RIVER NORTH — Dr. Seuss well understood the importance of birthdays.
"If we didn’t have birthdays, you wouldn’t be you. If you’d never been born, well then what would you do?" he wrote in "Happy Birthday to You," one of more than 60 children's works attributed to Seuss, the pen name of Theodor Geisel, one of the most widely-known children's authors in American history.
So it's only fitting that on what would have been his 109th birthday, March 2, youth literacy foundation Open Books will host a book-centric celebration of all things Seuss, complete with readings, surrealist crafts and face painting straight out of "Seussville."
"Dr. Seuss is a way to engage families at the bookstore and get kids excited about reading, and stories, and all that comes along with it. It's a very joyful occasion," said Erica Hawkinson, Open Books' event coordinator. "Open Books' mission is to transform lives through reading and writing, and the earlier we can start to get kids excited about books and bookstores and libraries and that kind of stuff, the better."
The National Education Association declared March 2 "Read Across America" day in 1998, an intentional nod to Geisel meant to encourage reading across the country.
Many schools in the Chicago Public Schools celebrate Read Across America day in their classrooms, so Hawkinson, a former teacher, said she realized quickly that Open Books was a perfect venue to host an event, especially since this year's observance falls on a Saturday.
Dr. Seuss Day runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and features several open house-style stations with face painting, coloring and storytime stations. Special events including a Wishcraft Workshop are scheduled at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon.
Activities include a theater lesson and supervised crafts ideal for ages 3 and older, and the bookstore expects more than 200 people to visit, Hawkinson said.
All children's books will be 20 percent off during the event, and Hawkinson said the group has been "hoarding" Seuss books from the donations the group accepts and sells to fund its operations, so plenty will be available on Saturday.
"What's great about Dr. Seuss is that people of all ages love him," Hawkinson said. He's one of the first authors that children become familiar with. Whether you're 2 or your 20, you tend to have a feeling, a connection and a love for Dr. Seuss, which is why were so excited to have this event."