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Monday, May 12, 2014

Perhaps I should read the book


Laura’s sixth grade class read The Breadwinner over the semester. When she began talking about it I took an internet look. It’s set in Afghanistan, the story of first one, then two little girls trying to earn enough to provide daily sustenance to the family.

When I was twelve, as she is, I had as much as I could about the war, its heroes and its atrocities. Amazing the books on hand in homes where I babysat. Imagining much of what I read simply terrified me. I doubt my parents would have approved. I kept track of Laura’s progress in the book; we listened at supper of the current events of Parvana and Shauzia.

Laura did not seem to engage with the book. She had the facts at hand, but she was not living in the pages, relating to the lives of the characters. She and her siblings have devoured every fantasy book published, before and after Harry Potter; I hear enthusiasm when those characters are discussed.

I tried to nudge her into understanding the lives she was reading about. “Wouldn't it be frightening to have police come in and take away someone? What if your brother was taken away and we didn't know where or why?” She evaluated this a moment and said yes, Parvana was very frightened, but not with the conviction of understanding.

She is only twelve years old, and a voracious reader. I know some day the world will leap off a page for her. In the meantime, she’d rather spend her time designing and drawing “fashion.” One day she announced she had been selected to paint the ceiling tile, and she needed a ride home from school. The tile was too big to get on the bus.


Apparently there are many painted tiles on the social studies ceiling; each year a student is selected to illustrate the book the class read. We brought the tile home last week; Laura set up in the barn workshop and painted the scene she selected. I took the tile back to school today and a janitor met me in the parking lot. “Oh, Mr. Hildebrand’s room,” he said and took it away.


23 comments:

  1. That's one BIG tile. She must have felt very honored, and you, too, by association.
    Yamini is right. Laura's left her mark.

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  2. Things become real quite suddenly sometimes. I knew about slavery as a child...but the penny only dropped as to the reality of it when reading A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur.

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  3. I think I was about 12 when I read "The Diary of Anne Frank". Although I'd had uncles who were in the service during WWII, I don't think I started grasping the reality of it all until I read that book. And still.... to this day I can't really imagine living under those circumstances... That tile is something else... I hope you are able to take a picture of the completed project... sounds awesome!

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  4. I can echo the above comment about Anne Franks diary. I also was captivated by that book at a young age. I think as long as she is reading some book she will eventually grasp these terrible issues.

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  5. My daughter read Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt with her class, and I bawled like a baby all the way through.

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  6. Perhaps for the TV generation,books are not 'real'...but fiction?
    Jane x

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  7. I can see why she couldn't take the tile home on the bus! She did great on it and what a honor to get picked to paint it. That does seem like an interesting book, I think sometimes it is hard to live the book or be engaged in it if it is a school assignment where you are reading for what the teacher wants to discuss, etc.

    betty

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  8. Interesting class project painting a ceiling tile. She'll remember that one.

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  9. Quite an honor to be asked to do that painting. Good for her.

    When I was 12 I didn't really grasp the horror of war, even though I read and re-read The Diary of Anne Frank. I knew it was real, and that it was serious and sad, but I didn't feel it the way I did when I got older. Maybe that's the situation for Laura, too, or maybe she feels her own life prior to your intervention was bad enough and has no room left for empathy for a faraway child because she's still hurting too much herself. (That's based on what you've told us of her old life.) Either way, I don't think it means she is an uncaring girl ... my two cents' worth ...

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  10. I've never heard of that book. Perhaps she's not ready for it yet. I love the Harry Potter books and their good v. evil.

    Love,
    Janie

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  11. What an honour for Laura - well done !

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  12. What interesting comments. I, too, had never heard of that book. But I, too, wonder about the "disengagement" with the characters. I grew up wanting to read and always identified with at least one character in any book or story I read.

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  13. I've read that empathy is something that develops when children are in their TWENTIES! Of course it varies, but maybe Laura is more empathetic than most of that age. Last year when we were in Cambodia surrounded by beggar children I was very bothered by how unbothered my children seemed. It wasn't until I was able to draw the parallel between a child they knew at home, adopted from Cambodia, that their empathy suddenly kicked in.

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  14. On the one hand Laura didn't seem to be engaged with the book and yet the evidence of the tile seems to suggest she engaged very well...

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  15. Dear Joanne, I so agree with what "The Broad" said: that the tile shows just how much Laura did engage with the book. Perhaps she visualizing rather then articulates with words what she thinks. Only time will tell. Peace.

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  16. i think sometimes when we are young we try and forget the really hard stuff--i think it is true about maybe our compassion showing up on the outside later on---very interesting post

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  17. I read The Rise And Fall Of The Third Riech in high school, maybe 11th grade. Not a school assignment. It's the first book I remember being hit emotionally by. I imagine at 12, Emily is stll fairly sheltered, her life before life with you notwithstanding.

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  18. Such an interesting post. Adolescence is a time when we want to change the world. We worry about a lot of things that may or may not concern us and sometimes we do get over whelmed. I wish all young people good luck.

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  19. Laura will remember her art composition forever. Her reading of other conflicts probably seems almost like fiction to her as she is safe and cared for. Someday she will realize the world as it truly is. Not fun to realize this truth about conflicts. -- barbara

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  20. When the potter series came out, I remember reading that it was a good thing, insofar as it was getting kids to read. My youngest read it, devoured it actually, and discussed it with friends. She was maybe in the 7th grade or so. I have mixed feelings, mainly because of the quality of the writing. Yes, it's good for kids to read, and perhaps because it's length it gave them something longer than the usual attention span.

    She eventually read Ursula Le Guin's books, also fantasy, but excellent writing and a depth and subltleness lacking in the potter books.

    Over time, it all seems to either work out or level out, my oldest girl was reading chapter books in the 1st grade, the youngest could care less about books until a good deal older. Both are avid readers now.

    Nice job by your granddaughter on the piece of art.

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  21. there are so many books that are written for students that age to move them to stages of empathy. I hate to see kids settling for Harry Potter. Laura's teacher gave her students a gift. The Book Thief is great, as is Number the Stars, both written by Lois Lowry.

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  22. I do think it's great that kids are introduced to books that stretch their understanding of the world. She may not truly understand and relate to it now, but perhaps it is planting a seed in her awareness.

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