I just finished reading Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry with my daughter Ruby. She is in an accelerated reading group and I knew we would run into this problem. Her reading ability is more advanced than her emotional maturity.
She’s just nine. She loves to play with her American Girl Dolls, ride her bike, draws fairies, BELIEVES in fairies for cryin’ out loud! So when she said the latest book selected for her reading group was too sad I asked what it was about?
“The Holocaust.” she says.
WTF?!? She’s nine! Ok.. almost ten, but I don’t think she is ready for this. I remember recently we asked the kids if they knew what the Holocaust was. I believe she said, “No, but I sure know what Hollandaise Sauce is!” Now you can understand her frame of reference.
“Mama, it’s too sad. And scary. I don’t want to read it on Valentine’s Day. IT’S TOO SAD! But I have to finish it by next Wednesday.” I said I would read it with her. I used to read to my kids all the time, but pathetically I don’t seem to find enough time for it anymore (blogging, tweeting, face-booking). Priority adjustment!
It’s not that thick. How sad could it be? She already read through chapter six.. so I did a speed read for me/review for her one night to get caught up.
Crap! The main character’s older sister died, and the kids best friend is a sweetie-pie Jewish girl. And there are damn Nazi’s all over Copenhagen. I choked up, like 3 times the first night. My kid is all, “See what I mean?”
We skipped reading on Valentines Day. Because that day is only for JOYLOVEANDKISSES! And chocolate. Not Nazis emmer effers.
So after our love filled day off, we hit the book again. Curled up together. Sometimes she read. Sometimes I read. She’s really good at reading aloud. I helped her with the Scandinavian sounding words. I’m an impatient reader and will speed ahead with my eyes while my mouth is on some far back sentence. I’m smart like that. Or just impatient.
Things got heavy. Things got scary. Children were called on to be brave and this made my heart ache so much. Poor little dears. I hated the soldiers. Hate. I would read something, and you all have no idea how hard it was to NOT use some of my choice obscenities. But I had my girl all curled up at my side and all I could do was give a tearful stink-eye to the book.
I’m so glad I read with her. What if I hadn’t ? What if she had to come across these scenarios, these words, with her unprepared little heart? She would come to me confused about the hatred and cruelty of that war. She’d be in tears, I know her. And then I’d be fumbling trying to stop the hurt. But it would be with no reference. Like trying to help a child that you didn’t see fall, and can’t tell you where they hurt, just that it hurts. But I read it with her, and I know why it hurts, and where. So much.
So. Now… I’m not sure if I should talk to teachers about maybe giving a heads up on books subject matter prior to the kids reading it. I want to trust them, but this seemed too heavy. But then, maybe they know what they are doing, and are calling on my child to be brave.