This week the country is celebrating books in general and the 107th birthday of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) in particular.
A successful cartoonist, he wrote much loved children’s books that subtly promote racial equality, respect for the environment, generosity, ecumenism, and world peace. I once assigned The Butter Battle Book to my college composition class in hopes that the absurd warfare between the “Yooks” and the “Zooks” would spark lively debate and provide good fodder for essays on the subject of nuclear arms. It did. The book became a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year.”
My husband and I chose to honor Dr. Seuss by volunteering to read Green Eggs and Ham and Horton Hears a Who to kindergartners at Garrison Elementary School for the Arts. We each wore a red-and-white-striped-cat-in-a-hat for the occasion, and audience participation needed no encouragement.
The school, by the way, is WONDERFUL! We walked down halls showcasing student drawings and paintings, saw a dance class in progress, heard a sixth-grade orchestra rehearsing, and noticed a classroom full of electric pianos enabling students to practice while wearing headphones. As we were leaving, a fifty-voice chorus of eighth-graders stood in a circle in the first floor gallery and sang a lovely, six-part round, their teachers conducting from the center.
Yes, an academic curriculum–math, science, and English–is an important part of the plan. But unlike most schools, the arts are valued and encouraged at Garrison, where artistically inclined children are swaddled in a nurturing environment.
Dr. Seuss would approve.