Dr. Seuss Stories That Teach Kids Big Lessons

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Dr. Seuss is quite possibly the most loved children’s book writer, ever. National Read Across America Day (March, 2nd) is Dr. Seuss Day, to coincide with the birthday of Theodore Guisel, lovingly known as Dr. Seuss.

His books make reading fun with rhymes and personality that appeal to the youngest and oldest of readers. I have long been a Dr. Seuss fan from the earliest days of One Fish Two Fish. Honestly, who hasn’t a childhood memory filled with Seuss-isms, or created their own Suess rhyme. Heck, even Migos loves Dr. Seuss.

Using Dr. Seuss Day to spark a bigger conversation

There are tons of over-arching themes in many of the most beloved Dr. Seuss books; friendship, confidence, curiosity, adventure, and respect, to name a few.

It is no secret that many of Dr. Seuss’s stories encompass some sort of political or social commentary. To celebrate the changing world around us and Read Across America Dr. Seuss Day, use these Dr. Seuss books to spark a philosophical conversation with your kids, big or small. Teaching social responsibility with Dr. Seuss is pretty easy and you don’t have to wait until Dr. Seuss Day to introduce these lessons to your kids. I keep coming back to these stories, lessons and questions with my kids as they progress through life stages that might need a little Seuss-worthy reinforcements.

Horton Hears a Who

If you don’t cry tears of joy for the inner strength of character shown by Horton then you’re a monster. I am totally kidding. You’re not a monster.

Horton Hears a Who touches on the theme of being strong enough to do what you feel is right, despite what those around you think or believe. Moreover, Horton shows that sometimes you are in a position to speak for those who may not have a voice. You should speak up for those people, whether in a personal setting or on a larger platform.

I have always felt there to be a religious aspect to Horton Hears A Who as well. In fact the whole movie is an existential crisis and reconciliation of beliefs. I keep that to myself and out of the lessons that Horton has to offer.

You can ask your children questions like:

  • Do you know anyone who is afraid to speak up about something?
  • Are there people in the world who get overlooked, or go unnoticed?
  • How would it feel if you couldn’t be heard, or were always ignored?
  • Why should we care about things or people we don’t/can’t see in our daily life?

The Sneetches

I really enjoy the Sneetches, their beeches and their lessons about differences, changing yourself to fit in and racism. You can use this story for lessons on all of those topics.

With the younger kids we talk about inclusion and appreciation for differences in people (or Sneetches) and that we are the same once you look past those differences.

The older kid gets the full-on intensive mom-rant about racism in society. I have been told that I am too intense with introducing issues like racism to my kids. People who experience racism don’t have the luxury of ‘waiting until they’re older’ to address the issue and how it affects their daily life. This is also a fact I teach my kids. I like to talk about segregation using the Sneetches and their exclusive Star-bellied only parties.

Ask questions such as:

  • What makes the Sneetches different?
  • What makes them the same?
  • What would you do if you were a Star Bellied Sneetch? A Bare-bellied Sneech?
  • What instances from the past are like the Sneetches?
  • Do you see any similarities in your daily life?

Sneetches also can teach the lesson of appreciation for what you have, not being envious of what someone else has and changing yourself to fit in. This is actually a lesson I enjoy.

The Zax

Being the Political Science major I am, the story of the North-Going Zax and the South-Going Zax is where I like to start my civics lesson. I once had a professor say “compromise is a lost political skill.” The Zax is so relevant in today’s political climate that you can’t help but want to send a copy to your leaders.

The North Going Zax & South Going Zax meet and both refuse to alter their path, even in the slightest to accomodate the other and thus halts the progress of both… forever. The world builds around them and they stand there, face to face, for a Seussing Eternity without giving in. The two Zax declare their willingness to stand for however long it takes to prove to the other that they will not be the first to move.

I like to use the lesson of the Zax to show that both parties lose when no one is willing to budge an inch. Suess-citizens stopped acknowledging the two Zax and eventually moved on without them. The unwillingness to listen to the opposing side leaves nowhere to go and so they go nowhere, forever.

I like to ask questions like:

  • Have you ever been in an argument with someone who tried to make you “move” on an issue?
  • How did you resolve the gridlock?
  • What is something you would not move for?
The Zax is included in the Sneetches & Other Stories book.

Yertle The Turtle

Ah, Yertle The Turtle. There are so many lessons that could be taught in tandem with Yertle. Class inequality, Revolution, Marxism, Captialism, The Labor Movement, Corporate Greed, Monarchy, Representation…I could go on. In the 1908’s Dr. Seuss himself revealed the Yertle, the king of the pons who decides he must expand his kindom, was Hitler. Where I can totally see this, there are other lessons on freedom, the rights of the ‘little guy’, the power of one person’s actions to topple a kingdom, etc. that can come from this story.

Ask Questions like:

  • Is Yertle a good king?
  • What makes a good leader?
  • What are the turtles missing by supporting their king?
  • Are the turtles free?
  • Do the other turtles benefit from the growing kingdom of Yertle’s?
  • Who had more power, Yertle on top, or the turtles on the bottom?

The Lorax

If ever there was a children’s story that inspires environmental responsibility! The Lorax illustrates just how important it is to take care of the world around us and to appreciate how fragile the things we take for granted actually are. The movie version of The Lorax has the best songs and my kids are actually watching is as I type this.

Ask questions like:

  • What are valuable resources?
  • Is the destruction of one resource for another right? Necessary?
  • What is Climate Change? How will it affect our way of life?

Dr. Seuss stories are a great way to dive into really big issues with your kids, no matter their ages.

You can download some worksheets that I created to lead into some concepts and to compliment your curriculum. They’re some fun, but meaningful ways to celebrate Dr. Seuss Day this year.

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