A couple of us parents volunteered to lead book group discussions for the year 6 class. So today I sat down with five students to discuss The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, written by John Boyne.
For those of you haven’t read it, it’s a novel about a boy whose father is commander of one of Hitler’s concentration camps.
The children had been asked to read to chapter 7. (We are going to meet over three weeks.) Most had managed to get to chapter 2. That’s fine, I said, let’s talk. And they were their usual bright-eyed, squiggly, opinionated selves.
Half-way through the half-hour session, though, I realized they didn’t know what a concentration camp was. The things you take for granted.
And yet they immediately understood the idea of turning some segments of society into ‘The Other.’
This is a class which defines multiculturalism: the backgrounds include British (obviously), Danish, Ecuadorian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, American, Australian, Jamaican, Somali. Their religions are equally varied.
‘Yes,’ said one boy, ‘I’ve seen some of it in my neighborhood. The gangs. They turn on each other for the stupidest reasons.’
‘And religion, everyone now fights about religion.’
And there were more interesting comments but for privacy reasons I won’t go into them (they didn’t asked to be blabbed or blogged about). But it did make me realize how much our children are influenced by their parents.
Which is why books are so important: they provide new opinions.
At the end of the discussion, one boy understandably wasn’t too keen to keep reading a sad book. “There is a lot of sadness around, do I have to read about it too?”
You tell me.
photo by TW collins (flickr)