Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Power of the Mockingbird


Cover courtesy of Amazon.com
As my kids grew and learned to read on their own, I virtually stopped reading to them. Truth be told, not reading to them became one less thing to do in my day. As their sports and various activities increased, this was a welcome change for me.
In an effort to expand my daughter's reading horizons, I decided to go back to it. Not because she needed help, but because there was a book that caught my eye and as she gets older and her questions become more difficult to answer ("Mommy, what does it mean on the news when they say a body was found by the water?") I find that books make a great platform for talking about difficult subjects.

The book I choose is called Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine. The subject matter is intense. The main character is 11 year old Caitlin Smith who has Asperger's Syndrome and has just lost her brother in a random middle school shooting. The story chronicles Caitlin's constant "Working At It" to learn empathy, find closure, and help both herself and her father continue on with their lives.

In our house, we haven't discussed much about Autism spectrum disorders, school shootings, or what it must be like to lose a sibling. However, at almost 10, I felt that these life situations need to be discussed, and discussed early. As my husband and I learned several years ago, if your children don't learn the important life lessons from you, they will learn them from other kids at school. As the "playground news" is unreliable at best, I saw this book as an opportunity to both start reading again with my daughter and open up conversations about Asperger's, empathy, and death.

As with any "new project" there was opportunity written all over this one. My daughter had the opportunity to read out loud, I was able to teach her about symbolism in literature, and she learned about the classic book, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. This was such a great experience for both of us that the next book we are reading together is To Kill A Mockingbird.
What I didn't expect: the connection to the Mockingjay in The Hunger Games series. I'm not sure yet if I'm ready for her to start that series, but with the continuing mockingbird theme, it's a possibility. Where it leads us after that is to be determined.

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