Exposing ourselves to experiences outside what we know. I just finished reading one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. One Thousand Hills is a recounting of the time leading up to the Rwandan genocide and it has me completely engrossed. The final chapter and seeming epilogue had me so gripped I lost track of time. I had some background knowledge of the Rwandan Genocide but the scope of it's enormity I had no idea. The parallels that could be drawn today to other crisis around the world are simply chilling. I am currently reading A Long Walk to Water with my class and it lightly discusses the crisis in Sudan. This text is another example of how we can use stories to explore topics like refugees and genocide in a way that is both informative and engaging. I hope to use One Thousand Hills with my class. Edited a bit but as close to the material as possible.
Picture Books serve a purpose far beyond "looking at nice pictures". Peter Reynolds writes and illustrates wonderful stories about inclusion, creativity and kindness. Tango makes Three by Justin Richardson explores family beyond the "traditional sense". My wonderful wife found me the most wonderfully touching story titled "Out". The story of a refugee family leaving a war torn area and adjusting to their new lives. The ending is a tear jerker but the story helps the reader to be in the characters shoes. My classroom has no refugees but we do have kids that deal with tough things in their lives they can relate to this character in a different situation with that connection.
Critical Thinking is a life skill we will use forever. If we are never challenged in our thinking, if we are only exposed to literature that agrees with our mindset we will not grow. A book that discusses issues of race, poverty and religion that are contrary to our thoughts does not necessarily change our thoughts but it hopefully will make us look at them further. Questioning and thinking about our own positions should lead us to new conclusion. We will either strengthen our positions with evidence or we will realize there is perhaps a better position to take. Reading can bring us to this in a way that not many things can. Just the other day my Trump supporting students (they are in grade 6 so cut them some slack) read an article about the restrictions Trump placed on immigrants coming from primarily Muslim nations. The article did not say it was wrong just simply discussed the impact on those seeking asylum or those coming to see family or even legal residents returning home from vacation. After reading, their stance was challenged that his decisions are all "GREAT" and they wanted to learn more about why he did what he did. It will lead to further conversations. Thought provoking articles, picture books and novels, all literature, helps us to develop more as individuals. Reading a book like Diary of a Wimpy kid is great. My students love them, I have not read them so I can't say they are not thought provoking, but I feel safe in saying stories like it serve a different purpose than books like One Thousand Hills, Child Soldiers, Tango Makes Three or Freak the Mighty. Reading serves many purposes causing us to think is just one of the best ones. Until next time.
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