Seuss Strategies:Tips for reading Dr. Seuss with kids

 

Celebrating Seuss at The Rise School with "Wee Volunteers"

Celebrating Seuss at The Rise School with “Wee Volunteers”

{My other Seuss posts: 10 Ways to Celebrate SeussLife Lessons from Dr. Seuss}

By now you know we are big Seuss fans in the Manders family! I can remember Daddy Dustin reading “Hop on Pop” to MJ when he was just a little baby.  It became such a special, silly way for them to bond whenever Daddy was around (and not at the hospital enduring his grueling residency schedule). “Hop on Pop”, “One Fish, Two Fish”, “ABC” were the go to’s for Daddy and baby, and the love and ritual has grown from there. Dustin became the one to come home periodically with a surprise for MJ – a new Dr. Seuss book! As time went on and MJ grew, Daddy began to introduce longer and more sophisticated Dr. Seuss fair like “The Cat in the Hat” and “The Lorax”. Meanwhile, MJ’s attention span, vocabulary, language development, imagination, and love for Seuss and reading were all growing in leaps and bounds! Mommy would often shy away from the longer books, and still sometimes skips pages because my attention span is not long enough. But Daddy always savors each word and moment with the kids snuggled in his lap. A few years ago, our “intentional” Christmas gift to the children was an audio recording of some favorite books read aloud by some favorite people: Mommy, Daddy, GareBear, Beffa, Uncle Jake, and Aunt Sarah. One of the highlights is of Daddy reading “Horton Hears a Who” with 18-month-old MJ in his lap. You can sense his rapt attention, hear his little giggles, his filling in of rhyming words, and his enthusiastic “YOP!”. I will always treasure that recording.  Daddy was equally excited to begin reading Dr. Seuss to baby Ellie, and her current favorite is “The Sleep Book“. We each have our favorites, and I wanted to share some them, along with tips for reading them with your kiddos. Seuss is great for the youngest readers (but keep reading them as your children get older, because the familiarity will help instill confidence as they are becoming readers themselves).Dr. Seuss quotes

READ-Aloud TIPS

  • Pause. For any rhyming books, be intentional about leaving out some of the ending words so that your child can “fill in the blank.” Do this with your babies, too. Before they can “expressively” verbalize the word, they will be “receptively” hearing it in their little brains. This is called “audiation” and it is an important pre-reading skill. (It is what we do when we are engaged in silent reading, like now.) So, be patient enough to pause every now and then before filling in the blank for them. Soon they will be filling in the quiet space with some kind of sound, and this is when you praise them, no matter what that sound is. “Mouse, House, Mouse on house. House, Mouse, house on….”, “Ba!”, “Yes, House on mouse!” 
  • Be an actor! Of course, given all the creative Seuss characters, you have a fabulous opportunity to engage your children with silly voices. (It’s also an opportunity for you to totally escape reality and PLAY with your child. Go ahead, make a fool of yourself!)
  • Counting – LOTS of opportunities for counting in Seuss books. Counting fish in a tree, apples up on top, humps on wumps…Point and count together, and you are teaching your child the patterns of the numbers, along with one-to-one correspondence (the idea that each number corresponds to an object).
  • Colors – SO many bright colors seen and mentioned in these books. Ask your children what colors they see. “Can you point to the red fish?” (Before your baby can talk, she can follow this direction, and it’s so exciting when you know that those connections are already there in her little brain. It motivates YOU to keep up the good work of reading.)
  • Incorporate some of the favorite rhymes and phrases into your everyday routines. See these ideas from my post, “Lessons from Dr. Seuss”
  • Wonder. As you’re gazing together at one of the rich pictures (like Kitty O’Sullivan’s swimming pool over her house  in “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!”), ask an “I wonder” question. “I wonder what it’s like to swim in that pool?” Or “I wonder what kind of sound a Bloog makes?” or “I wonder what a Guff feels like? Do you think he’s fuzzy?
  • Vocal Play – In Seuss books, there are so many opportunities to play with your voice, to try repeating silly words and sounds. Encourage this with your child. Vocal play is key to language development, phonological awareness (the ability to distinguish different sounds that come together to make words).  Focusing on one sound at a time is best for babies, and your older children can build up to trying whole phrases like the tongue twisters in “Oh, Say Can You Say?”.
  • Focus on Patterns, specially repeated, recurring patterns – Our brains are pattern-seeking, and Dr. Seuss knew this. That’s why we love his books so much! “Brush, brush, brush, brush”,  “I do not like them in a ____, I don not like them in a _____….I do not like them Sam-I-Am!” , “Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum”. 
  • Feel the Beat – Seuss’s rhymes have a definite beat and rhythm. Help your child to feel it as you speak by patting the beat or rhythm on their back, bounce them to the beat, or tapping it on their leg as you read. As with any experience, the neural connections are made stronger when more than one sense is engaged (multi-sensory learning).
  • Repetition, Repetition, Repetition. Learning happens through repetition. The neural pathways are made only through repetition, or they fade away. Your child has a great innate capacity and attention for enjoying an experience over and over and over, until you are sick of it! So, when your child asks for the same Seuss book or page again and again, humor them. They are learning something new each time, they are gaining a deeper understanding of it with each successive reading – discovering a new word or sound, a new creature in the picture they had not yet noticed. Have patience – you might learn something new, too.
  • Expand the experience. After you close the book, dress up like one of the creatures. Draw a picture of an imaginary place from the book. Make up your own story about one of the creatures. Cook green eggs and ham!
  • Build on your books. Don’t give away your simplest Seuss books as you buy longer, newer ones for your growing child. Come back to them for familiarity, and for building reading skills. “Hop on Pop” is a great first reader. Keep them around so your child can read them aloud to stuffed animals, younger sibs or visitors.
Our library includes:
  • There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!” (Great for the silly rhymes which 3-4-year olds really love!)
  • Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” board book (great for feeling that beat and pattern as you use your child’s belly or back as the drum.)
  • Mr. Brown can Moo! Can You?” – lots of animal sounds and patterns great for vocal play.
  • Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” – Dustin’s favorite.
  • Green Eggs and Ham” 
  • “Yertle the Turtle”
  • “Fox in Socks”
  • “The Grinch”
  • “Oh, Say Can You Say?” – tongue twisters
  • “My Many Colored Days” board book – gives tots and older kids a way to describe their emerging emotions through colors, and the colors good one for littlest readers, too. I like the phrase, “You’d be surprised how many ways I change on different colored days.”
  • “The Sneetches and other Stories” – full of great moral lessons. I like the north and south-going Zaxes who say, “Never budge! Never budge in the least. Not an inch to the west, not an inch to the east.” My kids often come to this kind of impasse in play. (Sometimes me and Dustin, too.)
  • “The Sleep Book” – extremely soporific. If this doesn’t make you sleepy, I don’t what will.
  • Dr. Seuss’s ABC” – use the end cover on this book to point to the letters as you sing the alphabet song. Focus on the letter sound  as you read the book. Have a hand mirror handy as you read to look and see how your mouth makes each sound. Is it a “smiley” sound  (like “i” or “e”) or does your tongue tap (like “d” or “t”)? Do your lips pop? (like “p”)?
  • The Lorax” – great story that your child will understand on a deeper level as they grow. (For now, I change the “shut up” phrase that occurs just once to “be quiet” because, as far as I know, my kids still don’t know that mean phrase.)
  • The Cat in the Hat” (I have to say little mischievous “Sally” and her older brother remind me of my own children, though they are certainly not as mischievous as that darn CAT!)
  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” – this one includes the “ABC’s” as well, along with the mysterious cleaning tool every mom should have, magical “VOOM!” (Now, in this one, I also edit a bit for now. There is a part where the cats have toy pop guns, and I change them to “bananas”, just because we steer clear from talk of “guns” in our house. I know, this won’t last forever.)