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.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Lorax


The Lorax
Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Grade Level: K - 2nd

The Lorax is a story of how the exploitation of a natural resource, which the ecosystem is reliant on, leads the Lorax to speak up for the voiceless Truffula Trees. A greedy Once-ler stumbled upon a Truffula Tree and became enamored by the silkiness of it.  He began to make “thneeds” and found a way to make a profit by selling them to all the people that “needed” them.  The Once-ler sets up a factory, hires his family as workers, and creates an infrastructure and the technology that aids in the advancement of chopping the Truffula Trees and converting them into thneeds.  Throughout the story, the Lorax appears knocking at the Once-ler’s door imploring the Once-ler to stop cutting down the Truffula Trees. The Lorax stands up for the Truffula Trees and challenges the Once-ler to stop, but the Once-ler continues to deplete the Truffula Resource in greedier and bigger ways.  Eventually, all that is left is tree stumps, polluted waterways, and smog. All those who called the land home have fled to other areas leaving the Once-ler by himself. Before leaving, the Lorax leaves the tree stump with the word “unless” engraved on it.  Years after, a boy comes around the neighborhood where the Once-ler tells him about a more prolific time and realizes what the Lorax meant by “unless.” The Once-ler tells the young boy, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” He advises the young boy to help restore the Truffula Trees and help conserve them for the future while dropping the last Truffula seeds in his hand.
Social Justice Element #5: Raising Awareness
The Lorax addresses many issues that help promote students' consciousness raising .  For example, the Lorax makes various attempts to voice the Truffula Trees concerns since they are voiceless. This exemplifies standing up to injustices and helping others who can be powerless or oppressed in certain situations.  At the same time, the Once-ler plants the seed of caring, conservation, and change onto the young boy by the quote, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  The book leaves the reader feeling hopeful that they are now responsible for creating a positive change after all.  Dr. Seuss' story helps raise awareness of many issues that can be discussed in the classroom setting such as conservation and working together to stand up for others.
In a lesson about social and environmental issues, I would focus on choices and social responsibility through letter writing and petitions.  I would ask the students to focus their attention on the choices the characters in the story have made.  We would collectively brainstorm problems that were found in the book such as pollution, habitat destruction, and loss of natural resources.  After writing the students’ ideas down, guide their thought process to making connections between what happened in the story and how individual choices and decisions have consequences.  Once the students are able to make that connection, ask them to do a writing exercise where they become the voice of the voiceless Truffalo Trees and have them write a letter to the Once-ler.  Also, have them collectively come up with concerns that they think might be pertinent to their own hometown or school.  Then, they could write a petition to someone in the community that can help create that change. An example of this would be to write a petition to the principal to install more hand driers to reduce the use of paper towels within the school.  They can make their own pledges that they can carry out outside the classroom such as turning off the lights when they are not needed or taking shorter showers.  

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