Wednesday, September 02, 2009

September has sprung, and the little guy is into his second full week of first grade. The expectations are different, and not just for him. I was given, through that mode of conveyance known as my son's book bag, the assignment of, for ten minutes each day, having him go through a bunch of fact family flash cards with addition and subtraction problems for numbers up to 12. I have to sign off on his sessions on a paper that goes back through the book bag conveyance to the teacher every Friday, at which time the little guy will take a timed math test on the sums he's supposed to have learned.

In all honesty, I hated flash cards when I was his age. I haven't done the ten minutes every single day with him - especially since we went to the hospital for tests last Friday when he couldn't walk on his right leg without pain (he's fine, but 4+ hours of going here, there, and everywhere in the building for one test after another left us both frazzled) - and when I do show him the cards, I don't sit there and keep moving them out each second. Perhaps I'm being too soft on him. I'm going to taint his discipline database for the rest of his school career. Perhaps I'm not using the right stuff to help him learn math.

Perhaps I don't want him to hate math....'cause Lord knows I did, for a looong time.

At least he has a love of reading, though his most recent reading choice has me conflicted and has my husband positively livid with indignation.

"Tell them (aka, his resource teachers at school) he needs to return that book," Dan said last night. "It's not appropriate for him."

You'd have thought, from Dan's reaction, that the little guy had picked out The Anarchist Cookbook, The Joy of Sex, or The Story of O, not Happy Easter, Biscuit!

I mean, it's not like Biscuit the puppy attends the Last Supper and, as the story progresses along the lines of the New Testament, finds Jesus all resurrected and happy to be off the cross in the book. It's just the little puppy and the girl who owns him looking for colored eggs all over the place as forest animals frolic alongside them. It has flaps under which the eggs can be found. It has simple sentences. For some reason, it counts as an "accelerated reading" book.

"Are we going to have an Easter egg hunt, Mom?" I was asked as I read the book to my son last night.

"No, honey, because we're Jewish," I said. "And in actuality, your (under semi-public auspices charter) school probably shouldn't have had those egg hunts your preschool and kindergarten teacher organized in previous years."

The school's argument concerning activities such as the egg hunt was that it was a "cultural exploration"...which is fine...but if they really want to kick cultural exploration into high gear, I wanna see It's Holi in Delhi, Biscuit!, or Fast During Ramadan, Biscuit!, or Biscuit Explores Santeria and Voudon. They cannot go only halfway on this.

With the increased proficiency in the little guy's reading skills, however, comes the realization that I might have to watch what reading material the kid digs into in our own home. And I'm not just talking about profanity-laced material scattered here and there. I'm talking about comics.

Make no mistake. I have an affinity for well-done newspaper comic strips and for the work of pre-Comics Code artists, for more recently-done graphic novels and for what graphic artist Art Spiegelman has termed "comix", a mingling of the comic arts with a compelling story that goes beyond that of your standard graphic novel. So did my husband, until the horrible thieving movers we hired in 2002 when we moved up to NYC from here stole all of his collected comic books, along with his 1920's era saxophone, half my CDs, and our TV, stereo, and VCR. I still feel a twinge of regret when I think of his vanished collection and bygone sax.

So there are Spiegelman's Maus volumes on our shelves, as well as In The Shadow of No Towers, Watchmen, a few other comics volumes and books on comics history, and now, most recently, Josh Neufeld's A.D.

Where I am stuck as far as A.D. goes is whether or not it is appropriate for my going-on-seven-year-old to dig into at this time.

I set myself up for this last week when I picked up my signed copy from the bookstore just before I picked my son up from school and left the book on the front seat of the car. The little guy climbed into the backseat, peered over the front, saw the book, and instantly grabbed it and started flipping through it.

"This is about the hurricane, Mom?"

"Yes, honey," I said uneasily.

flips through pages, studying them intently

"Mom, Katrina was not a very friendly storm, was it?"

"No, it wasn't, kiddo," I said sadly.

We came home, and I snagged the book from him and placed it on a high shelf in my bedroom bookcase. "Can I keep reading the hurricane book, Mom?"

"We'll see. I haven't started it yet," was my attempt at dodging his request. As the week progressed, he asked me a couple more times if he could crack A.D. open. The book has stayed on that high shelf...until today.

I look through it now, and it has a good amount of material and scenes in it that weren't in the online version that was serialized on the Smith website. The book itself is well done; as graphic novels go, it's one of the best ones out there.

But it makes me so very sad and brings me close to tears, the slices of lives it captures. What people lived through and are still living through - it's there, between those covers. Ready when you are.

Ready when my son is, too...but not right now.


saintseester said...

I don't know if I could read the AD book, at least not yet.

And,the flashcards. I hated every minute of them. So I wrote a program that would do it with her on the computer. I know, not portable, but at least she practiced!

Amy said...

Oh that's hilarious. My boy LOVES Biscuit, that is his most special toy. The books are simplistic but they love them. I think it's because they're peaceful and happy.

I'm still giggling over 'Biscuit explores Santeria' ... hope he can avoid the snakepit!

Pistolette said...

Most childrens' books don't mesh with my political or religious non-beliefs, but I've learned to accept that America was founded on judeo-christian ethics and morality, and the world doesn't revolve around me or my kids. I will try my best to interpret everything based on our unique style of thinking, but I won't try to stop them from participating in any religious rituals regardless of faith. I want them to explore and understand all of it. And besides, I never thought of freakin' jesus when I was hunting for easter eggs (and it's technically a pagan beltane ritual anyway!) ;-)