Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Reading Green Eggs and Ham

One of my favorite books of all time is by Dr. Seuss.

'Green Eggs and Ham' is a book of pure genius.

I had bought our copy for my youngest daughter Ashley-Rae's birthday when she was no more than two. I had bought it to read to Ashley and Alannah at bed time. And frankly I bought it more for my own selfish pleasure because I enjoy reading that book out loud. The rhythmic cadence, and the opportunity to inflect cartoon-like exaggerated emotion as the main character is persistently harassed by Sam-I-Am to eat that plate of green eggs and ham, chasing him across the country side by car and train, and finally into the bottom of the sea to finally achieve his objective.

It's simply a lesson in persistence.

Last night at bed time, I let Ashley-Rae – who is now more than 2 – she is now five, pick the story of her choice from volumes piled high and wide across her personal library of beaten up story books. And low and behold, she pulls out the orange covered "Green Eggs and Ham" book.

I opened it up to read. But then I stopped.

Ashley-Rae had proven she can read certain words and such before. But sometimes you did not know if she simply memorized the words of the story and recounted her memory back to you, or if she was truly reading.

"You read this time", I said as I held the book for her and put my finger under each word.

"Sam-I-am", she started. "That Sam-I-am, that Sam-I-am, I do not like that Sam I-am".

I knew Ashley-Rae was indeed reading to me as she paused for a second on each word to figure it out.

As we went along, she stumbled on a few, such as "would" or "could", but she figured them out and carried on.

And that is the beauty of this book. A beauty that was, until that experience last night, lost on me. Dr. Seuss was such a genius because he would introduce a new word or two every page. Then he would repeat that word over and over again so that the word becomes known – learned – by the new reader.

"Would you, could you in the rain? Would you could you on a train? "

Halfway through the book, Ashley-Rae had learned a wealth of new words that she knew as soon as she saw them. But the genius of Dr. Seuss is even more dazzling by the way he takes what would normally be such a mundane, monotonous method, and he makes it fun.


Ashley-Rae ended her reading - "Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-am". Ashley turned to look at me with the realization that she had just read a complete book, a literary masterpiece in my mind, from cover-to-cover.

All by herself.

And that beautiful little smile poked up from the sides of her mouth, her eyes got real big, and she gave me a great big daddy hug. Then she scrambled out of bed, and all around the remaining corners of the house to tell Mommy, Alannah, and the Grandma what she had just accomplished.

And I know that she now has the confidence to do it over and over again. She will pick up books to read so as not to look at the pictures, but to actually read the words. And Ashley-Rae will now like reading. She will enjoy it.

I have always known that there is no more fun book to read aloud that 'Green Eggs and Ham'. But until last night I did not understand the true genius behind the book, or the reason that educators herald the book as a treasure.

But now I do.

And Ashley-Rae has been given the greatest gift in the world. The confidence and desire to read.

And that is the best gift I could ever receive.

Thank you Dr. Seuss.

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