You’re Never Too Old, Too Wacky, Too Wild, To Pick Up a Book, and Read to a Child

Theodor Seuss Geisel? Anita Merina? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is an enthusiastic quotation about reading that has been attributed to the famous children’s author Dr. Seuss:

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book & read to a child.

I haven’t been able to track down the precise book in which this was written. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This verse was written in a style reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel. However, QI believes that it was not actually constructed by him.

In March 1998 a guest columnist in “The Augusta Chronicle” printed a poem containing the lines above and credited Anita Merina who was a staff member of the National Education Association (NEA). Merina’s poem was part of a campaign called “Read Across America” designed to encourage children and adults to read:[ref] 1998 March 9, Augusta Chronicle, Guest Column: National event celebrated importance of reading, by Gretchen Simpson of Augusta (National Education Association director of Georgia), Quote Page 5A, Column 1, Augusta, Georgia. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

It’s never too cold, too wet or too hot
To pick up a book, and share what you’ve got
You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild
To pick up a book, and read to a child.
In churches and chambers, let’s gather round
Let’s pick up a book, let’s pass it around
There are children around you, children in need
Of someone who’ll hug, someone who’ll read
So join us March 2nd in your special own way
And make this America’s read to Kids Day.

—Anita Merina, 1997

This poem says it all! The members of the Richmond County Association of Educators, the student Georgia Association of Educators and the National Education Association invited everyone to join a nationwide reading effort on March 2 to celebrate the birthday of the late, beloved Dr. Seuss.

The nationwide effort, called “Read Across America,” originated with NEA’s collaboration with Dr. Seuss’ widow to focus America’s attention on the importance of reading in our children’s lives. It was a great success.

The poem has been closely associated with the name of Dr. Seuss as shown in the excerpt above; hence, confusion and misattribution were understandable.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1998 an elementary school teacher created a webpage titled “An Internet WebQuest on Dr. Seuss” that included a version of the poem that was nearly identical to the one above. The phrase “let’s gather round” was changed to “let’s gather around”. The following ascription was provided:[ref] Website: Content by Mrs. Graybill, Article title: Dr. Seuss WebQuest: An Internet WebQuest on Dr. Seuss, Date on website: “Last revised Thu Feb 26 8:41:23 1998”, Website description: Content created by teacher, (Accessed on November 16, 2014)[/ref]

— Anita Merina, NEA
Staff, October 1997

In 2000 an advertisement in “The Augusta Chronicle” from an organization called “NIE: Newspapers in Education” displayed the header “Help Us Celebrate Read Across America Day And Read With A Child”. The poem was printed with the following unlikely attribution at the bottom:[ref] 2000 March 2, Augusta Chronicle, Advertisement for Read Across America Day from NIE Newspapers in Education: The Augusta Chronicle, Quote Page 8A, Column 5, Augusta, Georgia. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

—Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss

In conclusion, QI believes that the poem containing the line under investigation was composed by Anita Merina circa 1997. The work was probably not crafted by Theodor Seuss Geisel who died in 1991.

Image Notes: Picture of statue depicting girl reading from coribri on Pixabay. Picture of Suess Landing at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure theme park, Orlando, Florida via Wikimedia Commons. Author David Bjorgen; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

(Great thanks to Denise Krebs whose query led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

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