On my about page I reminisced about reading To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, as required reading while attending elementary school. Then today comes an article across my desk that this classic is being removed from an 8th-grade reading list in Biloxi, Mississippi. Really, 8th-grade? I read that book in the 5th grade. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Apparently there are words in it that some find offensive – a target word these days. To them I say close the book and don’t read it. It’s your loss. Who could possibly be offended by Atticus Finch, Scout…even Boo Radley or the black man falsely accused of raping a white woman and how all their lives intertwined?
Is this the way it is here in America now? When someone is offended many are effected? Maybe the bigger problem is comprehension skill. They’re not understanding what they’re reading. A word is noticed so the whole book is trashed. Why are these kids not reading this wonderful story until the 8th-grade? Why three years behind everyone else?
Not Academically Prepared
I was born, raised and educated in the northeast. In the 4th-grade we had a new student in our class who hailed from Florida. Her father’s job had transferred to Pennsylvania. She was supposed to go to the 6th-grade but was put back in the 4th-grade with us. I asked why they did that and her exact words were:
“They said I’m not academically prepared.” A vicious blow to her delicate self esteem.
I’ve often thought of her throughout the years and wondered if somehow she was later retested and put in the grade she was supposed to be in. I know for a fact that schools in the south are 2-4 years behind everyone else and children transferring from the south to the north struggle terribly. How is this allowed to happen?
The Field Trip
Back some years ago I chaperoned a 4th-grade class field trip in the Florida school system. Students were tasked with finding and identifying plants growing in a nature park. About 5-6 children were grouped with me. Each child was given a sheet a paper with a picture of the plant and the corresponding paragraph describing it. Each child struggled reading their paragraph aloud. They were not even reading 1st-grade level. My eyes welled up with tears. I turned to blink them away.
Before The Trip
Before leaving on the trip they did a classroom participation exercise using a closed circuit TV. A program called “Brain Gym” was turned on. What I saw next was appalling. A woman comes on the screen and as if she were talking to a circle of toddlers says “Take your thumb and put it on your neck…” in a soft sing-song for babies voice.
My mouth flew open almost hitting the floor watching this woman put her thumb to her neck as if instructing toddlers to do the same. It took every fiber of my being to not explode in my seat. Breathing became strained. I last saw this stuff eons ago in kindergarten at the age of 5 years old. These were 9 year old 4th-graders! Couldn’t believe it. This, instead of a page from To Kill A Mockingbird or some other beneficial and rewarding book to enhance reading skills. Astounding.
Don’t Rob the Children of this Time-honored Classic
Removing To Kill A Mockingbird from any school reading list is a travesty. The children are being robbed of a reading experience they would dreamily remember for the rest of their lives. I recommend all parents get this book for your young ones to read and enjoy. Sit with them and discuss it. Rent the movie for them too!