Using Dr. Suess to Teach Phonics

Dr. Seuss’ books have been used to teach phonics to beginning readers since his first book, “And to Think, I Saw it on Mulberry Street,” was published on December 21, 1937.  Dr. Seuss went on to publish 44 more delightful and educational books that are still excellent tools as we celebrate his 110th birthday today.

There are various reasons for the success of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s books; many of which are still common writing practices today in children’s literature.  First and foremost, the books themselves are inviting just by appearance. Look at the cover of “The Cat in the Hat” for instance, right away your imagination runs wild with curiosity…cats don’t wear hats.

The genius that was Dr. Seuss lies in the presentation of phonics, word family groupings, sight words and rhyming word pairs. His books are fantastic read aloud books, and can capture the attention of even the most reluctant reader.

The stories of Dr. Seuss are timeless. Take the Lorax for instance. This book highlights the possibilities of environmental ruin and gives awareness to the world around our young children. Certainly written in the times, 1971, when such issues were being brought to light. What better conduit than the children ages 4 – 10 to deliver a “save my planet” message? Today, this particular book is read nationwide on Earth Day.

A title from Dr. Seuss that helps young children master their language and mastery of phonics is Hop on Pop. It is through repeated reading that children are able to gain fluency. They feel successful, and want to show what they know.

Each of Dr. Seuss books can be extended past the text itself. One of my favorites is, “Bartholomew and the Oobleck”. This treasure, while entertaining to the listener, is even more fun when the listener can turn the text into a science experiment…..using cornstarch and water. The child is able to feel a solid at the bottom of a bowl and lift it through the water surface and turn it into a liquid. I have attached the experiment….so much fun.

What you will need:

  • a copy of the text, Bartholomew and the Oobleck
  • 1 small box of cornstarch
  • 3 cups of water
  • large glass bowl

Invite the children to place their hands in the bowl and try to lift the oobleck out of the bowl. Their hands will feel a solid, but as they grip it and bring it up through the water layer, it turns into a liquid.

The possibilities are endless and reach all ages. Some books by age level are: “Oh, the Thinks You can Think”, ages 0 -4, “What was I Scared of? A Glow-in-the-Dark Encounter”, ages 4 – 8, and “The Big Green Book of Beginner Books”, ages 4 – 8.

So, the next time you are invited to a child’s birthday party, go with the gift of reading – a Dr. Seuss book is always a hit!