Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Grade level: K-2
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Summary: The book begins with a young boy going up to a mysterious old tree stump and wonders if this was where the Lorax once lived. He decides he is going to ask the Once-ler, who is the owner of the house right in front of this stump. He agrees to tell the boy what happened through a whisper phone for a fee of 15 cents. After the boy pays the fee he is told of a time where the Truffula trees were beautiful and aplenty. All forms of life lived happily and peacefully. The Once-ler saw this as a business opportunity and chops down a tree to make a new piece of clothing called a Thneed. The Lorax is upset with him and tells him that nobody will buy one. Somebody promptly buys one and so the Once-ler chops down MORE trees to make more thneeds. His business grows and the pollution his factory causes forces many of the animals to leave
, which the Lorax warned him would happen. After they finally cut the last of the Truffula trees, the Lorax leaves with one powerful word, "unless". Years later when the little boy visits the Once-ler, he realizes that it means "Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not". He then hands the boy the last of the Truffula tree seeds to plant a new forest so that the Lorax and his friends will return.
Element 6: Many would argue that this book actually represents element five, but I believe it represents both. Several times throughout the story we saw the Lorax (to no avail) try to persuade the Once-ler to stop cutting down the trees because he was hurting the environment for the animals and the trees. He often said he spoke on behalf of the trees meaning that he was the voice of the voiceless in trying to create social action. He took social action many times but sadly the Once-ler's business had grown so big that there was no way to really stop it. Then after his social action failed he ran away once his nightmares became reality and all of the Trufula trees were gone. Also, the final few pages represent element 6 because the Once-ler is teaching the young boy how to take social action. "Unless somebody like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not". This one sentence says more about how to take social action than any other social action guide book could ever wish too. It shows that if you care about something enough, you can protect it from harm and be the action that keeps that something relevant.
Activity: For an activity the teacher could read the Lorax aloud to the class two weeks in one weeks time. After the first read aloud, the teacher could have students write a letter to the Once-ler midway through the story. They could write him to ask him to stop cutting down the trees or if they wish they can tell him to keep his business running. Either way their letters will reflect they change they want to see and letter writing is a form of social action. After they finish the letters they can hand their letters to the teacher to be sent to "The Once-ler". The teacher then could give the letters to a corresponding fifth grade classroom and have their "Fifth grade buddies" write letters back to the students as the Once-ler. After the final read aloud, the teacher can hand the letters back to the students so they can see their letter responses. This will help students write letters to solve social issues. If a school doesn't do a "Fifth grade buddy" system, the teacher could always write these letters on his or her own.