Books Have Their Limitations
Updated: Jun 20, 2020
When talking about difficult topics, books are no substitute for honest conversations.
I love books. When well written, they paint pictures, bring clarity, and can help explain a world that is sometimes difficult to understand. In the midst of unearthing the ceaseless oppression of people in our nations, I see countless cries on social media for how to talk to our children. The need for #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #LGBTQ, #Indigenous, #Immigrants are constant reminders that we need to do better as a people. When our children come to us with questions, as a parent, it's okay to say "I don't know." But before we run to a book for answers, let's tell the truth of our lived experience and take the time to have thoughtful conversations.
One practical exercise is to create your own "I Remember" memoir. I remember the first time I was asked where I was from, because I was "so well-spoken". I remember when I didn't stand up for someone else, because I didn't know what to say. I remember reading the news and crying for hours because I was afraid. Share your memoir with your children—as appropriate—and listen carefully to their questions. You don't need to be an expert in history or sociology to have a meaningful conversation with your child about difficult topics. Your competency will be your honesty.
Education is messy. And educating children is even messier. Translating the dissonance between our aspirations and reality can be both daunting and disheartening; but parents are the first and forever educators, so it's on us to help our children to make sense of their worlds. Although we may feel like we've made blunders in the past, it's never too late to make up for a missed opportunity. So let's talk with our children, and when we use books, let's use them as a springboard to an authentic conversation and not as a shield from the raw truth.
Markus Hunt is an educator, writer, speaker, and musician living in Aurora, Colorado.