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Celebrating Dr. Seuss and Students from Kindergarten to College
By Shelley Murphy
Each year on March 2, elementary school children across the country celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss by participating in the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.
It’s been numerous years since I circled that date on my calendar, so it surprised me to receive an invitation to join the celebration this month.
My invitation came from Mrs. Kelly Barreira and her amazing class of kindergartners at Truman Benedict Elementary School.
I met Kelly more than 15 years ago on my older son’s first day of first grade. We’d just moved to San Clemente and I didn’t know anybody. I also didn’t know how fortunate my son was to be assigned to Kelly’s classroom or how lucky I’d be to forge a heartfelt and lasting friendship with her.
With my older son’s college graduation just a couple months away, I jumped at the opportunity to return to the school where his education began.
In observance of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Kelly asked if I’d like to choose a book to read to her students. Theodor Seuss Geisel penned more than 60 books—44 of them under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss. I picked the last book published during his lifetime, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”, to read to Kelly’s class. The book speaks to graduates of all ages, and I couldn’t resist reading the sentimental selection to kindergartners starting their schooling as my son’s education comes to a close.
Walking into Kelly’s classroom, I felt a familiar rush of nostalgia. I volunteered in both my kids’ kindergarten classrooms and recall fond memories of their first years of school. But I’d forgotten how incredibly cute a classroom of 5-year-olds can be with their unfiltered expressions of joyfulness and exuberance.
In Kelly’s classroom, once again, I marveled at her calm control of the excited kindergartners: with a melodic clap of her hands, they immediately quieted and listened for instruction.
We took our seats, and small hands shot into the air as eager students awaited their chance to speak. One by one, they took turns introducing themselves and revealing their favorite kinds of books: several of the young scholars like reading about horses and dinosaurs while some prefer paleontology—yes, paleontology.
Then came my turn to read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” to the bright group of learners. They sat in silence, absorbing the rhythmic language and engaging story by the celebrated Dr. Seuss.
The 56-page book delivers a message of optimism and encouragement. Seuss writes that life’s a journey full of bumps and slumps, but proposes that perseverance prevails and he promises success (“98 and ¾ percent guaranteed”).
Seuss’s carefully crafted graduation send-off resonates with students from grade school to grad school. More than 25 years after its publication and with more than 10 million copies in print, it’s not surprising that over the course of their education, some college graduates claim to have received as many as half a dozen copies of the Dr. Seuss classic.
While the book is motivating, my son is sure to find the perennial favorite an irritation not an inspiration. The only paper gift he’s interested in receiving has pictures of presidents printed on it, not images of animated Hakken-Kraks. In two short months, he’ll leave his college campus behind and focus on his future and the path ahead. Soon he’ll be on his way and, oh, the places he’ll go!