In case it's been a while since you read The Lorax, it tells the story of the Once-ler, a man who decides to cut down a single Truffala Tree to knit a thneed. A passerby offers to buy the thneed. Before long, a factory's been built, the trees are being cut down four at a time, and the animals have headed off to friendlier climes. Eventually, all that's left is a landscape of stumps. Even the Lorax, who speaks for the trees, has departed, leaving behind a pile of rocks with the word "Unless." The Once-ler is baffled by the meaning, until a child shows up. "Now that you're here," the Once-ler says, "the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear/UNLESS someone like you/cares a whole awful lot/nothing is going to get better/It's not." And, with that, the Once-ler throws the child the sole remaining Truffala Seed. Maybe, with time, the trees and animals will come back.
Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) wrote the book in the early 1970s at the start of the environmental movement. Forty-some years later, the message seems particularly timely given the White House's desire to gut the EPA. But I digress.
Walking to the school office to check in, I saw people dressed up like Dr. Seuss characters, with crazy socks and striped hats a la Cat in the Hat and "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" signs hanging around their necks. In keeping with the theme, I was given a bag of goldfish to sustain me. (Get it? One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.).
I was greeted warmly when I got to the classroom. Remember how desks used to be set up in nice straight rows all facing the teacher? Well, no longer. The kids were seated three to a circular desk equipped with laptops and headphones. I would have loved to have seen how classes work in this environment, but I had a job to do.
Not surprisingly, it wasn't a straight read-through. I had mentioned Seuss' nonsense words at the beginning, and at one point a boy noted--quite correctly--that "biggered" wasn't a word. We discussed how the kids were able to understand what it--and other made-up words like "Grickle-grass" and "Whisper-ma-phone"--meant, though, given the context.
At one point someone referenced a scene in The Lorax movie, and the kids started giggling. "Is that funny?" I asked. I was assured that, indeed, it was quite funny, but that I couldn't be expected to understand why since it was kid humor.
The best part, though, was the circle discussion after I was done with the book. The kids organized themselves, and Becky handed over a pencil that looked a bit like a Truffala Tree to the first child. Only the student with the "tree" was allowed to talk.
One little girl earnestly commented how the book reminded her of the movie "Wally" (in which, apparently, people also wrecked the world). I was impressed by the analogy.
Way too quickly, the hour was over. The kids applauded and a couple gave me big hugs. It was a terrific afternoon.
|"Celebrating Friendship" by Adorable Monique (Naples, FL)|
To read more about Embracing Our Differences, click here.