Bunny Days: D-

imagesBunny Days, written by Tao Nyeu lives on the top shelf in my charges room, if I can help it that is.  The top shelf is not an ode to top-shelf liquors, the top shelf is just simply out of her reach and eye-shot so I don’t have to read this disturbing sadistic book.

The story line is simple, there are six bunnies, two goats and one bear.  The author has Mr. Goat “accidentally” mangle the bunnies in each of the mini vignette’s. After the torture has ensued the goat offers no apology, he continues with his daily chores, unaware and unconcerned that he has chopped off the bunnies tails, sucked them into a vacuum, etc. Instead of Mr. Goat taking responsibility for what he’s done, Bear comes to the “rescue,” fixing the bunnies in ways that would never work in real life, like putting them in a washer.  Wouldn’t this only and make their pain and suffering worse?

The few times I’ve read this book I cringe, because the reality of tails chopped and suffocation in the washer, even if it’s on delicate, is all too much for me.  And really what message does it send?  Sure, I guess the message is, “help out your friends when they’ve been beaten and abused” and while this is a good, moral message, it seems  to me the amount of physical brutality is a little unnecessary for toddlers, couldn’t the author have made the point a different way?  Mr. Goat is painted as the bad guy and doesn’t even know it, maybe instead of fixing the Mr. Goats mishaps Bear should put an end to the torture.

Maybe the better message would be, “Hey Goat, pay attention dude, you keep hurting my friends.  What’s going on in your life that you don’t even notice the pain you’re inflicting? Are you depressed?  Let’s get you help!”

Tip: Don’t buy this book, and if you already have it, put it out of sight on the top shelf!

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Llama Llama Time to Share: A+

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Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney is a great book about sharing, a lesson and skill which is one of the hardest to teach and instill in children…and sometimes adults. The thing that I love about the book, and most of the Llama Llama collection is that it offers a lesson which can be easily identified by young children. Llama Llama Time to Share acknowledges the difficulties sharing can entail and the fun which is gained when sharing actually happens.

When the child I watch is having difficulty sharing I reference this book (we read it constantly per her request.)  She immidiately knows what I’m talking about and usually decides to do what Llama Llama would do. This book gets an A+ because the message is clear, relevant and worth learning.

Even Firefighters Go To The Potty: D-

UnknownEven Firefighters Go to the Potty by Wendy and Naomi Wax receives a D- because it’s horribly stereotypical and heteronormative.  As stated in the title, this is a potty training book, but what it really seems to be “training” or instilling in it’s readers is digressive social stereotyping.  Almost all of the professions feature white-males, the only other race imaged in the book is African-American, this is a typical race quota. The race quota can be seen in many late Nineties and early 2000’s shows, where a once all white cast, simply throws in a black person to “diversify.” But really all this does is amplify, and naturalize racism, by assuming that white and black extremes take care of the diversity quota. What about all other races?

The two-African-American MEN imaged in this book fulfill a race stereotype, one is a baseball player, the other is a server.  There might be one woman in the book, but her gender-ambiguity is hard to visually read, especially in comparison with the hyper-masculine male characters.

The ONE (possible)  woman featured has long hair, virtually the only “tell” this might be a woman, all other features are masculine, or hard  to read. In another, more progressive book, I wouldn’t assume this doctor were female, the long hair wouldn’t automatically make me think “female” but in a book that has proved to be socially digressive I’m leaning toward female. Long hair on a guy is just too much.

The possible woman is a doctor… great right? Maybe not, because either the doctor is a male, or the female doctor is, stereotypically unattractive, i.e., looks Vs. smarts. Women, stereotypically are not thought of as being both attractive and smart, you’re either one or the other.

Not every book needs to be ambiguous about gender relations, nor, does every book need to display different races, i.e. books centered around one-race families. The images, alone are to blame for the D- rating this book receives.  They’re so visually digressive that it overshadows any good message which could have been accomplished by simply doing the socially responsible thing of diversifying biological-sex and race through image. In a book which references many different professions including cop, firefighter, baseball player, server, doctor, there should be diversity in biological-sex and race.

The Giving Tree: A+

GivingTree-1The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorite books for children. Why do I love it so much?  Because The Giving Tree provides lessons in emotional education in a beautiful, and simple way.  I also love that the pictures are in black and white, which allows some room for creative imagination.

Interactive Experience:  Ask your child to find the boy.  Throughout the book the “boy” is often hidden in the branches, finding him is a fun interactive way to make them apart of the reading experience.

Dyslexia and Education

UnknownI just saw this piece on Motherlode by Lisa Ogburn  about raising a dyslexic child in standardized world.  I’m dyslexic, and I just recently talked with my mother about the difficulties she had teaching me how to read, the hours she spent going over sounds and words, phonetically with me, only to have me retain little to nothing the following day.   I don’t remember these hours spent learning how to read, but one day I got it.  I became an avid reader, but continued to have issues with numbers, and to this day I have a hard to sounding words out.

I was home-schooled until high school, when I then attended a huge public school, this may have been a mistake, my mom and I debate over this.  I think going to public school had its benefits, such as, understanding who I was, and the ways that I was smart despite being dyslexic.  That I had a personality, a righteousness I was able to exercise and that set me apart from the other kids who seemed to have none. But there was the obvious downside, which is our education system and the standardized tests which riddle every corner of it.

I remember taking an entrance examine before my freshmen year, everyone had to take it, so as to evaluate what class level they should be in.  According to my scores the school wanted to place me in remedial everything, luckily my mom had the final say and placed me honors classes where I could verbally and inwardly strengthen my learning.

My teachers would say that I was smart, that I performed well on homework and in class discussions but my tests were often confusing for them.  I did well on my homework because I had time at home. For most people testing is difficult, it’s a skill that is learned, for people with dyslexia it can be close to impossible.

The education system often made me feel stupid, it’s a feeling I still struggle with now. Luckily I am an adult now, and I can logically understand that the problem isn’t me, or people like me, it’s a fundamental problem within our society and educational system.