Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A child's "Europe and the People without History"

How it warms a parenthropologist's heart when this is the book that her daughter has chosen to borrow from the school library!

(The book is The European Invasion.)

Last week, Beanie borrowed a book on the Mohawk, and the week before, books on the Iroquois and the Blackfoot. They are well written and well researched, with historical illustrations and photographs of material culture. They demonstrate that history need not be - indeed, should not be - portrayed to school-aged kids as (only) a series of holiday cartoons. Nor is about simply turning the tables (e.g., Indians good, Europeans bad). We can and ought to teach our kids from an early age to see people, our beliefs, and the consequences of our actions as complicated. It is the complexity of our stories that make our stories (and us) so interesting in the first place.

So, I am so impressed that our school library has books like these. Hooray for our school library!

Beanie only read about 6 or 7 pages in each of the books, which in terms of reading difficulty prob'ly are more appropriate for a 6th or 7th grader. Then she turned her attention back to other books that she is reading at home like The Sisters Grimm series, which BTW is why she has been monopolizing my kindle, or the other night at bedtime, Go, Dog, Go. This is fine with me. I like that she both tries, even persists at reading books that are rather challenging, and still likes to read her favorites.

While StraightMan and I both read with / to her, Beanie prefers to read her library books on her own. So, we are not sure how much she actually comprehends in a book like The European Invasion. However, when we asked the other night what she might want us to help her understand, her question was about smallpox and measles. (More particularly, she wanted to know whether or not she could get sick with them. Beanie, you should know, tends toward hypochondria...) So, we figure that she comprehends enough. I take this as a good reminder that as important as it is for StraightMan and I, as parents, to "check" on Beanie and offer guidance on what she is reading and learning, it is also worth letting her have the freedom to find her own challenges: She will understand what she can understand, and hopefully she always knows that she has two parents who love to talk about subjects like, well, European invasion...

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