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When the Sneetch Children Cry

Last week, I visited a local elementary school to read to kindergartners through second graders for the National Education Association’s Read Across America campaign. It’s the 5th year that I’ve been invited to read Dr. Seuss classics to kids. It is seriously one of the highlights of my year.

I read Gerald McBoing Boing (my personal favorite), Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, and, of course, the ever-popular, Green Eggs and Ham. 

I don’t know what it is, but it seems that when I open up a Dr. Seuss book, I immediately become a child myself…and the children I’m reading to are transported to a magical world where non-sensical rhymes suddenly make sense…and imaginary characters come to life.

sneetchAs I was reading to the kids, I wondered what it would have been like if Dr. Seuss had written some stories about children in poverty [3]. What a great opportunity to teach kids today about the conditions that their counterparts in other parts of the world live in!

What would that look like? Perhaps:

I do not like that the Sneetch children cry
with empty star bellies that growl all night
I do not like that they can’t drink
of water as clean as I have in my sink.

I don’t like famine, disease and war
I wish they didn’t exist anymore.
I don’t like the heartache, come to think of it,
I do not like poverty,
not one little bit.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dr. Seuss book if it just focused on the sad. No, indeed the Cat in the Hat turned dreary, rainy days into wonderful, happy, if not misguided, adventures. Maybe something like this:

Then all the Sneetch children would wipe away frowns
To laugh with each other on Flozzle playgrounds
They’d swing and they’d sing and they’d dance in a ring
‘Tis the end of poverty–what a wonderful thing!

Unfortunately, we don’t have such a book. Perhaps it’s because poverty is far too real and dark to capture in whimsical rhyme. 

But maybe, just maybe, we can all be a Dr. Seuss by rewriting the stories of real children in poverty. It’s not that hard actually.

Sponsoring a child gives you the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty for a child. It gives them the chance to believe in a world where poverty comes to an end. And that is a wondrous thing indeed.