Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy Birthday, Cat in the Hat!

Inspired by the Life-magazine article Why Can't Johnny Read?, Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat turns 50 today.

To celebrate, you may buy the book -- but most importantly, spend some time today reading with your child. And if he or she is 'too old for that, mom,' spend time reading in front of your child so they know the love & importance of reading.

Last weekend, my six year old son read to me -- an entire book for the first time. (I did my best not to cry with happiness through the whole thing.) He only consented to read one book to me, but afterwards I made sure he 'caught' me reading myself. And then, something even more miraculous occurred: we had a conversation about a book. Our first real conversation about a book!

I was reading a a biography of Tiptree (a copy borrowed from Gracie, who finally did her review) and Hunter came in the room. He looked at the book and said, "There's no pictures in there." Derek laughed. And I showed him that there were indeed photos, and he asked what the book was about.

"A lady who, a long time ago, went to the deepest jungles of Africa -- at a time when no other white people had. Africa was so 'new' that there were no elephants or gorillas or lions in zoos and not many here had seen them. She was just 5 years old and had to be carried in a hammock-type sling by men who had never seen a little white girl. She liked Africa, but was angry she couldn't hunt like her dad -- and her mom. She grew up and became an author. She wrote science fiction stories -- stories about men & women who traveled in spaceships to different planets. But she couldn't write as a woman, so she used a man's name to write and publish her stories. She was a woman, but everyone thought she was a man."

"Cool," he said, with eyes as big as saucers. "Is she still alive?"

"No," I said.

"How did she die?"

"I don't know, I haven't read that far yet..."

"Will you tell me?"

"Sure," I said. My eyes welling with tears... We had had our first real book conversation. Now I know he understands the power of reading.

The sad thing is, now that I've finished the book and know how she dies, I am hoping he won't ask me. A murder suicide is not something I want to share with a six year old.
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