Do you know what books your children are reading in school? As a book nerd and teacher, I like to be aware of what my boys are reading. Both of them get excited when I am able to chat and ask them questions about the characters, plot, and beyond.
When NHL started middle school last year, I tried to keep up with what he was reading. The last novel that they read in sixth grade was brutal. I will admit that I fell asleep several times and could not read it. The book was not one I would have selected, but apparently New York State had picked it for their EngageNY modules.
This year, I wanted to know when NHL started a book so I could keep up on what he’s learning in school. Thankfully, NHL mentioned to me several months ago that they started the first book for seventh grade ELA. I picked up a copy of the book. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is another book that I may have skipped over. I try not to judge a book by its cover, but something else got me. I started to listen to the audio version of the book which is partially based on a true story. Within minutes, the audio included gun fire and kids racing from a war zone outside of their school.
I admit that I sent a text to TechyDad because I was floored with the book choice. A lot of questions went though my mind.
- Why were they reading this book in seventh grade?
- What is the connection with the curriculum?
- Would the subject matter bother my son?
- How would the kids react to the war and deaths associated with it?
I took a deep breath and waited to talk to NHL about the story. He was not far into the reading and told me generic things about Nya and Salva. He explained how one was a fictional girl and the other a real boy from Sudan. For those that are not familiar with the book, here is a brief synopsis via the author in the book trailer.
Rather than contact NHL’s teacher about the book, I posted on Facebook to my family and friends. I was curious if any people had read the book and if they knew why it may have been selected. This is when I was told more about Salva Dut and his connection to New York State (I had not gotten far enough in the book to make the connection to know this on my own). My friend is a teacher in the Buffalo area and she told me great things about the book. She explained that I needed to give it more time. I mentioned how I was listening to the audio and it had extra embellishments that made me question things more. I was happy to hear that most seventh graders do extremely well with the book and discussions. My choice in the audio book likely clouded my initial judgment. In addition to this, she told me about Salva Dut going to her school and an event that her students attended to learn about Water for South Sudan.
I finished reading A Long Walk to Water before NHL. Every few days, I would check in to see where they left off in school. I wanted to know if they had talked about some deaths in the book. In addition to this, I was curious if they took more time to talk about the Sudanese “Lost Boys” that came to the United States. The connection to Rochester and New York State was big. Current events also could factor into this and I was curious if they talked about refugees that continue to come to our country from places like Sudan that are involved in war.
While I may have been concerned about the book at the start, I am glad that my initial feelings changed. A Long Walk to Water opened my eyes to the life of Salva Dut, the connection to refugees in New York State, and how teaching kids about this is important. While it may not have been my initial choice to read, I am happy that I read it along with my son to discuss the important topics that came up within it. Listening to Linda Sue Park’s recent TEDx talk has made me an even bigger fan of this talented author. This talk explains why A Long Walk to Water is so important for our children to read.
When I initially wrote this post, I had not seen the video above. It left me with goose bumps when you hear how much the young readers have raised for Water for South Sudan. This shows the power of a book that engages readers and makes them want to do more to assist others in need. As an educator and parent I am in awe of Linda Sue Park and thankful for the gift of her words in A Long Walk to Water. Now kids across the country can find the power to fight the worlds unfairness and so much more.
What books are your children reading in school and do you usually read them? As always, Tuesday Tales is all about sharing our love of books. What are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?