I remember gleefully giggling when my mother read my sister and I Hop on Pop, as we considered the possibility of jumping on our father who sat innocently in the living room. I recall devouring The Cat in the Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and Green Eggs and Ham when I began to read on my own. Reared a Christian, I didnt think it was Christmas until I saw The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on TV.
When I began teaching college students, I brought The Sneetches and The Butter Battle Book into the classroom to talk about symbolism and satire. When Dr. Seuss passed away in September 1991, I was devastated, but my despair broke that weekend when Jesse Jackson read Green Eggs and Ham on Saturday Night Live (the video is low quality and out of sync, but still a great memory. It may be best to listen rather than watching).
Of the many books that I’ve read, the books by Dr. Seuss have given me some of my most memorable experiences as a reader, a writer, and a teacher. Tom Romano describes an assignment in his English Education article “Relationships with Literature” that asks students to recall their own unforgettable experiences with texts. The end of the activity is to encourage students to “remind themselves what has really mattered to them about reading literature” (9). As teachers everywhere begin planning for Read Across America, perhaps that kind of reminder is the most important thing we can give students. If we can remind them of the joys of reading, every day can be Read Across America day.
What would I do in the classroom to encourage students to connect with literature? Here are some possibilities. Feel free to suggest your own in the comments.
- Discuss the wide range of ways that text can be defined, and then ask students to share their earliest memories of texts.
- Have students respond to the questions about best and worst experiences with literature included in Romanos article.
- Ask students to listen to Jesse Jacksons reading of Green Eggs and Ham for students, and then ask them how they might take a favorite book and read it in their own favorite style.
- Encourage students to create inventories of favorite texts that they own and wish lists for texts that theyd like to own or reading plans for books that they want to read soon.
- Have students share a favorite text with someone else, reading it aloud together. Students can share with younger readers, family members, or others in their classes. Encourage students to discuss why the text is a favorite.
- Ask students to review the texts they read, and then rate them just as they might rank favorite tunes on their iPods. After choosing a number of stars for the texts, ask students to talk about why they choose the ratings they did.
- Allow class time for students to read and talk about reading with one another. You might try a DEAR program or Daily Book Boost to get everyone into reading and sharing favorite texts.