Your rising 9th grader is assigned this book in Honors Lit for summer reading. WWYD?

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Posted 7/31/2013 by caroscraps in NSBR Board
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caroscraps
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Posted: 7/31/2013 8:52:51 AM
The book is Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eyes." It has very graphic, explicit scenes of a 12 year old girl being molested by her father.

My friend's DD has to read this book for her honors lit class this summer. The DD is upset and doesn't want to finish the book. Tho mom is also upset, NOT livid, book banning upset but is going to talk to the school board about why this book was chosen.

The DD says she doesn't want to fill her mind with these scenes because she can't quit thinking about it all.

Also, the mom is reading the book before she talks to anyone at the higher school level. She says she wants to be informed about the book before she talks. I think that's wise.

WWYD if this was your DD? Do you think a book like this is appropriate for a young girl or boy? This girl is 14.





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shelley36
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:02:20 AM
First, I hate summer assignments, but that is another post for another day.

A better situation would be offering students three or four options for summer work. With more titles available, students would be able to choose a book that suits their interests.

I think the mom should try to contact the school first (tough, I know, in summer. Our admins are in the buildings and available, so maybe that's an option for her too?) I'd request the option for another book after explaining the concerns.

It's tough to pick books for students in middle school and freshman year! Kids are vastly different in what they've seen and read. I teach 7th grade and will always choose books for class reading that are appropriate for 12 year olds. Some of the books on my bookshelf have more complicated subjects and story lines, but again, choice is there.

Shelley in WA


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caroscraps
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:06:18 AM
I don't know if there is another choice of books but I get the impression there is not. I'm not sure what my friend is going to do or who she is going to talk to about the book. School starts Aug. 12th.



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GrinningCat
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:08:28 AM
I think the kid should read the book and then use the experience to craft a solid, well thought out academic response as to why the book was not a suitable choice. Take the assignment and show that some thought was out into the reasoning behind why the book could be considered inappropriate by some and formulate an academic response instead of just pulling a "I don't want to read this because I don't like the content" excuse for getting out of the assignment. The book was chosen for a reason, it wasn't chosen just to piss people off and corrupt young minds. Most teachers will admire a well thought out academic response to an "offending" book than just being told that the kid can't read it because it's offensive.

I did that and got a much better response than if I had said I was too offended to read the book.

ginacivey
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:13:05 AM
well...maybe my opinion won't be popular

but the world isn't all sunshine and butterflies...and 14 is probably an age when kids have begun to realize this

does this girl not watch tv? prime time is filled with the same things

the news headlines and movies as well

i can understand her being 'delicate' but to just avoid reading things that make you uncomfortable isn't realistic

gina

caroscraps
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:15:07 AM
Grinning Cat I like that idea but I am not sure how I would feel if this were my DD. My children are grown but my grandchildren will face this someday.

I hate for kids to have to grow up so fast but I am not naive enough to know what they are faced with everyday by TV and video games.


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gryroagain
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:17:16 AM
I have a sensitive kid, and I would absolutely not make her read it and have her tell the teacher why. Not in a confrontational way, but in a way that makes it clear it's not going to happen. I'd back her up if necessary. I read that in 12th grade AP Lit, and I do not feel it is appropriate for a 13-14 year old. my DD says the same thing about some stuff - that she can't get it out of her head and doesn't want it in there. That personal awareness of what an individual child can handle should be respected.

Can she read the sparks note/cliff note guide as a compromise?

caroscraps
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:17:49 AM
Gina I understand this girl is sheltered. I know the mom well enough to know this. As far as TV goes I have no idea what they watch. My guess is being the first child to hit high school, it is an eye opener for the girl and her mom.


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moveablefeast
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:18:31 AM
I read that book around that time. Yes, there are some disturbing themes. But it is my opinion that it is a very valuable book to read and digest, and it is an appropriate age to do it.

Our controversial book for honors lit was a book about a Vietnam vet who came back with no legs. It was very explicit in some senses and people were very upset about that. I had the same opinion of that book that I have about Toni Morrison's work.

It is my opinion that high schoolers can handle tough thematic material, and should. They should be able to answer the question: Why did this story get told, and what is important about it?

I would tell mom that now is a good time for her DD to face some of the difficult experiences in life that will be expressed in literature in a way that is sometimes difficult to swallow. That is not said without sympathy, however - I know it's disturbing to read about in graphic detail - but there is a reason that book is included in the curriculum.

I had a teacher who showed Old Yeller in class, but turned it off before the scene with the wolf. Maybe that's right for fourth graders, but not for high schoolers.

Aggiemom92
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:18:51 AM
Wow, I'm surprised by my reaction to this. Generally, I oppose book banning in any form. Generally, I don't come down on the side of parents who don't want their kids to read 'offensive' books. So why do I find myself sympathizing (though not necessarily siding) with the girl and mom on this one?

I think for one thing it's the STUDENT who is struggling to read it, rather than mom trying to shield her from it. The other reason I'm reacting strongly to this is that I've read the book, and honestly find it a shocking choice for required reading at that age (and again, I can't explain why I feel that way since it's the opposite of my general reactions to these situations). I often see that book on a list of choices and it doesn't bother me. I just don't know about require it.

But I guess I'm also having a personal reaction. Had I read that book when I was 14, I'd have been committed. I'm not going to elaborate on that.

I don't know what I'd do. I'd read it (and have), I'd try reading it WITH my daughter to see if that helped. I like the previous poster's suggestion of crafting an essay (though I don't want to give her more work). I don't think I'd protest, but I do think I'd share concern, possibly with the teacher, in the hopes that in the future it would be on a list of choices but not the only choice. But I also believe (hope) the teacher had a reason for assigning it, and don't want to get her in way either. I don't know, tricky.

sugarcoated
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:20:11 AM
I certainly would not go to the school board. It is not for me to decide what other people's children may or may not read. The sex in The Bluest Eye is not gratuitous and the themes in the book are larger and broader than defining it by the incest and rape alone.

The themes in the book are important ones, and I consider situations like this as opportunities to grow. If I were the mom, I would read it with my daughter and talk to her about it. What happens when the daughter is confronted with a book about the Holocaust? Is mom going to insist that her daughter is not fit to read a book about such graphic atrocities?

However, since the daughter has already read the most horrific parts, why not finish the rest and develop an opinion of her own about the book in whole, not just in part?


sunny 5
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:20:42 AM
my dd was also assigned this book and it disturbed her. I objected to it and was brushed off as it was on the district list.

even worse was in high school she was assigned "the unbearable lightness of being"--soft porn. she didn't want me making a fuss...but at least I wrote to the teacher and principal and objected to it. she was allowed to read and write on a different book.

the bluest eyes is popular...but unappropriate for middle school.

the trend is to read depressing girl lit...and there should be more choice and more classics on these lists.

caroscraps
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:21:34 AM
Gyro, that is also a good idea. I wonder if she chooses not to read this book what effect it will have on her grade? My friend will definitely back her DD up if she chooses not to read the book.

Aren't there other books out there that are less explicit and are still great literature by Nobel Prize authors?


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Aggiemom92
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:22:08 AM

does this girl not watch tv? prime time is filled with the same things

the news headlines and movies as well


This is true, but you do have the option to edit what you see there. But you are right.

Moveablefeast, maybe you're right. I'm looking at my much younger kids and reacting. It's hard for me to imagine their maturity level at 14!

Mallie
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:24:48 AM
Lord knows, I don't shelter my kids, but I think I'd have a problem with them reading that book at that age. First of all, I'd have to read it myself. Then, assuming it's as bad as you indicate, I'd have to wonder at the brain trust that thought exposing children who might be the victims of such abuse themselves to "triggering" material is a good idea. Because there WILL be kids in that class who will be the victims of abuse. I would feel pretty strongly about advocating for them, as well as insuring that my kid was not forced to read something horrific like that. Bottom line is that my kid will not read such material at that age.

I will add that part of feelings on this matter arise from my experiences after inadvertently reading a book with a scene like that a few years ago. A friend had given me a book and told me it was great. I innocently started to read it and could not believe what I was seeing. I closed the book and did not read beyond the first paragrah of that scene. That was yeras ago and the images from that one paragraph alone still bother me. And I was 40 something with a lot of life experience to understand/digest/handle disturbing materials. I do not think the average 14 year old is equipped to handle that sort of material.

Jili
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:26:13 AM

I read that book around that time. Yes, there are some disturbing themes. But it is my opinion that it is a very valuable book to read and digest, and it is an appropriate age to do it.

It is my opinion that high schoolers can handle tough thematic material, and should. They should be able to answer the question: Why did this story get told, and what is important about it?

I would tell mom that now is a good time for her DD to face some of the difficult experiences in life that will be expressed in literature in a way that is sometimes difficult to swallow. That is not said without sympathy, however.


I think that moveablefeast has summed up my thoughts well. I remember reading that book as part of summer reading for the AP track at about the same age. Though disturbing, it is powerful reading.


The sex in The Bluest Eye is not gratuitous and the themes in the book are larger and broader than defining it by the incest and rape alone.


Agreed.


Jill

nanett
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:26:47 AM
why is it up to the teacher to decide when a child should begin reading sexually explicit material? And not even sexually explicit...this is violently sexual. Shouldn't that always be a personal choice...even for a 14 year old?

Books are different than movies...the imagines get in your head in a different way as so much more detail must be used to paint the picture.

Teachers are no more adept at making good choices than the rest of the population...and I say that as a teacher. Sometimes we screw up. Sometimes what seems good on the surface is not so grand in retrospect.

I also have a problem with teaching girls that they must do something they are uncomfortable with because it's an expectation from an authority figure. She has a right to her feelings and her level of comfort and should be able to express that freely and ask for an alternative.

I would have great respect for a student who was able to come forward and say this just isn't for me rather than suffer through something that may be hurtful to her.

To this day, I refuse to read scary books as they give me nightmares. Am I wrong to say that's just not for me or is that a right reserved only for adults?

caroscraps
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:27:29 AM
I do want to emphasize, the DD came to the mom and told her about what she was reading, read her the parts that upset her. Mom does not want to ban this book. I think she just wants to know why this book was chosen for 14 year olds.


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scrappower
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:28:26 AM
That book is an important book and one that every teen should read in my mind. Classics have their place, but current literature is just as important, even those with uncomfortable themes. Life is not always pretty. Maybe honors literature isn't a good fit for this girl?



Peabay
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:30:55 AM
Another one who agrees with moveable feast, particularly this:


It is my opinion that high schoolers can handle tough thematic material, and should. They should be able to answer the question: Why did this story get told, and what is important about it?

I would tell mom that now is a good time for her DD to face some of the difficult experiences in life that will be expressed in literature in a way that is sometimes difficult to swallow. That is not said without sympathy, however - I know it's disturbing to read about in graphic detail - but there is a reason that book is included in the curriculum.



Christine58
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:31:28 AM
Here's an idea...how about she call/email (probably a better choice) the teacher and ask.



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caroscraps
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:32:08 AM

I also have a problem with teaching girls that they must do something they are uncomfortable with because it's an expectation from an authority figure. She has a right to her feelings and her level of comfort and should be able to express that freely and ask for an alternative


I agree with this thought. I was like this girl at her age in many ways and to this day I cannot watch horror and some other types of movies. Even some books are too graphic for my comfort level and I am 60. So why should a 14 year old have to read something that obviously causes upset?


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caroscraps
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:35:03 AM

but there is a reason that book is included in the curriculum


But what is this reason about this book? I think from what my friend said she wants to know why?


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Bridget in MD
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:37:56 AM
I read it in college and wrote a paper on it. But by then I'd read way worse stuff or themes in the same vein (IMO, Flowers in the Attic - brother/sister incest, Stephen King - incest and I'm sorry but just thinking of being trapped in a car in 100 degree temps with a rabid dog STILL scares me today!).

The Bluest Eye, from what I remember, was about an AA girl who wished/thought if she had blue eyes, these horrible things wouldn't have happened to her. That to me was saddest of all. That's what I took out of it more than anything...


Bridget =)

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les935
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:43:20 AM
I am high school English teacher. Toni Morrison's novels are often recommended for high school honors students because of their complexity in themes, character development and literary devices. They are frequently used for the essays on the AP English and Literature exam, so perhaps the teacher was trying to expose her to Morrison's style early on. I agree they are not always happy-go-lucky stories, but the complexity and depth in the novel is what allows really great lessons to take place.

What plans does the teacher have for the book when school starts? I know my students always read the book in the summer, but then we have numerous discussions (both small-group and whole class ones) and a writing assignment for the book when the school begins.

I'd contact the teacher and not the school board. The school board members would just approve a list given to them that was provided by the teachers, and more than likely, they will not have read every book on the list themselves. The teacher will have the rationale for why this particular book was assigned.

Gravity
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:45:43 AM

I read that book around that time. Yes, there are some disturbing themes. But it is my opinion that it is a very valuable book to read and digest, and it is an appropriate age to do it.

Our controversial book for honors lit was a book about a Vietnam vet who came back with no legs. It was very explicit in some senses and people were very upset about that. I had the same opinion of that book that I have about Toni Morrison's work.

It is my opinion that high schoolers can handle tough thematic material, and should. They should be able to answer the question: Why did this story get told, and what is important about it?

I would tell mom that now is a good time for her DD to face some of the difficult experiences in life that will be expressed in literature in a way that is sometimes difficult to swallow. That is not said without sympathy, however - I know it's disturbing to read about in graphic detail - but there is a reason that book is included in the curriculum.


I agree. My DD read the book as a freshman.

I think going to the school board over this is ridiculous. Is mom planning to run to the school board every time something doesn't sit well with her daughter? The world is full of ugliness and unpleasant things. Instead of trying to shield her DD from life, mom should talk with her DD and help her work through her feelings.

ctab
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:46:06 AM
I had to read this book in high school, and don't see a problem with it. I do think they could have warned parents of the content before enrolling for the honors class began. Honors classes often feature higher level novels, which are going to deal with deeper issues. It may not be the best fit for her daughter.

scrappower
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:47:12 AM
The point of honors and higher level literature classes is to expose the student to a wide variety of literature, themes, writing styles, etc. It is not always going to be something they like and yes might even be a theme they find distatseful. She has a choice, she just might not like the consequences. What does she want to have happen by going to the school board?



dictionary
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:48:03 AM
I believe not all kids mature at the same age. If this girl is not comfortable with what she is reading, why should she be encouraged to continue reading. I think there are other suitable thought provoking books out there that she may be more comfortable reading. If I was the mom, I would do exactly what your friend is doing, read the book, challenge the choice and ask for another book selection as well as discuss the book wither her dd and her feelings about it.

Frankly, I am surprised they didn't offer a list of ones to read. And perhaps your friend might compile a list of suitable alternatives in case the school can't offer one.


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Maryland
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:49:37 AM
I don't like summer assignments either. At our school, its judt the honors and AP kids that have summer work. That always bothered my girls. They asked why the smart kids have to do it and not the others.

One of our books was The Kite Runner, so I understand what you mean. But as long as the school aproves, I have no problem with what they read.

Simply_Lovely
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:49:46 AM

So why should a 14 year old have to read something that obviously causes upset?


But where do you draw the line? Should we stop reading Anne Frank's Diary because it is upsetting? Romeo and Juliet? Lord of the Flies?? I was terribly upset by LoF by the way in 7th grade. The book, IMO, is dark, but the themes and lessons in it are very important.

So I am standing with moveablefeast on this one. The child, as you said is very sheltered, so it's time for the mom to slowly open the shelter door and use this as an opportunity to discuss with the daughter that life is not all rainbows and sunshine.




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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:51:29 AM
I am surprised at how many think she shouldn't have to read it. Since when do we dictate what books our children should read in classes? Maybe she shouldn't be in honors lit? Everyone has different ideas of what they find appropriate or not, the school cannot cater to the whim of every single family.



pretzels
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:55:38 AM
I'm with Moveable Feast, 100 percent.

It's time for the mother to have a discussion with her DD about unpleasant things. I have a DD (rising 6th grader) who I have sheltered to the point where it is becoming an issue between her and her friends, her and the world.

I've let her beg off of reading things/watching things because she was "too scared" to them (and we're talking normal, everyday things like the Harry Potter books and movies). I'm taking a tough love approach these days and she has read the first HP book and the first Hunger Games book. She lived, and has even branched out beyond her previous "safe" books/series/movies.

I think this book is the perfect opportunity for the mother to open the daughter's eyes. The world is not always an awesome place. The sexuality in "The Bluest Eye" is not gratuitous.

ETA And in NO WAY is "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" "soft core porn." Jesus.


The Bluest Eye, from what I remember, was about an AA girl who wished/thought if she had blue eyes, these horrible things wouldn't have happened to her. That to me was saddest of all. That's what I took out of it more than anything...


Exactly. That's the thing I remember about it most of all.

Aggiemom92
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:59:59 AM

But where do you draw the line? Should we stop reading Anne Frank's Diary because it is upsetting? Romeo and Juliet? Lord of the Flies??


I don't disagree with you at all, and have always preached this exact rhetoric on these threads. And I've acknowledged that my reaction to this book is personal, and have not suggested not having her read it or complaining to the teacher. I've only sympathized with the dilemma. (I know you weren't directing that at me, but I don't want to be moved to the "don't make her read it!" group by my next question )

Do YOU have a line? I didn't think I did before today. What if your child were assigned as required reading 50 Shades of Gray? I know that's an extreme to the point of ridiculous example. I'm just wondering if there is a line for the "they should read whatever is required" camp, of which I do consider myself a member.

pretzels
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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:02:02 AM

Do YOU have a line? I didn't think I did before today. What if your child were assigned as required reading 50 Shades of Gray? I know that's an extreme to the point of ridiculous example. I'm just wondering if there is a line for the "they should read whatever is required" camp, of which I do consider myself a member.


I don't censor my children's reading at all. So I guess I don't have a line. I would question the literary merit of my children reading "Fifty Shades of Gray" or "Twilight." Hell, I read "Gray" and besides it being crappily written, it wasn't even that erotic.

sues
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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:06:58 AM

Teachers are no more adept at making good choices than the rest of the population...and I say that as a teacher. Sometimes we screw up. Sometimes what seems good on the surface is not so grand in retrospect.
I wholeheartedly disagree with this, as a teacher. Teachers are trained and practiced at making choices like this. At least the good ones, are. I can't imagine a book like this would make an AP summer reading requirement without a good deal of thought and consideration.

I agree with Moveablefeast.

I might contact the school, if I felt so moved, to have a discussion about the book. Don't jump to conclusions. There is a reason books like this are chosen. You may not agree, it may not be a comfortable read, but there is value in the experience.

CheleOh
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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:07:11 AM
I LOVED The Bluest Eye. Of course, I love anything Toni Morrison writes. Sula is my favorite I think. Beloved is also awesome. The movie was horrid, but the book was incredibly developed. The *real* story behind Beloved is so compelling.

ANYway, please remember that "Honors" classes are moving students toward higher-level AP courses which ARE designed to be the same as college-level courses. Perhaps the child isn't ready for that challenge. The book may be disturbing, but we need to be disturbed occasionally to grow.

And, the purpose of summer reading (whether you like it or not) is so that the class can hit the ground running with a book under the students' belt and ready for discussion. It would be difficult to have a discussion if students had a choice of books.

I have to kind of giggle as my two took the same AP Lit course as seniors, had the same readings... 4 years apart. There were two books. My daughter loved the first of the books and despised the second. My son despised the first and loved the second. Students are different and that's what wonderful when they are prepared for a discussion!

Chele




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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:07:43 AM

I don't censor my children's reading at all. So I guess I don't have a line.


This wasn't what I asked. Do you have a line for what you're child is required (against their will) to read? I said in my original post that I sympathized because it was the child that didn't want to read the book, not because the mother didn't want her to read it. I'm with you 100% on this one--if my kid wants to read it, that's fine.

TinaFB
the lunatics have taken over the asylum

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November 2001
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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:08:36 AM
My son's 9th grade Honors English class was all depressing and emotionally challenging books. He read Speak, Night, A Raisin in the Sun, Odysseus, and Macbeth.

Speak was the first one he had to read and it is about a girl who was raped. It's a very emotional book. It was tough for me to read. But it was good for my son because it helped him see how other people experience and handle things, as well as how the actions of others impact the victim.

I raised my eyebrow at first, but during the process of helping ds edit his book reviews, I really began to appreciate the emotional and intellectual challenges he encountered through reading those kinds of books.


Tina


melanell
Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:12:10 AM
I'm not sure how I feel about the situation, really. But I will tell you that I do not watch movies or read books with a certain level of violence in them.

I just cannot deal with it. I wind up unable to get the visuals out of my head, and they can often act as a trigger for recurring nightmares.

So I opt not to view or read them.

I had honors and AP honors English/Lit throughout my school career and was never told in advance what books would be included. So if that's the way it was for this student, I cannot blame her for signing up for a class she felt she could handle academically and then still be surprised by the book choice.

I don't know what I would do in her shoes. But I do know that it would be very, very difficult for me.

I prefer situations in which people are given a choice between books if they are more graphic or violent in nature.



pretzels
Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:16:17 AM

This wasn't what I asked. Do you have a line for what you're child is required (against their will) to read? I said in my original post that I sympathized because it was the child that didn't want to read the book, not because the mother didn't want her to read it. I'm with you 100% on this one--if my kid wants to read it, that's fine.


I have a child who hates to read. I don't understand it because I am a big reader and my other child loves to read, too. But she hates it. She will try everything possible to get out reading. Her stomach hurts, her head hurts, she doesn't like that character, that part scared her, whatever. We've even caught her lying about reading (not very bright of her, considering DH and I had both read the book and could quiz her on it).

What is a legitimate reason? The child in the OP doesn't want to read it because it's disturbing. My child doesn't want to read x book because she doesn't like to read. Both valid reasons, some might say.

I didn't *enjoy* reading "The Bluest Eye," by any means. But I did it because I signed up for the class (I read it in college) and trusted that the professor who assigned it had her reasons. And she did. I have to do things at my job that I don't enjoy, but I do them because I like that paycheck/benefits every month.

Also, if my child were this affected by that book, then she and I would have to sit down and have a discussion about it. The world is not pretty. It is not wonderful. Not everyone has two parents who love them and care for them and treat them the way they should. If a 14-/15-year-old child is still laboring under that assumption, it's time to inform them properly because IMO, they are unequipped for the world, for life.

melanell
Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:21:38 AM

The world is not pretty. It is not wonderful. Not everyone has two parents who love them and care for them and treat them the way they should. If a 14-/15-year-old child is still laboring under that assumption, it's time to inform them properly because IMO, they are unequipped for the world, for life.


You can be extremely well aware of this and still find certain type of reading material extremely hard to deal with.

Personally, I would have a terribly hard time not finding myself unwillingly seeing the faces of those I know who lived this hell with every line I read, which would make it even worse for me as someone sensitive to this type of imagery.



IleneScraps
StuckOnPeas

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:23:43 AM

So I am standing with moveablefeast on this one. The child, as you said is very sheltered, so it's time for the mom to slowly open the shelter door and use this as an opportunity to discuss with the daughter that life is not all rainbows and sunshine.


I agree. And I think 14 is definitely old enough to handle that kind of material. If she's having trouble with this, she will probably have trouble with all the other books they will be reading all year - she can't just opt out of all the assignments.



Monklady123
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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:29:26 AM

Do YOU have a line? I didn't think I did before today. What if your child were assigned as required reading 50 Shades of Gray? I know that's an extreme to the point of ridiculous example. I'm just wondering if there is a line for the "they should read whatever is required" camp, of which I do consider myself a member.

Personally I've never had a "line" about anything assigned to my kids in school because I feel that our teachers in this county are excellent and know what they're doing in terms of planning. We're very lucky to have such a good school system here and I've never questioned any reading they've been assigned. Of course, if "50 Shades" were assigned to a younger child -- maybe middle school or early high school -- I would object. But, it never would be because like I said, I'm confident that our teachers assign books that are good literature, well-written, and have themes/subjects that will generate a good discussion. "50 Shades" is none of those.

Anyway, often when parents forbid a child from reading a book they find a way to read it away from home. When my dd was in middle school there was a girl whose parents wouldn't allow her to read Harry Potter. They were members of a small conservative Christian church and objected to the witchcraft aspect (I think). So the girl borrowed the books one at a time from a friend and kept them in her locker at school. She would read them whenever she got a chance when she was at school.

Obviously that's not the same thing as the OP's situation though, but it was just a story that came to my mind in responding to the "do you have a line" question.

In case of the dd of the OP's friend...well, I think they could have some good discussions about the book. But if she feels she must talk to someone about it I would think the better place to start would be with the teacher, not with the school board.

eta: actually, now that I think about it "50 Shades" *could* generate some good discussion about things like how does really bad writing get published? and why do books take off like that one did? or even why would a woman allow herself to be manipulated like that? However, I still wouldn't necessarily want my young teen reading it, only an older kid.





pretzels
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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:30:22 AM

Personally, I would have a terribly hard time not finding myself unwillingly seeing the faces of those I know who lived this hell with every line I read, which would make it even worse for me as someone sensitive to this type of imagery.


Honestly, what do you do when you have to face this kind of stuff? Life is hard.

I have to wonder how sensitive people deal when the shit hits the fan. I'd rather my kid learn how to cope with stuff than running away from/avoiding it.

perumbula
oooh, what you said!

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:31:05 AM
My son was assigned a book for a summer reading assignment that was full of gratuitous language and portrayed native Americans in a very negative light. All high school honors English students were required to read the same book, from incoming ninth to incoming 12th grade. It was not a great book and the teacher acknowledged he didn't read it before assigning it. It is an author from our state, so he thought it would be ok. Even though he didn't read it, he was bothered when parents started complaining about the book.

Enough of us complained that the kids were given a very suitable alternate book to do. (the teacher rolled his eyes when he made this announcement. Of course, we have a high school that thinks nothing of showing rated R movies to the students without notifying the parents and makes it difficult for the kids who leave the room rather than watch.) Several kids chose to read the alternate book just because they were more excited to read it than the original.

My advice is to talk to the teacher. There may be an alternate book already available to those who ask. If there is not an alternate, then the parent should have a suggestion ready. She should offer something that discusses difficult life experiences she thinks her dd is ready to discuss. The Book Thief or The Diary of Anne Frank would both be good choices.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




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TheOtherMeg
StuckOnPeas

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:31:28 AM

why is it up to the teacher to decide when a child should begin reading sexually explicit material? And not even sexually explicit...this is violently sexual. Shouldn't that always be a personal choice...even for a 14 year old?

Books are different than movies...the imagines get in your head in a different way as so much more detail must be used to paint the picture.

Teachers are no more adept at making good choices than the rest of the population...and I say that as a teacher. Sometimes we screw up. Sometimes what seems good on the surface is not so grand in retrospect.

I also have a problem with teaching girls that they must do something they are uncomfortable with because it's an expectation from an authority figure. She has a right to her feelings and her level of comfort and should be able to express that freely and ask for an alternative.

I would have great respect for a student who was able to come forward and say this just isn't for me rather than suffer through something that may be hurtful to her.

To this day, I refuse to read scary books as they give me nightmares. Am I wrong to say that's just not for me or is that a right reserved only for adults?

I agree 100% with nanett.

I wouldn't work to have the book removed from the reading list, but I *would* advocate for my DD and ask that she be allowed to read another book -- or write her essay on why she didn't finish this one. If there's no time/opportunity to get permission, I'd make the executive decision right now and tell my DD to write her essay on her feelings about this book to the point where she stopped reading it. If she gets a bad grade, it's not the end of the world. This *is* a hill I would die on.

There's a huge difference between a student who won't read a book because it's "boring" or "stupid" and a student who started it in good faith but cannot get through it because it's too disturbing for her. I just don't see why someone should be forced to read a book that's upsetting to her when she's perfectly willing to read another book. This isn't The One and Only Best Book in the Whole Wide World. Surely there's another book that's worthy of being on a 9th-grade summer reading list.

ETA I don't censor my children's reading. The point being that I allow them to choose their reading material. This girl didn't choose this and, in fact, after reading some of the book, would like to stop reading it. Allowing her to stop is the opposite of censoring, IMO. It's allowing her to choose her reading material, and she's choosing (or she'd like to choose, if she had the power/right to do so) to not read this book.



You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists. ~Abbie Hoffman




Tango1*
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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:34:28 AM
A lot of valid points made in this thread on both sides. I haven't read this particular book so I can't comment specifically, but I suspect that if we were requiring a 14yo to watch a graphically sexual or violent movie, opinions might be different. And I think the written word can impact a person every bit as much as a movie, and even more, so I can certainly understand the argument for not forcing a young teen to read a book like this.

scrappy_princess
Jewelry Lady Pea

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:38:56 AM

ANYway, please remember that "Honors" classes are moving students toward higher-level AP courses which ARE designed to be the same as college-level courses. Perhaps the child isn't ready for that challenge. The book may be disturbing, but we need to be disturbed occasionally to grow.

And, the purpose of summer reading (whether you like it or not) is so that the class can hit the ground running with a book under the students' belt and ready for discussion. It would be difficult to have a discussion if students had a choice of books.


I agree with CheleO. If she is not able to read the book which is going to be part of the class -they should rethink her taking an honors lit course. Books are likely to get more disturbing. Part of studying literature is exploring how the written word is used to convey emotions and how characters bring their world to life for us.

Edited to add: My 13 year old, 8th grader read this in honors advanced lit this past year. The class had lots of discussions and it was rated at the end as the favorite book (from a thematic standpoint) of 18/20 kids in the class.


*betsey*
Jewelry Lady by trade... if you need some bling, give me a ring!

Aggiemom92
PeaFixture

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:49:58 AM

now that I think about it "50 Shades" *could* generate some good discussion about things like how does really bad writing get published?


That is so true! This cracked me up.
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