Oh, the reading you’ll do
Terri Morley taught for about 10 years before opening a school supply store in Morehead City. Through her contacts with teachers, she began dressing up as the title character in Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat,” and presenting the book to classes in her store.
Those in-store readings expanded to libraries and other venues, and Morley now also portrays Curious George, Clifford the Big Red Dog and other children’s book characters.
Morley will come in character as “The Cat in the Hat” and read Seuss’ classic children’s book at Northgate Mall on Saturday during National Read Across America Day. The observance, sponsored by the National Education Association, falls on the same day as the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991).
Like many of us, Morley grew up reading the Seuss books (“Hop on Pop,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Lorax” and many more).
Before a phone interview from her Atlantic Beach home this week, she had just played the cat at a local school, where she read to pre-school students and students in elementary grades. One of Seuss’ enduring qualities is the way children keep reading his books as they progress through the grades, Morley said. Children also are fascinated by word play, and Seuss was the master.
“Children always like rhyming words, and that’s what Dr. Seuss was good at,” Morley said.
In addition to word play, children also are drawn to Seuss’ imaginative illustrations, said Brian Sturm, a professor in the University of North Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science.
“He has a very good rhyme scheme, but he also is a good enough poet that he could break it in very unusual ways,” Sturm said.
Seuss also offers moral lessons, but in a subtle way. “All of his stories have that little message in them, but the message is sort of subverted by the story,” Sturm said. “He doesn’t beat you over the head with his morals. … He does it in this fun and tongue-in-cheek kind of approach.”
“The Cat in the Hat” is credited as the first of the Beginner Books series, according to seussville.com. In response to several national studies that children were not learning to read, Houghton Mifflin publishers asked Seuss to write a book, restricting the vocabulary to a set of “sight words” that elementary school students were expected to know.
Although not Seuss’ first children’s book, the success of “The Cat in the Hat” led to the publication in the 1960s of a series of Beginner Books written specifically to help young children read. Seuss also gave a generation of children a more colorful alternative to the more pedestrian “Dick and Jane” readers.
When she was a teacher, Morley used the Seuss books, which offered “a way to teach sight words in an easy and fun way.”
National Read Across America Day, now in its 16th year, seeks to promote children’s interest in reading. Organizers of Durham’s event at Northgate encourage visitors to dress as a favorite Seuss character. Morley said Saturday’s presentation will be entertaining, educational and interactive for children and parents, encompassing “readings, singing, dancing and learning.”
Go and Do
WHAT: Reading of “Cat in the Hat,” in observance of National Read Across America Day
WHEN: There will be three sessions Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
WHERE: Northgate Mall, Macy’s Court, 1058 W. Club Blvd.