My seventh graders are writing children's books, so we've been reading lots of mentor texts in that genre. This week, I asked them whether all children's stories need to be happy, about cheerful subjects, with a happy ending. Some said yes, and some said no, and then we read a couple of books about sad subjects.
The first was Tight Times, by Barbara Shook Hazen. I found this book several years ago in something I was reading about teaching, and it was recommended for this very purpose: exploring with kids how a difficult topic - in this case, financial problems and unemployment - can be written about in a way that works for young children.
Next we read a book I added more recently to this lesson: Edwidge Danticat's picture book about the Haiti earthquake, Eight Days. One student remembered having the book read to her when she was in the United States after the quake. And all of them, after hearing and talking about the story, were driven to sharing their own earthquake stories - all of them who were in Haiti then, at least, and even a couple who were not, but who remember exactly where they were when they heard.
I've said before that there's something sacred about people's earthquake stories, and I felt it again this week. These students were four or five on January 12th, 2010, but their memories are just as vivid as the ones in all the stories I've heard before. Several of the kids smiled at the funny little kids they were then, as they told of who was with them as they ran outside, who helped them from their beds, what questions they asked, how happy they were when they ran to their parents. Some told of family members or friends who were killed. One said, "My mom hid my eyes so I wouldn't see. But I did see. And I still remember."
As long as we live, our earthquake memories will live. And we will tell them.
4 hours ago