Thankfully, my child isn't one of the ones being teased or doing the teasing, but I've been thinking about how numb our society is getting to violence and to meanness. A good friend told me recently that when her son gets home from high school, it takes him a good thirty minutes to get out of sarcastic-mode, because that's what he hears all day long. Kids, insecure and needing attention, do most of their communicating now with sarcasm and mockery and they do a lot of this communicating through technology.
My first grader came home with a new swear word this week too, the one generally applied to women. It made me wonder what the child who taught it to him hears at home. I really hope he doesn't hear anyone use that word in reference to his mother.
I thought this article about video game violence was very compelling. Read it if you have time:
One of the reasons I find it so compelling is that I've heard some of the boys in Shaemus's FIRST GRADE classroom talk about playing Halo and Call of Duty. They are six and seven years old and they are playing video games that are based on human slaughter.
How does all this apply to books?
I think there is a place for fun books that are silly and funny. I love those books myself, but I've asked myself this week if I am giving my kids enough books with depth. I don't mean heavy, depressing, issue-books, necessarily. But there are great books out there with real meaning that are still fun and funny. They are the kind of books that leave you filled up when you are finished reading them. Filled up with hope. Filled up with love. Filled up with a belief in the general goodness of people. These books are important—they are a mirror to our kids of the world around them or at least what that world can be. A good mirror.
Christopher Paul Curtis writes books like that, and his books are fun and funny and wonderful. These are perfect for your middle grader, ages nine and up. I wish the covers were more compelling. These might be the kind of books you have to start reading aloud, because they don't sound all that exciting, but once you start reading, your child won't want to wait for you to finish reading it. They'll finish it on their own.
Our favorite books by Christopher Paul Curtis:
The Mighty Miss Malone
Bud, Not Buddy
The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963
Elijah of Buxton
Mr. Chickee's Funny Money
Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission