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Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.
Winners, words, and values
I remember when my son — now quite the young man who looks me straight in the eye and will soon tower over me — was really little. We tried our best to protect him from much of the world's unseemliness, and though it's almost impossible now, we still try.
When he was little, we made sure he knew that he could talk with his parents about almost anything. These conversations usually started with some curiosity — a word he had heard or a thought that had him puzzled. They often started with a book. I didn't consciously realize how sharing books would open channels (sometimes it felt like floodgates!) of communication.
That's why I find it hard to understand the brouhaha about this year's Newbery Medal winner, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson). The New York Times reports that many school librarians won't buy this book, perhaps because they are offended by the word or perhaps fearing parents' concerns.
My reaction is simple: get over it. First of all, the book is intended for older children — maybe 4th to 6th grade. And sure, you may not use the offending word even with kids this age, but, they'll eventually hear it (and the word is used correctly with the added benefit of a very plausible reaction from the 10-year old protagonist).
Moreover, the book will likely stick around because it did win this award; it is funny, it is hopeful, and it is well written. And it is an opportunity to open channels of communication with kids. The reactions span a range of opinions – take a look at some of the comments.
My advice to adults: be aware of what kids read – and use it as an opportunity to talk and listen on an equal playing field – as readers all.