New York, NY (February 27, 2007)—On March 1, Dr. Seuss’ beloved classic The Cat in the Hat will celebrate its 50th Birthday. Originally published by Random House in 1957, The Cat in the Hat was embraced widely and enthusiastically, becoming an instant bestseller and turning Dr. Seuss into a household name virtually overnight. Random House has since sold an estimated 10.5 million copies of the book, not including the millions more sold by Random House via a direct mail program administered by Scholastic-at-Home.
Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote The Cat in the Hat in response to a perceived literacy crisis in the United States. In the mid 1950s, many Americans were asking themselves: Why can’t Johnny read? In a Life magazine article, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Hersey maintained that American children couldn’t read because the Dick and Jane primers were boring and could not compete with cartoons, comics, and other more fun and interesting stimuli, so he challenged Dr. Seuss to write a story “first graders wouldn’t be able to put down.” And that’s just what Dr. Seuss did, using a vocabulary of only 236 words. Seuss’ 236 words revolutionized the way children learn to read, ultimately making an enormous and positive impact on the looming literacy crisis in the United States.
In honor of Dr. Seuss and his Cat, Random House Children’s Books, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, and First Book (a national nonprofit literacy organization) are sponsoring a national initiative—Project 236—to raise awareness of literacy issues and help combat the literacy crisis in the United States. The program’s goal is to revolutionize the way children in our country learn to read all over again, by ensuring that all children have access to books. Studies show that access to books remains essential to reading development and recent statistics have shown that while children in middle-income homes have roughly 13 books of their own, in low-income communities, the ratio of books to children is just one book for every 300 children.
Project 236 asks kids, parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, librarians, and community leaders: What can you do to make a difference? For example, for every birthday card sent to the Cat in the Hat, Random House will donate one new book to First Book. First Book gives children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. Random House is also encouraging readers of all ages to join the Project 236 chorus and read The Cat in the Hat aloud at 2:36 pm on March 2nd—Dr. Seuss’ birthday and the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.