Oh! The Places You’ll Go

Reading to and with your child is crucial to their development, not only to aid literacy but also to help them understand the story and its messages in relation to the world around them. Every classic story has an underlying theme, usually several. Using these simple techniques, you can help your child to expand on the ideas in their favourite books, do some fun activities together, and foster their imagination as well as giving context to what they have learned.

In her monthly series, Justine Wall shares ideas on how to interpret some of the best books for children. The activities are intended to be read by, or to, your child, depending on age.

No 2: Oh the Places You’ll Go! by Doctor Seuss

The Story

This is a tale about life and all its wonders and challenges. It reminds us that life is fantastic, yet of course has pitfalls and disappointments. However, if we believe in ourselves and our dreams, we can ‘move mountains’. Younger readers will focus on the book’s rhythm and musicality, and older readers will identify with the journey of life that plays out. The illustrations are enchanting in trademark Dr Seuss style. It is a poem, a song, and a story: however you view it, it is meant to be read aloud to engage a young audience.

Talking Points

  • Can we plan for the future?
  • Is winning or losing important?
  • Why do we get sad?
  • Can we ever be 100 per cent happy?
  • Why are we called a name?
  • Can you ever change your name?

MrFoxmagazine-DrSeuss-2

Activities

We all have hopes and dreams: some of us hope that we get better at playing football, and some of us dream of being a top chef one day. Imagine yourself in the future. You are the same age as your mum or dad. You’ve just done something incredible, you’ve achieved something, or won something, or got to where you really wanted to be. Write yourself a Well Done card, congratulating yourself on your achievements. You could say something like, “Well done on winning the Great British Bake Off!” or “Congrats, you won Wimbledon!” Once you have made and displayed your card, don’t throw it away, ask a parent to keep it for you to open on your 21st Birthday.

The boy in the story meets enemies and problems on his travels. On one page, his problem is depicted as a large, hairy, green snarling creature. However, the boy is not scared of the problem, he is facing up to it. Think about a problem or fear you had recently: it may have been something that you woke in the middle of the night. It may have been when you couldn’t finish your work at school and felt bad about it. Think about how that problem or feeling would look if it were to be a ‘thing’ like the green creature. Draw and colour the problem or fear, and, as in the book, draw yourself facing up to it too.

It’s always good to make plans. We don’t have to stick to them, but it gives us something to look forward to and if we know where we are going we can do things to help us get there. Imagine you and your family have a whole weekend together to do just as you please. You can go anywhere in your area, explore places, eat whatever you fell like eating. On a large sheet of paper, draw a map of what you want to do, and where you want to go, like a treasure map. Colour it in, decorate it, and stick it up in your room. You may not get to do all the things in one single weekend, but try to do them all over a period of time. Tick off every activity once you’ve done it.

We are going to win at things in life, and we are going to lose – that’s very normal. When we win, we can celebrate, and when we lose, we can simply think of ways to do something better next time. Just like the purple elephants in the story, make a large banner. On one side of the banner, write a congratulatory message to yourself on something you think you’ve done well. It could be, ‘Yes! You won the cricket match!’ on the other side of the banner, write down a target that you think you need to work on. It could be ‘I will try to tidy my room more often’. Stick them up in your room.

Sometimes in life, we will come across people who need a hand. And sometimes, we will need helping too. We should always help others, in whatever way we can: from holding a door open for someone, to helping a friend who is struggling with a problem at school. Rehearse and act out a role-play situation with friends. Imagine someone is stuck, and you help them. It could be that they have dropped something and you stop to pick it up for them, or that you help a neighbour fix their broken door. Act out your scenario, and ask someone to record it for you, then watch the footage back.

Dr Seuss was famous for his incredible use of the English language to make us picture things in our head. He sometimes made up words in his stories: the ‘Hakkenkraks’ for instance, and Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, a wonderfully made-up name. We call made up words, which are often a mix of two words, Portmanteau Words. Hakkenkrak is a portmanteau word, probably of the words hacking, howling, cackle, and crack, to try to convey the sound of the creatures’ cackling howl in the water. Try to make up some words yourself: Make up words for the feeling you get snuggled in bed, the sound of dropping a stone in a pond, the sound of walking on snow, and any others you can think of.

Justine Wall is a teacher, designer and writer. She has a 6 year old son. Her perfect winter Sunday is spent cooking for friends followed by a blustery walk on Salisbury Plain. Follow Justine on Instagram @hectorandhaddock and twitter on @HectorHaddock or visit Hector and Haddock.

How often do you read with your child? Is there a book that you would like Justine to explore? Let us know below.

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