Book of the Month for November 2017
The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
The Cambridge English dictionary defines Tolerance as the willingness to accept behavior and beliefs that are different from your own, even if you disagree with or disapprove of them. In the scheme of things and certainly for the world today, what could be more important than having the ability to “tolerate” that which one does not like? This is not always easy for adults, and more often than not, it is not easy for children.
So we are very fortunate that Dr. Seuss created “The Sneetches.” This book, which appears to be a typical, adorably illustrated, rhyming Dr. Seuss book, is one of the most recommended artifacts of children’s literature for the teaching of tolerance. It also provides access to this topic for even young students.
This book introduces its readers to a race of odd yellow birds who live on a beach. Some have stars on their bellies. They are the popular Sneetches, while those without stars on their bellies are deemed less fortunate, neglected and are treated poorly. The plain-bellied Sneetches then have opportunity to get stars on their bellies, but soon after, the star-bellied Sneetches have their stars removed. This goes back and forth for a bit until all of the Sneetches realize that they are equal, with none better than another, and the stars do not matter at all.
While the book experience feels familiar Seuss, it gives us the opportunity to discuss a serious topic in a safe way. It can address race, equity, diversity and discrimination, and it can also more simply address how one can act when they don’t like something about someone else, or just someone who is different.
Some good discussion may be yielded from the following:
- Were the Sneetches with stars better than the Sneetches without stars? What made the star-bellied sneetches think so? What made the plain-bellied sneetches think so?
- Have you ever felt like a star-bellied Sneetch? What made you feel that way?
- Have you ever felt like a plain-bellied Sneetch? What made you feel that way?
- What kinds of things make people feel different from one another?
- Is it better to be different or the same?
- What if everyone looked the same?
- What if everyone acted the same?
- Is it sometimes ok to pick or not pick someone based on certain characteristics? Why? Or why not?
Seuss intended the Sneetches” as a satire of discrimination between races and cultures, specifically inspired by his opposition to antisemitism.