School celebrates Dr. Seuss, legacy

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Lake Pend Oreille Superintendent Shawn Woodward flips through the children’s book “Crickwing” while surrounded by Sandpoint Middle School students. (Photo by CAMERON RASMUSSON)

SANDPOINT — If there is one constant in life, it’s that Dr. Seuss transcends age.

Sandpoint Middle School students spent the week learning a variety of lessons from the life of Theodor Seuss Geisel, more widely known as Dr. Seuss, in honor of his birthday on Saturday. Between the 1930s and the 1990s, Dr. Seuss published more than 60 books, making him one of the most respected and beloved children’s book authors in history.

The lessons from Dr. Seuss’ life and career extended well beyond the literary field. His illustrations remain an inspiration for cartoonists everywhere. His own life intersects with some of the key points of history. And just as valuable are the personal qualities he exhibited, including perseverance, dedication to his work, social equality regardless of race or gender and compassion for the little guy.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Sandpoint Middle School student Savannah Stierle said. “These books have a great message for everybody.”

That’s something with which everyone from the students to their teachers to Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent Shawn Woodward can agree. Dr. Seuss’ books have a quality that transcends generational divides, and classic books like “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Lorax,” and “Green Eggs and Ham” have helped millions of individuals kickstart their literary skills.   

“I learned to read using Dr. Seuss books,” Woodward said.

The celebration of all things Dr. Seuss started earlier this week, when thematic elements started trickling their way into everyday school activities. Students studied Dr. Seuss’ use of vocabulary in his books, his capacity to invent new words and using distinct sounds and poetic meter to build stories both unique in narrative and pleasing to the ear. Students also got to unleash their creative side by crafting Dr. Seuss-themed bookmarks for friends or family.

The biggest day arrived on Friday, when students and teachers got to dress up in Dr. Seuss-inspired costumes and interact with special guests. Community leaders like Woodward arrived to talk about the impact of children’s books on his and his own kids’ lives. He also read some of his kids’ favorite children’s literature: the book “Crickwing” by Janell Cannon and the poem “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” by Shel Silverstein.

Sarah Caruso and Andrew Sorg, two individuals known for their skill as actors, also visited to demonstrate the fun of reading the good doctor with the enthusiasm and expression of a stage performer. Considering Dr. Seuss’ twisting verses and often tongue-tying vocabulary, Caruso said his books made excellent warm-up material for actors in preparation for a performance.

According to teacher Deborah McShane, Friday’s events were not only a fun way to highlight a great author and artist — they also were an excellent chance for the students to spend time with community members they don’t see as often.

“It’s such an interesting thing to let kids have interaction with people beyond their regular teachers,” she said.

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