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Pop Culture

Awesome Twitter thread explains the surprising origins of Dr. Seuss and 'The Cat in the Hat'

It all started back in 1954 with a national quest to understand “Why can't children read?”

dr. seuss, children's books
Wikipedia, @bpoppenheimer/Twitter

How exactly did Dr. Seuss come up with "Cat in the Hat?"

Dr. Seuss is one of the most enduring and endearing children’s books writers of all time. His work has been around for over sixty years, and while certain titles certainly fall short of today’s standards, kids continue to enjoy the unique use of wordplay, illustration style and abounding optimism of his beloved classics.

But how exactly did Dr. Seuss came up with such an impactful idea in the first place? That’s a story unto itself, and one that, much like his fictional works, still feels relevant today.

As explained in a Twitter thread by writer and research assistant Billy Oppenheimer, it all began when another award-winning author, John Hershey, started investigating the looming question of 1954: “Why can't children read?”

After two years of reading children's books, meeting with experts and observing how reading was taught in schools, Hershey ultimately came to a rather simple conclusion—children didn’t want to read, because children’s books were boring.

Even in an age pre-TikTok and Snapchat, reading had to “compete for the interest of children with television, radio, movies, comic books, magazines, and sports,” and children’s books by and large just weren’t entertaining enough to hold short attention spans in comparison to their instantly stimulating counterparts.

Henry would end up publishing his findings in an issue of “LIFE” Magazine, along with the call to action for writers to create something more compelling than what the current market provided. The article would be read by an editor at Houghton Mifflin, who would then challenge an illustrator friend of his to "Write me a story that first graders can't put down."

That illustrator was, you guessed it, Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Seuss has the added obstacle of only being able to write a story using a vocabulary list of 300 "accepted" words. So his strategy, as is with many brilliant creatives, was to just play around, combining different rhyming words until something resonated. Eventually the words “cat” and “hat” caught his attention…

…And in 1957, we’d have “The Cat in the Hat,” a blockbuster of a book that used 236 unique words, which Hershey himself hailed as a "masterpiece" and a "gift to the art of reading." It would also remain the book that Seuss was proudest of, "because [it] proved to a number of million kids that reading is not a disagreeable task.”

A lack of interest in reading, particularly reading for pleasure, is still a widely discussed topic among parents and educators. And much like in Dr. Seuss’ time, an overwhelming amount of competing tech-media is largely to blame. A 2021 survey from Common Sense Media revealed that in just two years after the pandemic (between 2019 and 2021) kids ages 8 to 18 increased their time on social media 17 percent, amounting to somewhere between a little more than five and half hours to just over eight and half hours a day.

We might not be able to grab even shorter attention spans with rhyming tales of Whoville, but we can still take a page from Dr. Seuss’ book by making reading seem more “interesting.” Perhaps it entails a wider selection of book titles, or joining forces with the power of social media to form communities like #BookTok to make reading still feel fresh and modern—these are two strategies that have already proven successful. Or perhaps it'll be something altogether different.

The solution might not be completely solidified, but like Dr. Seuss, we have to maintain a curious spirit and incorporate a sense of play in our approach. Keeping something fun is akin to keeping something alive more often than not. Take it from the guy who brought us Grinches and Loraxes and Whovians that still lift our spirits today.

Speaking of reading, if you care to check out Seuss’ biography, which Oppenhemier cited in his thread, you can find it here.

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


Health

Over or under? Surprisingly, there actually is a 'correct' way to hang a toilet paper roll.

Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?



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The "over or under" question has plagued marriages and casual acquaintances alike for over 100 years, with both sides convinced they have the soundest reasoning for putting their toilet paper loose end out or loose end under. Some people feel so strongly about right vs. wrong TP hanging that they will even flip the roll over when they go to the bathroom in the homes of strangers.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not merely an inconsequential preference. There is actually a "correct" way to hang toilet paper, according to health experts as well as the man who invented the toilet paper roll in the first place.

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Some who saw the video thought that Asero came off as entitled and exemplified the younger generation’s lack of work ethic. In contrast, others sympathized with the young woman who is just beginning to understand how hard it is to find work-life balance in modern-day America.

“I’m so upset,” she says in the video. "I get on the train at 7:30 a.m., and I don't get home until 6:15 p.m. [at the] earliest. I don't have time to do anything!" Asero said in a video.

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