What Dr. Seuss Has Taught Me

Photo courtesy of Amanda Dunyak.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Dunyak.

by amanda dunyak.

“Oh the places you’ll go,” indeed! The path of my career in childcare has been a wild one at best. If you would have asked me at 16 years old what I would be doing now, at 33, I could guarantee you it would not have been this. A full time career nanny, a nanny blogger, writer and staff member for Nanny Magazine, agency owner… none of those things were part of my Plan A or even my Plan B, for that matter! Becoming a childcare worker at all was never the path I intended to set out on. I had planned a whole life around a career as a teacher, but things never seem to go according to plan, and that’s okay! I couldn’t be more happy and am blessed to be where I am today in my career.

Dr. Seuss has always been a favorite of mine. Dr. Seuss’ books were a huge aid in helping me learn how to read at just two years old. The silly tongue twisters and rhyming words, the memorable characters and the crazy situations they get themselves into, it all drew me in and I was hooked. But the real connection I felt with Dr. Seuss came as an adult. Being a community theater actress, I had the opportunity to perform in a lovely show called “Seussical the Musical” in one of my local theaters. It was just another show and I was just a member of the ensemble, a “Who down in Whoville.”

That show became so much more than a just a show to me and I went on to perform in it three more times, getting promoted up to bigger and better roles. And still, to this day, I cannot get through an entire performance without getting choked up. Bringing Dr. Seuss’ words to life, spreading the wonderful messages he conveys in his books, it was a wonderful honor.

If you had asked me to quote from a Dr. Seuss book back when I was a child, I might have been able to give you a line or two from “Green Eggs and Ham” or “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Now? Now I can rattle off entire books from memory. All year round I will read Dr. Seuss to my charges, but you can bet that when March 2 rolls around (Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America Day, sometimes dedicated to an entire week in schools… and in my life!) my charges’ schedules are packed with Dr. Seuss crafts, games, recipes, and books, all in the name of celebration.

Bringing Dr. Seuss’ work to life for the children in my care is such a wonderful experience. I am teaching them the lessons that I learned as a child. I am teaching them to rhyme and to read, about adjectives and being kind to others and that it is okay to be different. In the most fun ways imaginable, I can take a lesson that is so important to me and pass it down to my charges.

How has this made me a better nanny? Because I believe it has made me a better person, and in being a better person, I can pass this down to my charges.

  • “Oh the Places You’ll Go” teaches us that if we work hard and strive toward greatness, we can achieve it!
  • “The Lorax” teaches us to be kind to our environment and truly shows us how mistreating our Earth can be hurtful to us and to every living creature on the planet.
  • “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” shows that everyone, even the meanest person in the world, has a little good at their core and being kind to others can go a long way.
  • Both Horton the Elephant books, “Horton Hears a Who” and “Horton Hatches the Egg,” tell us to stay steadfast and true in the face of adversity and that people will try to knock you down for your beliefs, but you should never falter from what you believe in your heart of hearts.
  • “Green Eggs and Ham?” Hasn’t every adult used this story to try to get children to try something new because they might end up liking it after all? I know I have!
  • “The Cat in the Hat” stories teach children how to have fun, even if their day isn’t going as planned and that a little imagination can take you into some pretty crazy worlds of fun!
  • “The Sneetches” is a story about discrimination and being different, similar to race and cultures. This message alone is a strong one to pass on to children, especially nowadays with all that is going on in the world (think about what is and was happening in Ferguson and Baltimore).
  • “The Butter Battle Book,” an anti-war book, shows the silly things that people fight over, and how fighting and war are certainly not the answer.

The list of Dr. Seuss’ books and what can be gained from them, whether something as complex and meaningful as a lesson in race and discrimination or as a means of learning how to read and rhyme, goes on and on. Well, on for about 46 books, because that’s how many he wrote. If you can take something as simple as a children’s book and really listen to the story it is telling and the message it is trying to convey, and you apply that to your life and the way you teach, you can bring to light many new lessons for the children in your care.

Use Dr. Seuss to teach your charges to read and to be overall better people throughout their lives. Use some of the most memorable Dr. Seuss quotes (said in repetition, of course) to teach them that “a person’s a person, no matter how small;” “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not;” “why fit in when you were born to stand out?” “you have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose;” “oh the thinks you can think!” “so open your mouth, lad, for every voice counts;” “today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive who is youer than you” and so on and so on. Some of these quotes may seem silly to my charges at first, but I guarantee you, with (fun) repetition, they will be applying these quotes to their everyday lives, reminding each other that throwing that lollipop stick on the ground will hurt the Brown Bar-ba-loots and the other animals living in our world and that the smallest child in their class, that gets picked on for their size, is a person, no matter how small they are, and they should treat them with kindness and respect.

Remember this line, nannies, that I love so very much. “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”