The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Book Description: Long before saving the earth became a global concern, Dr. Seuss, speaking through his character the Lorax, warned against mindless progress and the danger it posed to the earth's natural beauty.
Let's start this off with an oldie but goodie. Believe it or not, I did not read The Lorax until I was well in college, and I was first introduced to the animated cartoon before the book. I actually found a used copy at a library book sale for nearly a song and snapped it up. It sure came in handy when I started teaching summer camp and I ran out of nature-related lesson plans partway through the season. It turns out that you can read The Lorax outloud and do a quick and dirty mini-lesson in just about the time period each group had with me.
The campers loved it. There something about Dr. Suess that makes you want to be read aloud to. The funny thing was, the counselors loved it too. Here were high school and college students who were usually "too cool for school" and I had to coerce, beg, or plain out tell them to participate or at least put on the front they were paying attention.
This was environmental education at its finest. Throughout the summer, I tried to hammer home the basics to this group of entitled children (and they were entitled -- it was a very expensive camp) whose parents dropped them off in SUVs and trucks and saw no problem with waiting in line in their cars for half an hour to pick up their children. But with this one book, the concepts hit home. With Dr. Suess's brightly colored illustrations, rhyming prose and fanciful creatures, the kids got it -- for a little bit at least. Dr. Suess published The Lorax in 1971 at the height of the environmental movement in the U.S. The simple message still hold true today: care for nature because if you don't, who will?
Start them early and start them young. I can't tell what, if any, impact my reading The Lorax to my campers did to their long-term environmentalistic ideals. Still, if you plant enough seeds one will germinate and grow, right? Because, after all, "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.