“Horton Hears a Who! is a reminder that every vote counts. In America, as in the Dr. Seuss classic, every voice must be heard if society is to survive.” J. Wickersham, The Boston Globe
Excerpt: “You want to see how participatory democracy is supposed to work?Read Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss.” Joan Wickersham, The Boston Globe
“You remember the Whos, down in Who-ville. They’re the people from whom the Grinch stole Christmas. That crisis worked out all right in the end. But before it happened, there was another potential catastrophe — the Whos’ backstory, if you will — which threatened them with extinction.
Here’s what happens: Horton, a good-hearted, somewhat bumbling elephant, notices sounds coming from a dust speck, and realizes that the speck is actually an entire tiny planet inhabited by a tiny species called the Whos. His conversations with the mayor of Who-ville arouse the scorn of his intolerant neighbors, who tell him he’s crazy and that there is no Who-ville — it’s a hoax… The thuggish leaders collude with an eagle named Vlad to silence and intimidate Horton and to destroy the Whos while at the same time denying that they existed.
The fate of the Whos hangs in the balance. Horton is being detained in a cage, and the thugs are about to obliterate the Whos and their entire planet by dropping them into a pot of boiling oil.
No one but Horton can hear the Whos. The only thing that can save them from destruction is a full-throated show of good old-fashioned civic responsibility. They need to speak up. Loudly. Every single one of them…The stakes couldn’t be higher: Every voice must be heard if their society is to survive.
Exercising the right to vote in 21st-century America is no simple matter for everyone, and I’m not suggesting that a children’s book offers all the answers. Insidious voter suppression tactics include the closing of polling places, intimidation at the polls, and disenfranchisement laws that deny the vote to many vulnerable members of society…And this year we have the additional challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, made worse by the malevolent, irresponsible antics of a president intent on sowing chaos and undermining our faith in the voting process… This is not an election to sit out. This is not a time to refuse to vote because you’re unhappy with how the primaries went… In Horton Hears a Who! it seems that every Who is making noise and yet their collective voice cannot be heard by the thuggish leaders.
The mayor makes a desperate last search of the town and finds a bored little Who sitting at home playing with a yo-yo. And when that last little Who adds his voice to the rest, suddenly the sound becomes audible, so that even Horton’s formerly intolerant neighbors hear it and agree to abide by the rule of law.
Voting is an act of faith. It’s shouting into the void, knowing that your voice is small but trusting that when it combines with other voices it will be loud enough to be heard.”
5 key takeaways from Joe Biden’s town hall with ABC News By Meg Cunningham and Quinn Scanlan, October 16, 2020 NYT
Biden’s persistent message of concern for others, which he follows up with action, is a stark contrast to the actions of the current president.
“I’m less concerned about me than the people, the guys with the cameras, the people working in the, you know, the Secret Service guys you drive up with, all those people.” ~Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden
“With less than three weeks until Nov. 3,…Already, more than 18 million voters have cast their ballots, and while that’s an unprecedented turnout this far out from Election Day, many more Americans have yet to officially make their voices heard.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Examine the titles of the post and the actual article. Examine any photos, then create a list of words and ideas that you and your group members think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The people from Who-ville were in a crisis.
- The fact that they could not be heard was a catastrophe.
- Not being heard as a group threatened them with extinction.
- Horton’s claims arouse the scorn of his intolerant neighbors.
- The neighbors tell Horton that he’s crazy and there is no Who-ville — it’s a hoax.
- The thuggish leaders did not like Horton.
- In the story the leaders collude with an eagle named Vlad.
- They tried to silence and intimidate Horton.
- But even though the obstacles in this fall of 2020 are systemic, voting is still the most important right we have.
- This is not a time to duck making a choice between two candidates.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- This is not a time to refuse to vote.
- This is not an time to duck making a choice.
- This is not a time to think your vote doesn’t matter.
- The mayor makes a desperate last search of the town.
- Voting is a act of faith.
- There is always a line between inaudible and audible.
- We need every voice. Voting is an act of faith.
- The obstacles is there.
- We need to exercise our most important right as citizens
Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins
Directions: Place students in small groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
But even though the___in this___of 2020 are___,___, and immense, voting is still the most ___right we have. The story of ___and the Whos is a ___that every voice___.
WORD LIST: counts, reminder, Horton, important, systemic, frightening, obstacles, fall,
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- In the story, how did the Whos almost come to extinction?
- In your opinion, is the author implying something about the current U.S. president and his cohorts? Please explain your answer.
- The author lists several challenges voters face for this 2020 election. What are they?
- The author states, ” …this year we have the additional challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, made worse by the malevolent, irresponsible antics of a president intent on sowing chaos and undermining our faith in the voting process.” In your own words explain what she means.
- What are some reasons people might refuse to vote?
- In the story Horton Hears A Who! , why couldn’t the people of Who town be heard by the ‘thuggish’ leaders?
- Who do you think the ‘thuggish’ leaders are in the U.S.? Provide reasons for your answers.
- Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who! is a wonderful story and the article written by Ms. Joan Wickersham is excellent and on point! Explain or write a short essay on how this article relates to people voting in this 2020 election?
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.