Because I am a reader and have several grandchildren who love to visit the farm, I like to have a selection of good books around that are in their reading ranges. After all, farm visits can't be continuous adventures or Grandma runs out of gas too soon. My latest find is this jewel, PAX, by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Pax is the story of an eleven-year-old boy, Peter, and his pet fox named Pax. When Peter's father enlists in the army, Peter goes to live with his grandfather and is forced to return Pax to the wild, although Pax has never lived in the wild. From there the book is told in the voices of both Pax and Peter as they embark on their roads toward reconnecting.
This book is about honesty in relationships. It is about war and peace, and the costs they demand. It is about facing problems and working toward solutions. (It is also about the lives of foxes in the wild.) The magic of the book is that all those subjects are written about in terms to which young people entering their teen years can easily relate. It isn't even Young Adult, it is what they call a Middle Reader book, written for readers in 3rd through 6th grades. These subjects: who we are at our core, how to have honest relationships, how to face hardship and work through it, the costs of war and violence, are subjects that require good mental and psychological tools and role models before they can be approached with confidence. It seems that we often let our children stumble into their teen years without the necessary preparations. This book will help. I recommend reading it simultaneously with your child (not necessarily as a family book, but at the same time) and setting aside some time to discuss, nonjudgmentally, their feelings and understanding of what they have read. To let their peers teach them about how to navigate the roiling waters of the teen years is a huge mistake with some very dire consequences.
It seems to me that our society hurries children through their childhood years of innocence, exposing them too quickly toward movies/video games with content beyond their ability to understand. Images with too much violence, mean talk unkindness. Children are very visual and images make lasting impressions on the young. Schools are overwhelmed with the amount of academic information that needs to be taught, so the burden of raising solid, compassionate, thinking young adults falls where it should, on the family. We can not assume children know or think as we do. We can not assume they know right from wrong, especially if the images they are viewing on a screen are sending contradictory messages to their wide-open young minds.
I remember the teachers at the school where I taught saying they thought a certain young girl in third grade was slow because she was still innocent and dressed like a child. The girl was 8, bright as a new penny, and full of artistic talent. Her parents had chosen to shield her from movies and video games with content and language beyond her years. In actuality, that girl was what an 8-year-old should have been, a