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Why Reading Dr. Seuss is Harder Than You Think

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

May 13, 2011

Comments (25)

Dr. Seuss The Cat in the Hat postage stampSometimes the simplest texts are the most profound (and challenging)!

If you've ever read a book by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), you know just how much of a vocal workout his books can be when read aloud.

Running the gamut of Seuss classics to lesser known (yet still brilliant) works, nothing less than skill-testing selections were on the menu at our get together.

Hear about five unique experiences from people who put their Dr. Seuss skills to the test at our most recent Voice Over London meeting earlier this month.

Challenges with Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss is not child's play as several members of our local networking and professional development group discovered.

Each person chose a couple of Seuss books to review in advance and was asked to give us a taste of their interpretation on the day of the workshop.

Excerpts from Horton Hears a Who, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?, If I Ran the Circus, Green Eggs and Ham, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas were read aloud by those present and yours truly even took a cold read spin around a Seuss I'd never encountered before.

What's So Tricky?

Stefan Andrejicka said that he found the tongue twisters and made up words to be particularly challenging.

Fellow member Doug Jeffery acknowledged that finding the rhythm and adhering to slight modifications in the rhythm was hard. Giving emphasis to words that were italicized also kept Doug on his toes, citing "You have to find the fun in it and you can't do Dr. Seuss cold (very well)."

After a cold spin around Green Eggs and Ham, Alice Khuu noted that keeping up with the pacing was difficult as well as phrasing the intention.

Voice pro Laura Lawton was also in attendance. She identified with what many others were saying and added that phrasing and pacing were "a wee bit of a challenge." Laura also loved when passages involved characters, which is great for those who like character work.

Personal Takeaway

Near the end of our session, the group asked if I'd also read but they didn't let me read from any of the books I brought! Instead, Laura handed me a copy of a Dr. Seuss book I hadn't even heard about to test my cold reading skills.

Turns out "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" is quite challenging!

I can say that while the read went well, one can't be too confident in a cold read when it's Seuss; you never know what is coming. Sometimes the shortest phrases or pages are the trickiest after a run. A couple of the stumbles weren't pretty and they were generally shorter sections that followed lists.

What's The Most Challenging Children's Book You've Read Aloud?

Rhythm, rhyming and unexpected articulatory twists and turns can prove a great challenge for readers but are also a wonderful training tool for voice artists.

Comment and let me know what you've found challenging! Your comments and feedback will give us all some new ideas for books we can use to either warm up to or develop voice acting skills.

Cheers!

Stephanie

iStockphoto®, ©Ken Brown, USA Dr Seuss postage stamp.

Related Topics: challenges, child, Christmas, Dr Seuss, Dr. Seuss, reading, SAG, skills, voice acting, Voice Over London


Comments


    Hallelujah, I can't tell you how many times I tell my clients to practice their new voice techniques while reading Dr. Seuss to their children! His text is wonderful for helping people hone in on the subtle differences between consonants, between vowels and why it is important to speak clearly. Thank you for endorsing this.

    Posted by:

      Reading Dr. Seuss aloud is something I do for a local kindergarten class every year in celebration of the authors birthday. I've never found it difficult and in fact to add a little twist to the story I read each page backwards, which the kids absolutely love. Of course this drives the teachers a bit crazy when later that week the kindergarteners are asking to have other books read backwards. Of course, most other stories won't make any sense when read in this manner, but many of Dr. Seuss's stories seem to make perfect sense, at least to the little ones.

      On another note, I also find reading a VO piece aloud and backwards as a great editing tool and a way to become more familiar with pronunciation of difficult words.

      Posted by:

        Good grief, I can't believe this! I was practicing with Dr. Seuss' "Oh The Places You'll Go" just YESTERDAY, and now here is this article. How cool is that? Wow, I really appreciate this article. Yes, Seuss' material IS a workout, but it's worth it!

        Posted by:
        • Gina R Johnson
        • May 14, 2011 10:28 AM

          I can't help but laugh at the Dr. Seuss references, because one of the funniest moments ever on "Saturday Night Live" was when Rev. Jesse Jackson, during the "Weekend Update" segment, read aloud "Green Eggs and Ham" in his trademark style, instead of from the Bible. The fact that he did it dead seriously, as if preaching to the congregation, made him a great sport and made millions of viewers ache from laughing.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPy2alWEZ-U

          Posted by:
          • D. J. Fone (yes, real name)
          • May 14, 2011 11:15 PM

            As a lifelong fan and admirer or Seuss' work (both as an author and artist/illustrator), "Fox in Sox" is in my opinion the most challenging of all his books to read out loud.

            I find Seuss' books to be great vocal exercise and read them out loud regularly to stay in shape for the school and library readings I do for kids (and I find it also helps greatly for doing cold reads at auditions and for voiceover work). Seuss' books are also an integral part of an "edutainment" reading program I do for kids to help boost vocabulary and reading comprehension through creative storytelling.

            I have a lot of history with Dr. Seuss, one of the reasons I admire his work so greatly. My mom used to read his books to me when I was a toddler -- one of my earliest childhood memories. After college, I was a finalist in a national talent competition performing a stand-up comedy version of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" with a string of celebrity impressions as if they were using the book to audition for the film.

            And in December 2003, I was invited to read "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" at a public elementary school. After I was done, the kids refused to let me leave and kept bringing me more books to read. I ended up hanging around the rest of the day, and I'm so glad I did because I met the woman that day that I married two years later.

            "Oh The Places You'll Go", indeed!

            Posted by:

              Toss up between "Oh the places you'll go" and "The Sleep Book." Some may say "Fox in Socks," but I never had trouble with that one.

              Posted by:
              • Charles Clarkson
              • May 16, 2011 5:17 PM

                I will "Fox in Socks" - just as Charles predicted> The beetle bottle battles? Forget about it!

                Posted by:
                • Lincoln McCardle
                • May 16, 2011 5:18 PM

                  "When the battles in a bottle, and the bottles on a poodle and the poodles eating noodles..." Such wonderful nonsense!

                  Posted by:
                  • Charles Clarkson
                  • May 16, 2011 5:18 PM

                    Fox in Socks makes a great warm-up!

                    Posted by:
                    • Melba Sibrel
                    • May 16, 2011 8:49 PM

                      Green Eggs and Ham.

                      Posted by:
                      • Chris Keel
                      • May 16, 2011 8:50 PM

                        When I was teaching elementary school, I used to read Dr. Seuss all the time -- did them all. (I was very good at it, too -- of course, when I was stage acting I had spent years singing Gilbert & Sullivan, so Seuss is easy after that.) A particularly tongue-twistingly-fun one was the full page of alternate names for "Dave" in the story "Too Many Daves" -- hysterical.

                        Posted by:
                        • Diane Havens
                        • May 16, 2011 8:50 PM

                          I do not like that Sam-I-Am.

                          Posted by:

                            Green Eggs and Ham...I use to read this book to my kids and see just how fast I could read it to them....!!

                            Posted by:
                            • Annette Martin
                            • May 20, 2011 10:35 AM

                              My granddaughters loves Dr. Seuss now .. I'd better start practicing for when I see her next time!

                              Posted by:
                              • Nancy Ferrari
                              • May 20, 2011 10:35 AM

                                I used to read "Fox in Socks" at Storytime at the library. The kids would laugh and laugh whenever I made a mistake, and I don't remember ever getting through it without a mistake.

                                Posted by:
                                • Veronica Dobell Prior
                                • May 20, 2011 10:36 AM

                                  For me, Dr. Seuss is like playing a musical instrument... you have to practice daily in some form, even if just for 15 minutes, to keep on top of your game. I became a Master of Seuss-ology when my wife and I put on a theater/dance perform...ance of "Seussical." We did our "research" (so cool... buying and reading Dr. Seuss is tax-deductible!!!) and pulled up everything we could, even buying "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T". Oh, the thinks you can think! :-)

                                  Posted by:

                                    Wind in the Willows. Long sentences and complicated beauty like Shakespeare.

                                    Posted by:

                                      I was performing for a group of children at the LA Children's Museum and was invited to read The Velveteen Rabbit. Not a dry eye in the house. I choked up with emotion at the end. A sweet child came up and offered me a hug. I LOVE that story. xoxoxox

                                      Posted by:

                                        I have been practicing with "Oh The Places You'll Go"...THAT is a challenge to read or recite (my preference). I LOVE Seuss' material! The man was A BOSS

                                        Posted by:
                                        • GR Johnson
                                        • May 20, 2011 10:42 AM

                                          Yes, Mr Theodor has brilliant material with the rhymes and stuff. My focus is narrating for a documentary like Morgan Freeman did in from slavery to America, a PBS special.

                                          Posted by:
                                          • Kevin Johnson
                                          • May 20, 2011 10:42 AM

                                            Yes, as for Jeany, it's Wind in the Willows. But is there a technique for not choking up in the searingly beautiful chapter Dulce Domum?

                                            Posted by:

                                              Fox in Socks. /discussion

                                              Posted by:
                                              • Benjamin Straley
                                              • May 24, 2011 10:58 AM

                                                Fox in Socks.

                                                Posted by:
                                                • Jim Bender
                                                • May 24, 2011 10:58 AM

                                                  Fox in socks! definitely! I use it to warm up!!

                                                  Posted by:
                                                  • Arnaly Arriaga
                                                  • May 24, 2011 10:59 AM

                                                    Green Eggs and Ham was always my favorite - Loved reading that to my son and doing character voices!

                                                    Posted by:
                                                    • Mike Laponis
                                                    • May 24, 2011 11:01 AM

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