The Benefits of Using Dr. Seuss in Therapy

Left foot, left foot

Right foot, Right.

Feet in the morning,

Feet at night.

Who would imagine that four lines of verse could be so language-rich with opposites (left-right, morning-night), irregular plurals (foot-feet), temporal concepts (morning-night), and rhyming words (right-night)? These four lines are but a taste of the genius of Dr. Seuss. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel, Dr. Seuss was best known for writing and illustrating more than 60 books. He is undoubtedly one of the most popular children’s book authors of all time.

Dr. Seuss books are fun, filled with colorful, silly characters, and made-up words. Not only do his books entertain, they facilitate children’s development. Repetition, rhythm, and rhyme play important roles in infants’ development of speech and language. The books can help children cultivate a love of reading books. Dr. Seuss books are often a staple in general education classrooms (especially lower elementary) to support skills such as counting, rhyming, and decoding CVC words, but the books can also be of great benefit in speech-language therapy. Here are some ways:  

 

  • Dr. Seuss books frequently contain alliteration, in which two or more words in a phrase or sentence start with the same first sound. The book, Dr. Seuss’s ABC, is a great example of this technique. Imagine how much articulation drill could fill a five minute segment of time by having a student repeatedly say phrases such as “four fluffy feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff” or “Silly Sammy Slick sipped six sodas and got sick sick sick”! Fox in Socks is also filled with alliterations containing a variety of blends, single consonants, and vowel sounds. But, take extreme caution with some of the tongue twisters in the book. If your “tongue isn’t made of rubber”, you won’t be able to “blab such blibber blubber”!

 

  • As previously mentioned, Dr. Seuss books are loaded with repetition, rhythm, and rhyme, which can only be a plus for strengthening children’s phonological awareness and memory skills. After reading a book such as Hop on Pop, students could complete a variety of activities which align to the book’s content, such as matching rhyming words, clapping out rhythm patterns, clapping the number of syllables heard in words, or clapping the number of words heard in phrases or sentences.

 

  • The books can be used to build oral expression skills. For example, students can answer WH-questions about events or characters. They could discuss similarities and/or differences between characters. Strong narrative skills are essential for reading and writing development. Activities which emphasize storytelling and sequencing (first/next/last) would support these skills. Some books, such as Hop on Pop would be perfect for use with low verbal students who need to work on increasing mean length of utterance (MLU). Wacky Wednesday is filled with pictured absurdities. While reading the book, students can look for and discuss the silly things shown in the pictures.

 

  • Dr. Seuss books provide core vocabulary for language development and encourage children to learn new words. The books are uniquely illustrated to help children notice differences in the images that match the words, ultimately building vocabulary. 

 

  • Dr. Seuss books facilitate comprehension and usage of opposites (The Foot Book; One Fish, Two Fish), pronouns (Hop on Pop), adjectives (The Foot Book), colors (One Fish, Two Fish), numbers (One Fish, Two Fish), and prepositions (Hop on Pop; Fox in Socks). Fox in Socks also can be used to support instruction of grammatical structures like possessives and verb tenses.

 

  • The books encourage children to stretch their imaginations by determining meanings of nonsense words. Dr. Seuss frequently included made-up words in his books. An activity during which students brainstorm nonsense words would not only stretch vocabulary development but also cognitive development and oral expression skills. Using pictures and graphic organizers, students could write down critical features of nonsense words. Afterwards, they could use the attributes to formulate and state definitions. 

 

  • Dr. Seuss books often impart lessons for morality and character building. Some of the   books could appropriately supplement thematic units for social skills or support instruction for pragmatic language goals. For example, Horton Hears a Who emphasizes caring for others who are different. A theme of Green Eggs and Ham is the importance of trying different things. Happy Birthday to You! encourages the reader to celebrate the uniqueness of him/herself. Oh, the Places You’ll Go emphasizes staying focused despite problems encountered in life, while the message of The Lorax is the importance of protecting the environment. 

As a personal testimony of the value of Dr. Seuss books, my 16-month old granddaughter already shows a love for them. One of her favorites is The Foot Book. She recently found the book in a stack of her favorites and brought it to me to read to her. After opening it, she exclaimed, “fee, fee, fee” (trying to say “feet, feet, feet”)! This tells me that she is absorbing the repetition, sounds, and vocabulary. What wonderful benefit! If you’ve never read a Dr. Seuss book, you’re missing a treat! They are fun to read and packed with instructional benefits for all children, but particularly those who need growth in their speech and language skills.

 

Author: Colleen H. Williams, SLP.D

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