Dr. Suess Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Dr. Seuss.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Dr. Seuss. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Author studies are fantastic ways for children to explore an author and investigate many of his or her works. Author studies help children see patterns and themes, make connections across works, and find out an author’s personal history and learn about his or her inspirations to write. Best of all, author studies encourage a lifelong passion for reading. Many children know and adore Dr. Seuss’ books, but who was Dr. Seuss? This movie will explore the life and times of Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904. As a young boy, his mother chanted rhymes to help him fall asleep, which provided inspiration for the sing-song quality of his rhymes. At eighteen years old, Theodor attended Dartmouth College and wrote for the school’s humor magazine, Jack-o-Lantern, eventually becoming its editor-in-chief. Theodor was caught drinking and breaking Prohibition laws, and he was forced to quit writing for the magazine. However, he proceeded to write under the pen name Seuss, his middle name. Remind your children that a pen name is a fake name used by an author in place of his or her real names. Discuss why an author might want to use a different name, and you may wish to use famous examples, including Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), and Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson).

Dr. Seuss drew cartoons of government leaders and current events, including the war and American foreign policy. Help your children understand that while some cartoons are funny or silly, others poke fun at things to get people to think about them and understand them in a different way. Research on the Internet or in your local paper to find cartoons that can help your children understand how cartoons use symbols or caricature to help share a point of view. Dr. Seuss also drew advertisements for a variety of products, including cleaning supplies, lamps, oil, and bug spray.

As an adult, Dr. Seuss read an article about how some children were having difficulty learning to read because many children’s books were boring. He decided to write and illustrate books that would make kids excited about learning to read. He worked with a publishing house to come up with a word list for beginning readers. Then, he wrote and illustrated The Cat in the Hat using the list.

Many of Dr. Seuss’ books rhyme. Remind your children that words that rhyme share the same ending sound. You may wish to explore examples together. Rhyming words can help people find patterns to learn to read. His books also use a lot of repetition to help new readers. Dr. Seuss also played with language, and he often made up his own words and imaginary creatures with fantastical names. He imbued a passion for playful language through all of his books.

Many of his books also teach a lesson or share an idea. Green Eggs and Ham is about a character whose friend convinces him to eat a seemingly disgusting dish. The friend’s determination pays off, and when the character finally eats green eggs and ham, he is delighted. The story teaches that it’s good to try new things. But, there are other lessons in the story as well. Encourage your children to find other thoughts and feelings the author shares. In The Lorax, a forest is cut down in order to manufacture a product. As the forest is destroyed, pollution causes creatures to become sick and many are forced to leave their homes. The story is about consumerism and green, but it is also a warning about protecting our environment.

By the time of his death in Dr. Seuss in 1991, he had written and illustrated over sixty children’s books. His books are still being enjoyed today, some after fifty years of it’s first publication, and adored by people of all ages. His last book was Oh, the Places You’ll Go! which explored the themes of determination and hope and addressed the ups and downs of life: “Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”