in this day and age."

        Theodor Seuss Geisel

Long before I learned the vocabulary of poetry, I was learning vocabulary through poetry. Now if there are purists who don't believe Seuss should be considered poetry, I say, Seriously? I am sad for them.  It is from my beloved Geisel that I learned to love the written word, and to steal a line from Frost: "That has made all the difference."

My first memories are of being snuggled next to my Mom as she read to me. The first books I remember were by Dr. Seuss. I loved the sound of them read out loud. I loved the pictures. I really enjoyed when Mom would hesitate so I could fill in the words.

At bedtime she let me choose a book and I'd choose Dr. Seuss every time. I loved them all, but when it came to favorites, I'd choose Dr. Seuss' ABC Book or The Cat in the Hat Dictionary. Pages longer than the other books, they gave me more time with Mom and I got to stay up later.  Once familiar with the two books, Mom and I would make up little stories, using the recurring characters as a springboard before venturing further afield.  I still remember Aaron the alligator, and Mom encouraging me to use my imagination ensured I never got bored, and (I realize now) allowed her to skip pages.

For me Seuss was, and still is, synonymous with fun and imagination. Loving to have Dr. Seuss read to me, I soon had them memorized, and learning to read was a natural step. I loved reading Dr. Seuss, and I devoured one book after another, learning that imagination's pathways are paved with words and words are fun. Some rolled around in your mouth like marbles.  Some were crunchy. Some you could spew out, and woe to the person sitting inside spit guard range.  

Some words were quiet,
some sounded LOUD,
and some sounded smart
when you said them out PROUD.  

If you read Dr. Seuss
you won't be surprised
to find your thoughts rhyming,
both for ears and eyes.  

While those few lines are nowhere even close to the genius that is Seuss, reading his books soon has me back, where I hear and anticipate rhythms, even making up my own rhymes. What I didn't realize, however, while reading Seuss with a flashlight under the covers, were the life lessons his books reinforced. As a kid I just had fun learning rhymes and vocabulary and being old enough to read on my own.  

Those "Seussian" lessons that sometimes went over my head, did make it into my heart.  Some of them sneaked in as easily as I stepped from memorizing to reading, but I'm still very much working on others. "All growed up" now, I see that the character traits I work on, those I hope are said of me at my wake, can be traced to lessons from favorite Dr. Seuss books.

The first lesson Dr. Seuss teaches kids is to let their imaginations run wild. Want a purple tree? Or a turquoise dog? Seuss would say, "Who wouldn't?" We (and hopefully those who directly impact our kids) routinely encourage such independent thoughts today, and I think some of that out-of-the-box thinking can be traced directly back to Dr. Seuss. He also maintained that exercising the imagination was a kid's job, delightfully taught in such classics as I Saw it today on Mulberry Street as well as in a not as famous story, The Great Henry McBride, now available in The Bippolo Seed and Other Stories.

I think the second lesson to be learned from Seuss is that reading is FUN. Maybe it's part B of the first lesson instead of a lesson on its own, but who cares?  Because once you've learned to let your imagination free and learning is fun, hang on tight. Reading gives you the power of potential.

The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you'll go.
    I Can Read With My Eyes Shut

So you see!
There's no end
to the things you might know,
Depending how far
beyond Zebra you go!
     On Beyond Zebra!

Think left and think right,
Think low and think high,
Oh,the THINKS you can think up
If only you try.
     Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You're on you own.
   And you know what you know.
And you are the guy
   Who'll decide where to go.
     Oh, The Places You'll Go

Seuss has an answer for almost everything. Why, Seuss even has lessons for Supreme Court Justices.
I know up on top
you are seeing great sights,
But down at the bottom
We, too, should have rights.

   from Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Maybe we could send them each a copy of The Sneetches and Other Stories. The lesson is simple and the Sneetches finally learn it. Here's a perfect example of the influence Seuss can have:
Seriously, this diary will make your day. And make you question if we wouldn't be better off with elementary school kids in Washington instead of the yay-hoos we've got now.

Seuss teaches, and we should remind ourselves, the world is fill of wonderful things when you're open to them. And there will always be more to learn, tomorrow.

Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
Every day,
from here to there,
funny things are everywhere.
      One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, BlueFish
Here's one last (promise!) fun fact about Seuss:

Theodor Geisel laughingly took credit for Nixon's resignation a mere nine days after a mild rewrite of Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now appeared in Art Buchwald's Washington Post column. He and Buchwald joked that had they but known what would do it, they'd have done it sooner.

Richard M. Nixon Will You Please Go Now

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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