Reader, we finished it.
If you read my last post you’ll know I was reading The Island with my class and had stopped at a crucial point in the narrative. It wasn’t a happy ending and we talked about how nobody had really won; not the islanders, with their huge walls, insulating them from the outside world; certainly not the main character, shipped back out to sea to face his fate.
It led into all sorts of conversations about how we blame an entire people group for the actions of one member. My class of majority Muslim children needed to talk about why people blame Muslims for terrorism. They needed to discuss preconceived ideas they might have about other people from different faiths or no faith. They needed to find similarities between us all, and how we’ve all been judged by people who don’t really know us. They wanted to talk about how that would feel and times they might have been doing the judging themselves. We talked about how the myths and lies grew up about the man in the story and how you can’t always trust what you read in the papers or online. It felt like we were discussing the weighty things of the world that actually matter, because we were.
Then we closed the book and left it there. Interestingly, I had borrowed it from a colleague and the children were upset when it had to go back. From my perspective, it was hard to leave the story without doing any follow up work, but it felt right. Because at the end of the year they have become children who can be entrusted with a great text. They can be trusted to do the work of finding their own meanings, and making their own connections with it. They have become children who are responsive and thoughtful, willing to think about how a text might shape their own lives.
They have become readers.