Is your child celebrating Read Across America Day? Mine is. March 2 is marked on our calendar. We’ll join some 45 million other kids, parents, teachers and community leaders across the country for this annual celebration.
Read Across America Day is sponsored by the National Education Association to spotlight the fun of reading. After all, the date is the birthday of the children’s author, Dr. Seuss.
Many Read Across America events have a tie to Dr. Seuss’ famous collection of super-silly stories. There are “Read with the Cat in the Hat” story hours with visits from book characters. Some libraries and schools organize Seuss-inspired parades. (You can look for local events near you here or plan one with these supplies.)
At our house, we’ll be holding our own personal “Whobilation.” We’ll talk about our favorite Seuss stories. And we’ll thank Dr. Seuss for sleep. Yes, just as Dr. Seuss’s Grinch saved Christmas (after he stole it, of course), Dr. Seuss saved bedtime for our family.
Let me explain.
From the moment my son Arlo’s eyes peered open in the delivery room, he hasn’t willingly shut them again. Arlo is not a kid who sleeps. (Which means his dad and I are parents who don’t sleep). It’s only been in the last six weeks of his nearly five years that Arlo has slept for more than two hours at a clip.
My excitable, curious, stubborn darling often struggles with self-control and overexcitement—as do many kids with and without learning and thinking differences. Still, I’ve tried to be sure that he gets as much rest as possible. Sleep is so important for his health and learning.
That’s where the Good Doctor S. comes in.
For our baby shower, I received a stack of board books. It made sense, given my impending job as a librarian. I had sweet visions of reading those books at bedtime each night with my baby—and then he would drift peacefully off to sleep.
When he was an infant, the only way to get Arlo to sleep was to “wear” him in a baby carrier and walk around. And around. And around some more. We’d sing, tell stories and talk about our day. Doing this for over an hour took energy—sometimes more than his dad or I had. So we’d also grab the top board book from Arlo’s pile on our way through his room.
“Left foot, left foot. Right foot, right,” we’d read from Dr. Seuss’ The Foot Book.
“Feet in the day, feet in the night.”
(“Ain’t that the truth,” we’d mutter to each other as we paced by.)
“Slow feet, Quick feet.”
“Trick feet, Sick feet.”
(“Sick feet indeed,” we’d think to ourselves, lower back and ankles aching.)
At first we read other stories as we walked. But always we returned to The Foot Book. Eventually it was the book for our nightly let’s-go-to-sleep march. Its simple rhymes and easy cadence made it perfect. And after eight or nine read-throughs and laps around the house, baby Arlo would conk out.
As he grew, we went from the board book to the longer version of The Foot Book. As we marched around, drowsy Arlo would squeal along.
Over time, it took fewer laps to settle him. Nowadays, our bedtime rituals are actually performed in bed. No more marching, just reading (and considerable stalling).
Sometimes Arlo will select a meatier Dr. Seuss book, such as Horton Hears a Who!, and we’ll talk about what it might feel like when no one believes you. Or we’ll thumb through My Many Colored Days and talk about words that tell how we feel. Now that he’s older, Arlo might sound out the words in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
Sometimes, though, Arlo will pull his tattered copy of The Foot Book off the shelf.
“Ohhh,” he’ll say. “I loved this book!”
Thanks, Dr. Seuss. Our (better rested) family thinks you deserve your celebrations—this year and every year.
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About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.