Readers Celebrate 50 Years of 'The Cat in the Hat'

If you're reading this article, you probably owe some of your ability to do so to Dr. Seuss and "The Cat in the Hat."

At least three generations of Americans have fond memories of the famous rhyme — and with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the book's publication, many took the time to celebrate and remember it.

Seven-year-old Andrew Shannon said "The Cat in the Hat," which describes two children's unexpected adventure with a boisterous cat, is one of his favorite books and one that helped him learn to read.

“When I first read 'The Cat in the Hat' I was about 3 years old,” said Andrew, a student at Pulaski Elementary School in Somerset, Ky. “I thought it was really funny.”

Now he reads the book to his 3-year-old brother.

The family tradition, however, was actually started by Andrew's grandfather, 57-year-old Rick Shannon.

“I read it to my son many times and to my grandsons as well,” he said. “I just love Dr. Seuss’ words.”

Karen Jensen, of College Station, Texas, said her love of "The Cat in the Hat" began when she was a child.

“I remember being very little and being proud I could read the book,” she said. “It was easier to read because it was a rhyming book.”

And like so many other parents, Jensen, 40, reads the book to her children, still enjoying the experience herself.

"When I read it to my kids, I point when I do the words,” she said. “It’s funny to them, but it’s also funny to me. It’s easy to read. Adults like it just as much as the kids do.”

Born in Springfield, Mass., in 1904 to a German father and Bavarian mother (he died in 1991), Theodor Seuss Geisel began his career as a children's writer with "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," published in 1937. Seuss gave himself the mock-scholarly "Dr." title.

After becoming a political cartoonist and captain in the U.S. Army's Information and Education Division during World War II, Geisel answered the call in a Life magazine article to write a reading primer to replace boring "Dick and Jane" books.

Judith Haut, vice president of communications for Random House Children’s Books, which publishes "The Cat in the Hat," said when Dr. Seuss wrote "The Cat in the Hat," there was a perceived literacy crisis in the United States.

“Everyone was asking ‘Why Can’t Johnny Read?’” she said. “Dr. Seuss rose to that challenge.”

The book’s average sales began at about 12,000 copies a month when it was published on March 1, 1957. By Nov. 1958, Random House had sold 300,000 copies.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the book, Random House has teamed up with Dr. Seuss Enterprises and First Book — a nonprofit organization whose mission is to give low-income children the opportunity to read and own their first new books — to create Project 236, a literacy initiative.

Haut said that like the literacy crisis that happened 50 years ago, today there is a crisis of children who do not own a book.

Project 236 works to end this crisis by donating a book to First Book for every birthday card that is sent to "The Cat in the Hat" and for every copy of the book that is bought, committing to donate at least 2 million books.

Click here to send The Cat in the Hat a birthday card.

Haut estimates that today, about 10 and a half million copies of the book have been sold, not including sales from the Scholastic at Home Club.

“It remains a best-seller for children,” she said. “Ultimately, what the book did is make reading fun.”

Lots of good fun that is funny, as the Cat put it.