It was 1957 when scrappy underdog The Cat in the Hat danced into the early reader arena. Look-say champion Dick and Jane had held children's primers in its steely grip for more than three decades, but was beginning to take some hits as more and more critics stepped forward to question the country's flagging literacy rate.
At the suggestion of Random House, children's author Theodore "Dr. Seuss" Geisel threw together a story made of two hundred and thirty six essential first grade vocabulary words, most of which were one syllable. His goal was to write a book that first graders "couldn't put down" unlike the tedious repetition of Dick and Jane. Giesel's cat threw his hat in the ring, and within three years the sight-reading giant had been toppled, freeing children everywhere from the tyranny of "see Spot go."
Yes, Beginner Books is the infamous series that knocked Dick and Jane out of the early reader spotlight. The rest of the Beginner Books follow this formula. They take easy-to-read words and string them together into a story that's fun and a little wacky. Children as young as three all the way to second grade can enjoy the early readers. With stories by Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman, the Berenstains, and even one by Walter Farley, these books have fun prose, fun illustrations, and are fun to read aloud, a fact for which we can thank Theodore Geisel and, yes, The Cat in the Hat.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
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