Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy Birthday, Cat in the Hat!

Happy birthday to the CAT IN THE HAT who turns 50 this year!!

Did you know that Dr. Seuss used only 236 different words to write THE CAT IN THE HAT?

In the mid 1950s, many Americans were asking themselves: Why can’t Johnny read? In a Life magazine article, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Hersey maintained that American children couldn’t read because their classroom primers were boring and “antiseptic” and could not compete with cartoons, comics, and other more fun and interesting stimuli, so he challenged Theodor Geisel, a.k.a Dr. Seuss, to write a story “first graders wouldn’t be able to put down.” And that’s just what Dr. Seuss did, using a vocabulary of only 236 words. In 1957, Random House published The Cat in the Hat and those 236 words revolutionized the way children learn to read!

Since then, learning to read had never been so much fun.

Making reading fun, however, is only one piece of the literacy puzzle. And that’s where Project 236 fits in. In the fifty years since the publication of Dr. Seuss’s groundbreaking book, enormous strides have been made in support of literacy initiatives in our country, but enormous challenges remain. Ensuring that children have access to books remains essential to reading development, and we know that children in poverty are most at risk.

A recent study shows the depth and magnitude of the ongoing literacy crisis in the United States.

On average, children in middle-income neighborhoods have approximately 13 books per individual child. In contrast, for low-income children, there is estimated to be 1 book for every 300 children.*

It quickly became clear to the folks at Random House Children’s Books and Dr. Seuss Enterprises that a birthday party for the Cat in the Hat had to be about giving the gift of reading to kids who really needed it. In 2007, and in honor of Dr. Seuss and his Cat, they are asking everyone to help provide more access to books. With Project 236 everyone is being asked: What can YOU do to make a difference?

For ideas on what YOU can do to make a difference and to participate in Project 236, visit Not only is it a fun site for the entire family to visit, but a book will be donated for every birthday card sent to the Cat in the Hat from this site! Let's see how many cards can be sent to the CAT!

*Dickinson, David K. and Susan B. Neuman, eds.
“The Knowledge Gap: Implications for Early Education.”
Handbook of Early Literacy Research, volume 2.
New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 2006, p. 31.

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