Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Sunday, February 6, 2011

There are three sides to every story

Teaching a child to consider different perspectives can be a challenge but, without doubt, well worth the effort. If we truly want our children to be active participants in their own lives and in the global community they have been thrust in, it is incumbent upon us to teach them and make sure they understand that there are at least 3 sides to every story (his side, her side and the truth). Our kids need to learn how to effectively communicate their sides of the story and how to listen carefully to the other side(s). So much easier said than done, right?! Not surprisingly, books can be a powerful tool to drive the point home.

Jon Sciezska gave the wolf a voice in The True Story of The Three Little Pigs and created a "side" that was so compelling that one of our daughters used to get very sad and cry about the mistreatment of the wolf.

It's brave for an author to take on the presentation of perspectives other than the protagonist. When it's done well, though, the reading experience is so much richer and the thoughts provoked, so much more profound. One such brave foray was Sharon Dogar's Annexed, the fictionalized story of Peter van Pels, the very real teenage boy who hid in the attic for more than two years with Anne Frank during the Holocaust. I hope schools will consider using this book as a companion novel to the entirely non-fiction classic Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl when teaching about the Holocaust or man's inhumanity to man and the triumph of the human spirit. Dogar uses the diary to set parameters, provide historical accuracy and set the stage for Peter's story. It's a very smart work of historical fiction, a heart-wrenching tale and a powerful example of the strength of a new perspective.

A recurring topic throughout this blog and a hot topic at schools and among kids, seemingly now and forever, is the issue of bullying. Consider the brave and clever work of Mark Shulman in Scrawl, a story from the perspective of the bully. You may not want to feel sympathy for or like a bully but it's never a bad idea to see where someone or something is coming from, to gain understanding and insight into what makes them tick.

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