The ever-relevant lessons of children’s literature

November 25, 2016
President’s Message By Melaine Shannon Rothey

As a child, there were always books in our house. My parents read to us from a very young age. When I was a grade schooler, living in Milwaukee and a suburb of Chicago, I spent many hours at the local library, checking out books. In those days, I loved biographies of colonial leaders. Eventually, as a high school student, I moved onto “junior romances” and sports-related biographies. My senior year in college, needing a couple of credits to round out my schedule, I arranged an independent study course with a Professor in the Education Department. We called the course, “Investigating Children’s Literature.” I wish I still had a copy of my research paper for the class, but 1979 was long before the regular use of computers, diskettes, or thumb drives. So, that epic work of literature is long lost. 

That being said, I never lost my love for children’s literature. As my nieces and nephews were born, my gifts to them were always books, instead of stuffed toys. Then, in 1982, with the birth of my first child, I had the opportunity to really return to my love of reading to children. As I was still in law school, some of that reading to my infant daughter, Amanda, included my text books, as she sat in her bouncy seat and looked at me. Fortunately, at that very young age, the sound of my voice was sufficient to calm her. 

As Amanda grew and was joined by two brothers, Andrew in 1985 and Aaron in 1988, our in-house library of children’s books also grew and eventually took over several book shelves. Every evening, each of the children got to choose, at least, one book for me to read to them before bed. Often, I would choose an additional book, because I had my favorites, too. Then, as they settled into bed for the night, each of them took a few books to “read” to themselves before they fell asleep for the night. 

To this day, one of my favorite children’s authors is Dr. Seuss. He is a favorite for many reasons, but primarily because his books always taught a lesson or two or three…

These lessons from Dr. Seuss are applicable today in both the children’s world and the adult world, and, I think, in the legal profession. 


Who else do you want to be? It is vital that you be yourself. Take cues from other people. Take their positives and add them to yourself. Ignore their negatives. Stand up and be counted. Offer your opinion, whether in a meeting with a client or a partner or at a conference with the Court. 


Isn’t that the reason most of us went to law school? Didn’t we all think that we could save the world, or at least make a difference? Do the right thing. Give back. We are the fortunate ones. We had support and mentors. It is our obligation to assist the less fortunate. Take a pro bono case or two. Volunteer at one of the legal clinics. Donate time or money to a service project. 


Yes, to maintain our license, every year we must take 12 CLE credits. Why stop there? What is wrong with additional credits? Nothing. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I am not suggesting that you have to take a course completely outside your field, but why not brush up on your deposition or evidence skills. Equally importantly, why not attend one of the many lectures or programs presented in our community. The subjects are countless – travel, finance, sports, health, wellness, fitness…


Do I really have to continue to repeat the necessity of work/life balance? Most of us work too much. We forget the importance of “down time.” When is the last time you actually read for pleasure? No, anything with a heading that has a “vs.” in it or is on Lexis is not pleasurable. That is work. Take a vacation. Tell the boss that I said so. Go away. Turn off the cell phone and the email. Just chill. 


We are surrounded by negativity all day long. Just turn on the news. It is exhausting. At the risk of being a cheerleader – and I am thankful that the Steelers have resisted having cheerleaders – be the person in the office to look on the bright side. This winter when everyone is complaining about the snow, remind them of the beauty. Or, when someone talks about the glass being half empty, explain to them the reasons why the glass is actually half full. 

Again, when I am in charge of the world…