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“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?
Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs, edited by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter, is a tremendous resource that I wish I’d had as a kid growing up and thinking about what I wanted to be one day. For me, as it is with many people, the job market from my perspective as a high schooler was simply College. It had nothing to do with actual jobs. And when I was queried about what I’d do with my college degree? I’d just shrug and rattle off the usual suspects: teacher, activist, artist, etc.
And, while there’s certainly nothing wrong with this line of thinking or focusing on these (great!) jobs as possible careers, it was an incredibly limited view of the world and all that it can offer young, creative minds.
Thank goodness for books like Gig! Now, we don’t normally plug specific books here, but this one caught our eye as especially useful for both students and parents who may be dreading or just plain avoiding the topic of college majors and job opportunities altogether. This book is one of those rare finds that not only discusses unusual and “usual” jobs, but which actually provides honest (sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking) first-hand accounts of what it’s like to work these jobs from people who have been working them for years. As soon as I came across this book, I knew it was perfect for both students (of all ages) and parents as a tool to not only expand their thinking of their own potential but of the potential of jobs/careers that are not often thought of or considered desirable (such as long-distance truck driving or hatter work).
But, of course, more than jobs–this is a book of passions. Finding and practicing one’s passion in a career can be hard to accomplish–after all, it’s hard enough to even recognize the face(s) of one’s “true” passion(s) (especially at so early a stage in life as high school or college). This book includes narratives of some workers who are thrilled with their work and of others who are consistently disappointed in it. What’s most impressive, however, is that these narratives don’t leave things at “I don’t like it” or “It’s great!” These narratives truly explore the ins-and-outs of different careers and why they’d work for some and be nightmares for others. If you’re looking for nuanced views of wild and varied jobs, then this is definitely a book to check out.
Even Ira Glass (the guy with one of the coolest jobs in the U.S. as host of This American Life), raved that Gig was “…surprising and entertaining and makes the world seem like a bigger and more interesting place. Gig manages to document everyday life and give pure narrative pleasure at the same time. One feels proud to live in the same country as the people in this book.”
And, having read the book and felt both relief and envy at the many tales captured within, I couldn’t agree more. In other words, it’s a book that can help students begin learning about careers that require and don’t require college degrees, jobs that could take them all over the world, jobs that they may have misjudged for better or worse, and jobs that they may have never even known existed.
As Andrew Ross, Director of the American Studies Program at New York University, said of Gig: “In the age of advanced spin, this book accomplishes a very rare thing. It actually lets workers speak for themselves. . . . The result makes for a fascinating read.”
So, if you’re having trouble getting your students/kids excited about college or their career potential (or considering a new career move for yourself whether you’re a parent or child), this book is definitely a great way to spark a more nuanced and thoughtful conversation regarding the whole wild craze of career building and job searching.