Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Reading to Teach

Cover of the book hidden

Thanks to Facebook friends who posted the link, I read this article, "Holocaust Remembrance Day 40 Mighty Girl Books About the Holocaust" on the site A Mighty Girl. Thanks to the DC Library system, I was able to quickly request one of the books recommended for smaller kids, hidden: a child's story of the Holocaust written by Loïc Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano and colored by Greg Salsedo.

And I do mean to repeat my thanks to many people, because I have wondered for years how I would ever introduce our child to the Holocaust and the events surrounding it.

I was caught off guard on the anniversary of 9/11 when our child, walking home hand-in-hand with me, told me he knew about "the towers that fell" because his teacher had read him a book. We found the book they'd read, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein, and read it together. I had wanted to tell him about the Towers and my memories, but I never knew how to start that conversation. Thanks to his teachers, the author and the availability of books, we could continue the conversation at home. Knowing I could talk about 9/11 with our child made me feel braver about continuing hard discussions with him.

I cried while reading hidden this morning with our five year-old. He sat close, his head on my shoulder, and was very attentive. We paused at times to discuss the text and images. Not everything was directly described, but some basic facts, fears and questions were addressed in the book. I practiced being quiet and giving him space to ask questions. He didn't, but I imagine he will one day and we can work to find answers (that is, where there are answers.)

Mr. Rogers says, "look for the helpers." hidden does just that from a child's perspective. But how do we explain the others who did even worse than not helping? I don't know and I'm not sure that there's a book that shares the answers, but I do know that we will keep reading and learning about how to best grow into a helper.

The luxury of choosing when and how to discuss these hard subjects is a great privilege. We didn't earn that privilege and we owe it to the world to keep learning and working to make each human as safe as possible.

My partner and I pledge to continue to educate our child as well as we can, no matter how hard it is for us. Thank you to the many authors, teachers, librarians and friends who make that possible.

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