“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel (a.k.a. “Dr. Seuss”) is an author whose works continue to inspire and capture the imaginations of millions of children today. Dr. Seuss was truly a fellow who knew how to reach people of all ages and how to communicate deeply complex issues in a way that basically anyone can understand.
And, while it might seem that Dr. Seuss’ books are really only tools for younger readers, elements of his style and works can be used for the benefit of students of all ages—including high school and even college students.
Here are just a few examples of how:
- Have students (middle school) reread one of Dr. Seuss’ books (maybe have each student focus on a different book), such as The Lorax. Then have them discuss/write a paper on what social issue(s) Seuss has distilled into said story and how he stylistically did so—what components of the issue did he focus on, leave out, oversimplify, explain most artfully, etc.? Then have your students take their Seuss book and their analysis thereof, and use these to write their own such story regarding the topic at hand (whether it be the same topic from their Seuss book or another topic from class). Through these activities, students are not only engaging with a funny/goofy text, but they’re actively engaging with/analyzing the techniques of different writing styles as well as learning how to distill complex problems/issues into simple terms and, perhaps most importantly, learning how to then communicate/teach/discuss these problems with others.
- For students learning about other religions or cultures, you could have them read texts like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Following this reading, have them analyze what cultural clashes appear to be taking place as well as what cultural/religious festivities/ideas are being celebrated, brought into question, critiqued, and so forth. Then have your students select another cultural or religious event/holiday/celebration/ritual (such as one they might be learning about in class), and have them attempt to discuss/analyze the chosen event/ritual by writing their own such Seussical work regarding the event/ritual. This will help them begin thinking more critically about what they’re learning, how to communicate it with others, and help them to better realize all the rich nuances of different cultural/religious events/rituals.
- For education students or students interested in teaching, perhaps have them take one of Seuss’ books such as Horton Hears a Who!, and analyze why Dr. Seuss made each of the choices he did throughout the text given the particular lesson/moral he had in mind. Why did he choose an elephant as the protagonist? Why a bird as the flighty (pun intended), unfeeling mother? Why does the bird’s egg hatch out a half-elephant? What problems/ideas are these choices meant to demystify for children/people and what problems/ideas do these choices themselves create? After completing said analysis, have your students take whatever problem/lesson they have at hand, and have them turn it into a Seuss-styled book aimed at illuminating certain issues for readers while also encouraging/raising new questions for them. This can help students not only bolster their reading/critical analysis skills, but also help them to see that sometimes creating space for more questions can be just as useful (if not more so) for encouraging meaningful conversation/learning than can stating facts or theories outright.
- For history students or literature students, you could have them analyze various of Dr. Seuss’ books in relation to the author and his biography/background. This has the potential to open meaningful discussion regarding the importance of discussing or not discussing texts in relation to their authors as well as discussion regarding the importance of being culturally and historically literate before approaching texts.
- For students of marketing, activism, or media, it could be fun and fascinating to have them analyze how various of Dr. Seuss’ works have been used in recent years to market different products and ideas outside the books themselves (such as using the title character from The Lorax to pitch and promote various supposedly “green” products). This will not only enable students to meaningfully engage with vital contemporary issues, but will also give them an opportunity to discuss how advertising and media can warp, muddy, or clarify issues, messages, and causes for either better or worse.
- For film and literature students, it could be beneficial to open discussions of book and film adaptations by looking at those of Dr. Seuss’ works that have been adapted to film and how successful or unsuccessful those adaptations were (in all the possible meanings of the word “successful”).
So, as you can see, Dr. Seuss’ works continue to offer a cornucopia of learning possibilities for students of all ages, interests, and backgrounds.
- At Seussville.com you can find all manner of books, lesson plans, and classroom activities based on Dr. Seuss’ works.
- Mother Jones: The Lorax: Blowing Smogulous Smoke
- BrainPop: Dr. Seuss Activities for Kids
- Seventh Generation: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax on our Diapers? What’s Going On?
- Random House Kids
- PBS Kids
- IHOP Invites America to Plant Three Million Trees in Celebration of the Release of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s 3D-CG Feature, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
- The Guardian: Why don’t Dr Seuss’s books make good movies?