Dr. Seuss was a prophet. The Lorax is a creation care manifesto, The Butter Battle Book is a telling allegory of the cold war, The Sneetches is about racism, Horton Hatches an Egg tells the story of a nonviolent sit in. I love Dr. Seuss. So I jumped at the chance to participate in a Dr. Seuss Day this week.
G.W. Childs Elementary celebrated Dr. Seuss day with school wide readings of Horton Hears a Who. The Neighborhood Association started by my friend Megan, Neighbors Investing in Childs Elementary (NICE), donated copies of the book to the school for the occasion. Horton Hears a Who is prophetic too. I wasn’t as familiar with it but after reading it three times to three different classes I am. Horton hears the people of Who-ville that live on a tiny dust speck and goes through great lengths to protect them from a band of monkeys and sour kangaroo who don’t believe Who-ville exists. The town of Who-ville is at the brink of destruction at the hands of its naysayers and they all have to make as much noise as possible in order to be heard by the weak eared kangaroos and monkeys. They cannot be heard until the mayor discovers the smallest Who in Who-ville, a little boy named Jo-jo, shirking his noisemaking responsibility. The mayor gets him to join his voice with the noise of the town and together they are finally heard.
What a great message to be sharing with children! I was tasked with sharing this story with two eighth grade classes. (I also had to wear this ridiculous hat. The children’s book, the hat… it was a tall order. Eighth graders are notorious. But the kids really responded. I got them to think about the people and the systems in their lives that refuse to acknowledge their existence. We talked about city government, giant corporations, the prison industrial complex and more. Horton’s refrain is “A person’s a person no matter how small.” I convinced them that smallness wasn’t just about size but about power. They had power together but they needed to be united to be heard by those trying to destroy them.
The sad truth of the matter is that the powers that be do not doubt these young people’s existence the way the monkeys and kangaroos of the Jungle of Nool do. The powers know these people exist. They market to them and they use them in their power consolidation. The allegory breaks down a bit because the monkeys and kangaroos repent of their destructive direction as soon as they hear Jo-jo and the rest raise their voices together. Our powers aren’t repenting. Maybe because they know we don’t have enough power and maybe because they aren’t bothered very much by the relatively quiet ruckus some of us are causing.
Horton Hears a Who could be reduced to looking out for the little guy, but I think it’s more about the little guy finding a voice and using it for self preservation. I’m praying some of those kids do, cause I’m going to shout with them.
Isaiah 58: 1 Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 responses to “Helping kids find their voice with Dr. Seuss”
Dr. Seuss wrote this after he repented of drawing a bunch of very racist anti-Japanese propaganda posters during WWII. He’s an example of repentance in action.
That’s really interesting. I didn’t know that. Thanks for always reading, Art.