Teaching the Children – Part II

Another children’s book that I found at a museum is, What Was the March on Washington? by Kathleen Krull. It’s written at about a third or fourth grade reading level, so it is a bit more advanced than the picture books I showed yesterday.

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This book is 105 pages long, and it gives a brief sketch of many of the major Civil Rights events of the 1950’s and 1960’s. It is illustrated with many black-and-white drawings, and in the center of the book there are many pages of photographs. I think it is one of the best $6 purchases I could have made.

Now for the critique. It is very challenging to find the best way to teach this history to children. This book is, at one point, very graphic. It describes lynchings as “a public hanging that could be imposed for any offense, even an imaginary one. The body would be left dangling for others to see.” And there is a drawing of a lynched man. I know that it is important to teach this, because it is a tragic part of our history. However, the targeted audience of third or fourth graders are only 8 or 9 years old. Is this too graphic? Will it be too frightening? I don’t know; I’m just raising the question. I don’t have a problem with the text; it is the drawing that I am questioning.

A more pointed critique is the author’s definition of racism: “Racism in America is the belief among some white people that they are better than black people.” (p. 2). I think this is a dangerously distorted definition of racism. Do you agree? What would be a better definition?

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