Sunday, January 8, 2012

Reading Along on I-94 - A Monster Calls - Part 2

Lots of people have been talking about A Monster Calls and our Reading Along on I-94 discussion! I love that more people are reading this book! It didn't win a YA Nerdy for nothing.

Just to get you up to speed, I chose Patrick Ness' A Monster Calls for Colby (sharpread) to read this month. We started our discussion last week before even starting to read the book. This week, we're about 28 pages into the book and will be around page 100 next week. You can read Part 1 in case you missed it.

Colby: Okay, I’ve read 28 pages of A Monster Calls and I feel sad. Not cry sad, just hurt sad. I really like when children’s literature deals with difficult issues, and I love talking about these issues with kids. For me, it is hardest to read books where the main character is forced to grow up to fast.

I hate reading about Connor having to act like an adult. When I see my own students have to deal with situations at home that make force them to grow up fast, it kills me inside. A 10 year old should be able to be 10, and not have to act like a 13 or 14 year old. Childhood is so precious and so short, I guess that is why I try so hard to value it at home with my own children.

Jen: I think it's terribly sad for kids to have to experience hardships when they are so young. Unfortunately, it is reality for lots of kids. That's why I think it's so wonderful that authors are writing about these topics. It can help for kids who are dealing with something similar and for those who are not to develop empathy for those who are.

It reminds me of Laurel Snyder's Bigger Than a Breadbox. The main character has to deal with her parents' separation but her mom doesn't even know how to handle her own emotions so she can't be there for her. Connor's poor mom isn't in a place to comfort Connor because she is dealing with her own health.

I just finished an adult book called Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch. She read a book everyday for a whole year to help her mourn and come to grips with her older sister's death. Towards the end of the book she writes about the kindness her sister showed her when she was alive. She explains that demonstrating kindness helps her remember her sister. She shares this quite from Plato, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." (p. 202) Sankovitch then writes, "Kindness is a positive and vigorous force to make a connection across a divide."  (p. 202)

What if we all could think more consciously about each other and show more kindness towards the battles that we are fighting? This book is just one example of how a book can help kids and adults recognize what some battles might look like.

Colby: All this sadness makes me want to just hug my kids. *Hugs kids* I feel much better now.

In the past I have always thought about the effects that reading children’s literature has on the way kids live their lives. Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how reading so many children’s books helps me to be a better parent.

It seems like a lot of bad parents jump into my head, but I’m going to write real quick about an awesome set of kid lit parents. I LOVED the parents in Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner. Quite often I see parents pushing their kids crazy hard in athletics. I use to worry that I would be that crazy parent that yells and screams at sporting events, but I’ve been very careful to put my childrens’ interests in front of my own. In Sugar and Ice, Clare’s parents are so supportive of Clare. Even at the end, with the twist, Clare’s parents step up big time.

I’m thankful that I have kid lit to help be learn and grow as a dad.

Jen: It does seem like a lot of time in kidlit the parents are nonexistent or they are inattentive. But that needs to be the case sometimes for the characters to be able to go off and experience things and grow on their own. There are some really horrible kidlit parents but I think there are also some really great kidlit parents.

When I became a parent, I started reading books in a different way. I think as a parent I realized how important my role is. Obviously, parents are important, but reading books about kids who really need their parents or are stuck with not-so-great parents made me realize even more how invaluable I am to my own kids.

Speaking of growing as a parent with kidlit, I think reading kidlit also helps me as a teacher, too. When Connor gets bullied at school and Lily stands up for him, Miss Kwan only sees Lily pushing Sully. I like Miss Kwan but it’s obvious that she doesn’t really see what is going on. It makes me question how I view problems students are having and make me want to be more aware of what is going on.

I love how Patrick Ness describes how Connor feels when Sully teases him about his mom. “Conor’s stomach contracted to a ball of fire, like a little sun burning him up from the inside...” (p. 10) If I was Miss Kwan I don’t think I would have guessed how angry Connor was feeling inside.

Totally changing the subject...on page 26, we read about Connor’s friendship with Lily and that she betrayed his privacy and trust by telling everyone about his mom. Connor has never forgiven her for that, much less forgotten. I think it’s interesting that the topic of trust comes up again in this book. It was a big part of Mattie’s story in Hound Dog True by Linda Urban. Mattie felt alone and troubled by her shyness and in a similar way, I think Connor feels like he is all alone in dealing with his anger over his mom’s sickness.

I thought I was changing the subject from growing as a parent and a teacher but maybe this is a key to recognizing when kids need us most: when it seems like they don’t have anyone they can or want to confide in. Maybe that’s when we ask how they are doing and ask how we can help and ask if they have someone to talk to. Maybe as adults we are the best people to be someone they can trust.

Colby: It’s important that as teachers we are always listening. Sometimes things get so busy and we get caught up in all the things that we need to get done, that it is hard to hear when a kid is in need of our help. If we are not listening and we do not hear them, then who will? Also, if we don’t hear them and their needs are not being met, then we have little chance of teaching them anything anyway.  You can know everything in the world about reading, writing ,and math, but if you don’t build relationships you can only go so far.

Thanks for reading along with us and sharing your thoughts on this amazing book. We would love to hear what you have to add to our discussion!

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