Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Under Pressure

I have a dilemma.  Olivia wants to start reading the Twilight series and see the movies and thus far, I haven’t allowed it because at only 10 years old, I don’t think the series is age-appropriate for my girl. 

I’m an avid reader and Olivia is also becoming an avid reader and that makes me ecstatic.  On one hand, I’m happy she’s interested in reading the books, but on the other hand, I have to mediate her choices. 

Last year, I spoke with Olivia’s English teacher about the Twilight books and she mentioned she had banned the books from the lower school.  She explained that a lot of the 4th grade girls were reading the book and seemed to be obsessed with the books.  She also said that she didn’t think 8-10 year olds should be reading the books.  My reasoning for banning the books last year was bolstered by this teacher’s input and seemed to placate my dear girl for a bit, but with the media blitz surrounding the release of New Moon and all of her friends cackling about the book and the movie, she’s now doubled her efforts in getting my permission to read the books and see the movies.   Sure, I know I’m the parent and what I say goes, but my “It’s not age-appropriate” mantra is wearing thin.

I reached out to the same English teacher a few weeks ago and explaining the pressure I’m under, I asked if she thinks Olivia’s ready for the books. She offered a solution that absolutely won’t work for me… she suggested that although she still thinks the series isn’t age-appropriate for Miss Olivia, that maybe Olivia and I could read the series with Olivia and by doing this, I could mediate how Olivia processes the story and the subtext of non-sexual sexual tension between the two main characters.

O.K., as much as I’d like to think I’m that kind of mom, willing to sacrifice my beloved reading time to bond with my beloved girl over the tales of the Twilight saga, I don’t think it’s going to happen.  I’m way too selective about what I read and I’ve never been into vampires.

Fortunately, another teacher from the kids’ school recently posted her favorite books for African American middle school students on Facebook.  Thanks Tr. Ericka… this list is right on time!

My Top 10 African American Books for Older Readers

Here are my favorites for older kids (5th-8th Grade) I have read these books, or used them in lessons when I instructed a Civics Class and Enrichment Classes for 5th-8th Grade. I think that this list may be a mix of Fiction and Nonfiction, I really liked some in each category.

1. Eyes on the Prize-Juan Williams and Julian Bond-NONFICTION
This book literally changed my life. My grandfather gave this book to me when I was in the 8th grade, and I read it until the book practically fell apart. IT'S A SERIOUS BOOK, so it's not light reading, BUT it's got amazing detail and black and white imagery that you won't ever forget. SOME GRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHY.

2. Freedom Riders-Ann Bausum-NONFICTION
The Freedom Riders remain some of the most heroic and fearless individuals to ever be forgotten about by American History. This book discusses the Freedom Rides that took place all over the country, to test the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, in detail. SOME GRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHY.

3.Miracle's Boys-Jacqueline Woodson-FICTION
I think that Jacqueline Woodson might have her finger on the pulse of the African American Urban Adolescent. Miracle's Boys is a book about loss, forgiveness, redemption and the family bond that endures. Three boys deal with the harsh realities of life in NYC, they must learn to depend, and forgive each other, and themselves.

4. Locomotion-Jacqueline Woodson-FICTION
This book is written in journal form, a POWERFUL tool for a middle school student to understand and utilize. Lonnie uses writing to come to terms with what is happening to him and his sister.

5. Bird-Angela Johnson-FICTION
An interesting book about a young girl and how she follows her stepfather, convinced she can make him return home.

6. Brown Angels-Walter Dean Myers-POETRY/PHOTOGRAPHY
You read right-Walter Dean Myers! I love this book-it is definitely angled toward the girls, but it's filled with beautiful and diverse images of young girls and boys. The poems are endearing and the photography shows all the beautiful shades of black and brown.

7. Monster-Walter Dean Myers-FICTION
This book has SERIOUS CONTENT and may be too much for anyone younger than 7th grade. It's a novel written in mixed media, some of it as a journal, others in the form of a movie screenplay-as a youth that is charged withand incarcerated for a serious crime, tries to come to terms with reality, and the consequences that can result from one bad decision.

8. Love that Dog-Sharon Creech-FICTION
A boy that hates poetry learns to use it as a tool of expression, and a tool for helping him deal with a traumatic event that he finds difficult to remember.

Kadir Nelson's personal reflections on the amazing and historical words of Barack Obama through artistic expression. Beautiful, reflective and empowering.

10. Witness-Karen Hesse-FICTION
This book is exceptional as it uses perspective to examine what happens to a small town in the 1920's when the Klu Klux Klan arrives.

*As a resource for your young historian who asks you questions you can't answer...
A true and factual handbook for any truth seeking young history buff!

THERE are many, many more-but these are the tried and true that I have read, and would purchase for any of my friends children, as well as my students. Again, they are generally for middle school. As the content begins to mature, you have to be careful what you expose the "tweens" in your life to, let them be young as long as they can....I'll keep you posted on anything else that I come across.


Angella Lister said...

10 might be too young for the twilight series, it's true. especially since i think the main female character has some dependency issues, and the main male character kind of stalks her! that's just my opinion, which i shared with my daughter, 15. my daughter loves the books but gets irritated with the main female character when she won't stand up for herself. which is a lot. the later books are also more explicit.

okay, now to play devil's advocate. my parents never ever censored my reading. they felt if i wanted to read something, i was ready to process it, for better or worse. i actually read a lot of not age appropriate stuff really early, and don't feel worse for wear. i so appreciated being able to read whatever i chose, that i decided never to censor my own children's reading either. of course that is a personal choice that every parent must make for her own children.

if you do let her read them, though, you should really also read them, not necessarily together, but you'll want to discuss Bella (main character)'s wimpiness and wilting-ness at certain points, and talk about how she might empower herself more.

the real reason teen girls love these books, i think, is that Bella has two hot boys who love her so much they would die for her, and devote their lives to protecting her. it's a teen girl's fantasy, to be so sought after. olivia might not be there yet. she might actually get bored as there is a lot to wade through. it's not great literature (again, my humble opinion).

anyway, it's a happy problem. your girl wants to read!

Nerd Girl said...

Hmmm....I understand your concerns (generally speaking - I've never read the books) but am not a big fan of censoring children's reading materials - with the obvious exception of erotica.

Like Angella, my parents did not censor what I read and I likely will not censor what Lovegirl reads. I believe by the time I was Olivia's age I'd inhaled The Color Purple, 'Sippi, and other books which were clearly not meant for the pre-teen set. I don't think I suffered any negative effects - my parents may beg to differ.

In the end, you will have to do what you're comfortable with. Best wishes in your decision making process!

Mango Mama said...

Angella & Nerd Girl, Thanks so much for your insights. I, like you, read a lot of books when I was younger which may not have been age-appropriate and don't think I'm any worse for the wear.

My blogposts are linked to my FB page and I've received a lot of comments on this post. It looks like folks are split 50/50, and I think I'm going to stick with not letting her read the series just yet. We will be heading to the library soon to see if there's any Judy Blume I can turn her onto to. She read a lot of Blume when she was younger and I loved Blume's stuff when I was younger. I'll do bit of research to see if there's any Blume books that are tween-appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I believe if the girl wants to read let her read!

Anonymous said...

Mango Mama, if you ever think that you are being too hard, please know that you are doing the right thing. The world has far too many influences on our children and access to them is much easier than it was when we were young. I learned at an early age, that the reason my siblings & I were so different from some of the other kids in our neighborhood, was because of the rules, censorship and everything else that my parents put in place. I was in the8th grade when I decied to check out a library book for teens about our bodies. One day, while recess, my mother drove by the schoolyard (on her lunch break) and shook the book out of the car window. I don't remember if I was embarassed, because the overwhelming feeling was that my mother loved me and was concerned about what I was reading. Today, as the mother of an extremely bright, almost 8 year old son, with advanced intelligence, I have made it a point to read or at least scan the books that he brings home from the library. My biggest challenge is that his father exposes him to R rated movies and many other things that a child his age should not see, when he visits w/him. But I will not give up and pray to God that the example and moral compass I am setting will help guide him to make the best choices and decisions, when the time comes. Don't get tired, weary or worn! I tell mine, I'm bigger, older, wiser and smarter (at least for now)and I will win! I know you and I know that you will win, too!

Daphne Of Argos said...

I have to agree with most of the comments already left. I haven't read the twilight series, but my fiance has, saw the movie though, and most of the situations I saw, I think a ten year old would have a hard time understanding. I recently came across some series that I found to be entertaining meant for younger kids, The Sister's Grimm series by Michael Buckley. the main character is starting her "tween" years and has to deal with life in a town of fairy tale creatures (who never age) and help solve mysteries

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