There is a growing trend of children celebrating the birthday of Theodor Geisel in schools, local libraries and churches, and it’s a good one. Geisel is better known as “Dr. Seuss,” of course, and is the author of such beloved books as, Green Eggs and Ham, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Horton Hears a Who! and the timeless classic, The Cat in the Hat.
Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1904, the son of German immigrants. He attended Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church along with his parents and grandparents as a child, and was a life-long Lutheran.
In 2004, Judson Press published a thin book by clergyman James W. Kemp called, The Gospel According To Dr. Seuss, which sought to liberate Geisel’s theology from the pages of his children’s books. Kemp was somewhat successful in connecting biblical passages to Geisel’s themes of faith and forgiveness, and to the social concerns about war, racism and the environment that are found in his books.
As an artist, Geisel created flamboyant creatures for children to enjoy, and placed words like diamonds on pages to bring them joy. It seems that in it all he was just passing on the Christian values he learned as a child.
Geisel wrote more than 40 books as Dr. Seuss, and their combined sales have been over 500 million copies, according to the New York Times. His final book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! was in its 79th week on the Times best-seller list when the good Doctor passed away on September 24, 1991 at his home in La Jolla, California.
Using the birthday of Dr. Seuss as an attraction to draw children to the enjoyment of reading is a good thing, and churches can get involved. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has incorporated a Dr. Seuss birthday celebration as a part of their “Read Across America” program, and their materials can be adapted for church school use. Details are available on the NEA website.