Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: To Make Good Use of Dr. Seuss

by columnist Madeline Karp

For those of you not up on your children’s authors, this weekend marked the 99th birthday of beloved children’s author, poet and illustrator Theodor Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

The Please Touch Museum celebrated by reading Dr. Seuss’s best-loved books at story time, by making Seuss-esque self-portraits with children in the art room, and by inviting the Cat in the Hat to come in for a meet and greet photo opportunity.

(Be it known: I am terrified of mascots. Many children were far braver than I when it came to approaching an 8-foot tall cat to pose for a photo.)

I think Dr. Seuss is one of those rare figures who unites people. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who outright hates How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Hop on Pop. Grandparents and children were both pumped about meeting the Cat in the Hat. Twenty-something babysitters cooed over If I Ran the Circus and older children begged for multiple re-reads of Horton Hears a Who.

All this makes me think that perhaps Mr. Geisel would be excellent fodder for a variety of museum exhibits. So here, in rhyme, are a few ways I think we could incorporate Dr. Seuss into unusual spaces, in an attempt to bring in a new or wider audience to the museum.

With stylized faces and bold use of color
Dr. Seuss’s cartoons look unlike any others.
With a pen and some paper,
You’ll go through the museum
To re-draw classic portraits as Seuss would’ve seen ‘em.

With poems there comes meter, and timing and rhymes
You could do your addition and maybe cosines,
But you still have to count syllables, iambs and verse
To make your math better, instead of much worse.

We all know the Lorax, he spoke for the trees,
And showed us the downside to big industry.
We can use Dr. Seuss to teach kids about seeds,
Along with earth science and biology.
Since climate debates are happening now
Maybe Ole Dr. Seuss can show us all how
To care just a little, just like we were taught
To make our earth better by a whole awful lot.

“I hate poetry!” young children declare
“I won’t read it, it’s boring, you can’t make me care!”
But with poems there comes reading
And spelling and rhyme
I assure you new readers will have a good time
Learning new words and big words
–They’ll turn on a dime!
They’ll love to read, and new poems they’ll pursue
Just like parents and teachers would want them to do.

For older readers, there is more to the story,
Dr. Seuss’s short poems were all allegory.
Re-read through your kids’ books
Like Horton and Grinch
And you’ll soon see some themes
That might make you flinch.

Which leads us to…

Dr. Seuss was a man with a good, strong opinion
He didn’t like Nazis, he rooted for women.
The Great Butter Battle told of the arms race
Yertle the Turtle? How Hitler saved face.
Capitalist Grinches, and pro-lifer Whos,
Seuss’s tales carefully – subtly – all spread the news,
That learning history is kind of the cool thing to do.

So you see, there are ways to put to good use,
The morals, the drawings, and words of good Seuss.
My friends in museums from far and from near,
Tell me in comments how you hold him dear!

**Dedicated to my own personal Seuss, Dr. Richard Bronson.


  1. I have to thank Dr. Seuss because when I was younger I learned to read with his books. I remember “Go Dog, Go!” was my favorite and I was so proud when I could read it in kindergarten. Then in first grade”Green Eggs and Ham” encouraged me to try things I may not have liked. There were probably many more stories that taught me so much growing up. For a time as I got older none really spoke to me until senior year of high school when his book “Oh the Places You Will Go” reached out to me.

  2. Jenna O'Donnell

    March 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Such great ideas for a cross-curricular approach to not only teaching kids about Dr. Seuss and generally encouraging literacy among emergent readers; but also to find an interesting angle to engage kids in other subject areas.

    Dr. Seuss is indeed a unifying icon, and educators can really use that to their advantage!

    Neat piece, really makes me want to check out the Please Touch Museum, too!

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