5 things everyone can learn from Dr Seuss

Blog, On reading
Illustration by Steven McKimmie from open source children’s book, Little Ant’s Big Plan

Today would have been the 114th birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr Seuss.

For over three-quarters of a century, children have delighted in the colourful and whimsical stories of this prolific writer. My own children have enjoyed the satisfaction of reading their very first words in Hop on Pop, a book which displays Seuss’s amazing talent for teaching kids how to read.

Possibly the best thing about his books is that though they all have some kind of lesson or moral, these aren’t overtly spelled out, making them a pleasure for even adults to read.   

In honour of his birthday, I’ve created a list of five life lessons all kids can learn from his stories.

1. Learn to Read: Dr Seuss’s ABC

It’s a classic, which breaks from the traditional ‘a is for apple’ books. Like all his other books there’s a heap of nonsensical words, which make learning letter sounds fun for kids.

2. It’s Good to Try New Things: Green Eggs and Ham

As a parent, I know how picky children can be, especially when it comes to food. This book provides a great lesson for kids on trying something new. Kids will discover, just like Sam I Am, that when they try something new, they might actually like it!

3. We Must Protect the Environment: The Lorax

We’re reminded in this book of how important it is to reduce waste and to protect the environment. Though it’s a heartbreaking read, especially the part where the Lorax gets up and floats away, the story ends on a hopeful note. Kids are reminded that if they do their bit to protect our Earth, the Lorax and his friends might just come back.

4. We Should Live with Others in Peace: The Sneetches

After a race to try and be better than each other, both the Star-belly and the Plain-belly Sneetches realise that ‘Sneetches are Sneetches’ and that no kind of Sneetch is the best. It’s a valuable lesson for children to see that people are people regardless of their differences and that we can all live together in harmony.

5. Life is an Adventure: Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I received this book as a gift for my 21st birthday. It inspired me then and it still sits on my bookshelf today. The story tells us that no matter how old we are, or where we are in our lives, there are always new things to see and do. It also touches on the reality that sometimes life can be hard, but that there is always something new to learn. Kids (and grownups) can take great joy in this – that life is an adventure and we get to make it so!

 


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content. I am an internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience, specialising in education, lifestyle and literacy.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

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I made a Creative Commons kids book in 12 hours. Here’s why…

Blog, On reading

Illustrations by Karlien de Villiers

As an editor, one thing I know for sure about writing is that it takes time. So when I found myself writing a story for children at my first Book Dash event, I was taken completely out of my comfort zone.

Book Dash gathers writers, illustrators, book designers and editors in one room to produce print-ready children’s books in just 12 hours. Why? Because kids in South Africa desperately need books – good quality storybooks – and there’s no time to waste.

Literacy stats in South Africa are bleak – only 5% of parents in South Africa read to their children and 51% of households don’t own a single book!

Graça’s dream

My team’s book back then was about Graça Machel. From humble beginnings in Mozambique she went on to help her country gain independence and significantly raised its early childhood literacy levels in her first two years as Minister of Education and Culture. She was passionate about sharing her love of books and learning with her people and realised so many seemingly impossible dreams.

This story speaks to me on such a personal level – it’s the reason I volunteered to be part of Book Dash in the first place. South Africa’s own reading culture and literacy stats need to change; our children deserve to know the power of story and the pleasure of reading. It’s a worthy dream to have.

The challenge

So there I found myself in a room full of talented and committed strangers – people all working towards the same goal of getting quality storybooks into children’s hands.

Here’s what I learnt 12 (very short) hours later:

1. Making kids books is a collaborative process

In kids books, the visual elements need to have a fluid conversation with the words. Neither can be created in isolation. Producing a kids book is all about teamwork.

2. A time limit is a good way to keep focused 

There’s something about an almost impossible time limit for a task to motivate action. Write, illustrate and design a print-ready book in 12 hours – it sounds difficult, right? It was actually easy. It really was. There was no time for checking Facebook, email or smartphones or even engaging in small talk. The task at hand was our primary focus and there wasn’t a minute to spare.

3. Books connect us

I connected with some amazing people that day – this is the beauty of books. When we are in that intimate space with a book in our hands and we relate to the story being told and the voice that tells it, we get taken to a magical place, a place that can teach us something, that can inspire us. All of us in that room knew that space well and it’s what brought us together in the first place. We did what we did because children deserve to know this place too. We wanted to offer it to them, just like Graça did when she asked at the end of our story:

Here’s a book, my child, what will it inspire you to do?

 

This is what Book Dash is all about.

We all did something extraordinary there that day. We put aside our egos, our doubts and our own personal agendas and we gave everything else we had, to bring the joy of reading to our small people.

I’ve since participated in two other Book Dash Events and there are now a whopping 85 unique open source books available to hungry readers. It was worth it!

Read Graça’s Dream for free here.



Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

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If you’re passionate about children’s literacy and you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your networks.  I’d also love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below. 

 

Give your child the gift of reading

Blog, On reading
Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 4.07.15 PMMy son, buried in a book.

This week Herzlia Constantia Primary School hosted a book festival, which included author readings, workshops and the much-anticipated opening parade, where the children dressed up as their favourite literary characters.

As I waved off my 8-year-old son, dressed as Mr Big Nose (from The 13-Storey Treehouse series) and clutching his readathon sheet (with an impressive 2 000 pages read in a week), I felt a sense of pride that my boy loves books the way I do. Especially in an age where many children are so often glued to their digital screens.

We all know that reading is good for us, but today I decided to find out exactly why.

For starters …

  • Reading makes us smart, just ask Dr. Seuss:

The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in formal education.

  • Reading improves mental health  

Not only has reading for pleasure been found to reduce stress and help us sleep better, it can also improve our confidence and self-esteem by giving us the tools we need to make life decisions and pursue our goals.

  • Reading strengthens the brain

According to a study at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, reading can help protect our memories and thinking skills, especially as we get older. The study also suggests that reading every day can slow down cognitive decline in later life, ensuring that our brains stay healthy and higher functioning for longer.

  • Reading books prepares us for real life

Following a character’s emotional journey in a book gives us an opportunity to evaluate ourselves. This can be especially useful for children who, while following a story, are exposed to brand-new emotions, behaviours and situations. This kind of exposure helps children discover and develop their own values.

  • Reading builds vocabulary

It’s widely known that reading builds our vocabulary. Did you know that a children’s book exposes your child to 50% more words than watching a television show? And reading 15 minutes per day exposes children to a whopping 1,000,000 words a year.

So that’s five good reasons to get your kids reading. Take them to the library, stock up their book collections – you’ll be doing so much more than giving them something fun to do, you’ll be offering them a lifelong gift.


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

 

Let’s Connect

If you’re passionate about children’s literacy and you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your networks.  I’d also love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below.