March 1, 2016

What Dr. Seuss & I Did: “Oh, The Places You Will Go.”


There are some people that we meet in our lives that we never forget. Those individuals who impact us so greatly that their spirit gets stuck in the folded grey matter behind the left lobe of our straining ear.

They fascinate us; these folks who have the gift to tell stories that capture our mind and get our souls singing. Lyricists whose words, when put on paper, form a beat we get wrapped up in and play over and over as if we were one of the instruments in their orchestra of letter, rhyme and sound.

Dr. Seuss was one of these word magicians. He wove stories that swept me onto hillsides and into forests, where magical creatures and colorful foods roamed.

I was a slow reader at the start. In fact I wasn’t able to read well at all until I was seven and attended a school for children with learning disabilities. Words looked backwards to me and common logic around spelling them did too.

However, even though I found most books impossible to get through back then, I will always say I read my first book with Dr. Seuss at the age of three.

Coming from a bookworm mother and father I grew up surrounded by novels. I witnessed grown-ups with their eyes glued to pages of print and knew that there must be something important to be found in those lines.

Every night before bed my mom created an evening ritual of reading several books to my brother and I out loud. We would snuggle under blankets, one of us on each side of her and giggle with excitement as she opened the first page.

Dr. Seuss was my favorite when I was three. My mom used to read it much like I imagine he had written it, rolling along in jovial annunciation, with great pauses and loud shouts. I would get her to repeat pages over and over again so that I could lock his words into my cute little head. My most loved creation of his was, “one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.”

I asked my mom to read me that story every night for a week. I had hatched a sweet toddler plan.

With this book, I was going to learn to read. At age three though, I wasn’t entirely sure what read meant. I knew that as you said words you put your finger on the page and you followed it along the letters that were there. I knew that you turned the page after a certain time and I knew that somehow, each time you read the book, it sounded the same.

I listened closely that week to each single word that my mom and Dr. Seuss strung together: “One fish ,two fish, red fish, blue fish.” I even got my mom to read it to me several times during the day to make certain I was catching on.

When Sunday came of that week, I announced my accomplishment to my mother. I told her: “Mom, I know how to read.”

I grabbed her hand, lead her over to our rocking chair and sat her down. I climbed up onto her lap and pulled that special book off the end table.

I took a deep breath into my rounded belly and I said, “Mom, I am going to read you Dr. Seuss .”

She looked at me, not entirely surprised. I think she had caught onto my plan. I was a strong-minded girl and so smiling, she simply replied, “okay.”

The roles switched between us, as I held the book in my hands and instead of her, it was me that flipped the thick glossy cover open to thumb the textured pages. I began with one finger following along the first line, my voice steady and clear, “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish…”

I went through the whole book this way, timing the words with the picture and pages I remembered being paired. At the end, I looked up proudly and I said, “See mom, I can read.”

I put down the book and jumped off her lap and went out of the room to play.

I was satisfied I had done enough work that day. I had learned to read.

My mom tried to explain to me later that there was something different between reading and memorization. She said what I had done was actually to memorize.

I didn’t listen. Dr. Seuss and I knew the truth. We could create stories together just like my mother and him could. This was enough for me!

Later in school when I had to try to learn what reading and grammar were, things became more difficult. As I said, I had a subtle form of dyslexia.

Perhaps because I always kept the faith that when I was three, Dr. S and I knew how to read, I realized then that all I had to do was to remember how. With hope in hand, I discovered how to switch the mis-ordered letters around in my brain and crack that sneaky reading code. By eight, you couldn’t get my head out of a book.

That is what Dr. Seuss and I did, we learned to read. More importantly though, we learned to imagine, create, conspire and transform regular life into multi-faceted universes of rhythm and rhyme.

I hold great love for Dr. Seuss. He inspired me to overcome a learning disorder and to get to the juice planted in the ripe fruit of words.





Author: Sarah Norrad

Editor: Travis May

Image: Flickr/Sage Ross

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