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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 5 September 2004
Researchers constantly find that reading to children is valuable in a variety of ways, not least of which are instilling a love of reading and improved reading skills. With better parent-child bonding from reading, your child will also be more emotionally secure and able to relate better to others. Intellectual performance will expand as well. Spending time together watching television fails as a substitute.
To help other parents apply this advice, as a parent of four I consulted an expert, our youngest child, and asked her to share with me her favorite books that were read to her as a young child. Horton Hears a Who! was one of her picks.
On the surface, this is a story about an elephant going the extra mile to respect those who are as different from him as they can possibly be.
"He was splashing . . . enjoying the jungle's great joys . . .
When Horton the elephant heard a small noise."
He notices a speck of dust, passing in the air. With his large ears, he can hear something coming from that dust. Quickly, he imagines that there is some sort of a creature of very small size on the dust.
No one else believes him, and he is taunted and tortured by the other animals . . . who cannot hear the small noise. They think Horton has gone mad! After tribulations that would daunt any decent, dedicated elephant, he must find a way to convince the other animals before they overwhelm him and destroy the dust (and the Whos along with it!).
He tells the tiny Whos to make as much noise as possible. But still the other animals cannot hear them. Finally, the mayor of the Whos finds a shirker who is playing with his yo-yo rather than making noise. As soon as the small Who makes his sound, all the animals can hear. Then the Whos are safe.
The metaphor here is that the strong must protect the weak, but the weak must also be as outspoken as possible if the strong are going to be able to help them. That can make for a wonderful discussion about bullies and pushy children in school.
Beyond that, I have always seen this book as Dr. Seuss's apology for his sometimes anti-Japanese cartoons (including an anti-Japanese-American version) during the early days of World War II when he was a political cartoonist (see Dr. Seuss Goes to War). Why do I think that? The book is dedicated as follows: "For My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan". I read that as being dedicated to all those of Japanese ancestry as well. In this eloquent plea for common decency, Dr. Seuss rises to be a great man.
Discuss with your child when and where these concepts might come into play. Younger siblings and cousins can provide a good starting point. Then you can go on to talk about the role of parents in helping their children. You'll have a wonderful chat, the first of many.
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