There are quite a few books that deal with tough topics hitting the shelves recently. These are two of the many fabulous books that deserve our attention.
If you’ve read Jennifer Richard Jacobson’s earlier book, Small as an Elephant you know how she is able to address a tough topic that many kids silently deal with. She deals with the topic at hand in a way that is both endearing and mind opening. This book tackled mental illness and abandonment, issues we rarely discuss openly with kids. I have to be honest and say that when our school chose Small as an Elephant for our school read a few years ago I was hesitant. But that hesitation quickly faded as I read the book aloud to my 5th graders. Right from the beginning the kids LOVED it. You could hear a pin drop in my room each time I read aloud from that book. And the discussions were, well, wow. Deep and honest. And I could feel the relief of my students as they finally had permission to share and talk. (http://jenniferjacobson.com/books/juvenile-fiction/student-questions-small-elephant/)
Well, Jennifer’s new book, Paper Things, is just as challenging to our mind set. It challenges how we may view how things are for our kids. Jennifer was again able to discuss a difficult topic, one that many of our kids may struggle with at one time or another. Poverty and/or homelessness. They are not easy topics to discuss with kids especially if they are experiencing either. Paper Things took on a bit of a different tone for me though. It spoke to me as a teacher of children who may be experiencing poverty and/or homelessness and who because of this aren’t able to get their homework done, or wash properly before school, or may even beg to fall asleep. As I read this book I thought of another book I read recently, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a book about a girl sharing her school struggles caused by the lack of understanding of her dyslexia. Her voice and perspective caused me to stop many times and reflect. Both of these books spoke to me as a teacher who absolutely has children like these in my room. They spoke to me in a way that gently challenged how I may think about the kids who are working through their struggles. All children deserve for us to understand them and where they are. But these children seem to deserve it more. These books hopefully have caused me to give my kids a little more space, a little more leeway, a little more understanding when they don’t quite perform to what I expect of them. These life challenges are, after all, totally outside their power to control. So I thank these talented authors for bringing my kids and I on such amazing journeys.
Thank you Jennifer and Lynda,