The school year is about to start tomorrow, and it seems to be a consistent thing in our district for students to get a summer reading packet and other assorted problems to work on. I had thought it was something that was done for elementary school kids only (since Kaitlyn is in elementary school and has had summer homework every year), but I learned last week that high school students also have summer reading assigned.
Usually, I don’t give much more than a passing glance to many of the headlines in our local paper (we only get the Sunday paper anyway), but one caught my eye last week. “Dropped reading assignment raises questions of censorship.” I was intrigued, so I starting reading the article. Then I was even more interested.
At one of our local high schools, the students were assigned a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. What got me interested was the description of the narrator of the story, a 15 year old British boy attempting to figure out who killed a neighborhood dog; he is described as a “mathematical whiz, with traits similar to Asperger Syndrome.” You can probably imagine why that would get me interested.
The boy in the novel is described further as “seeing and hearing in an almost emotionless way, including when adults around him curse or doubt the existence of God.” That sounded really familiar.
Anyway, a week before the start of school, a local principal pulled the book from the summer reading list. It didn’t take long to figure out why the principal made such a decision (an idiotic decision in my opinion): concerns over “the delivery of the text.” By this point, my blood pressure was increasing, but I kept reading. What struck me even more was a quote from a parent, most likely one of the few who complained loud enough to get the book pulled, “…but to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain–I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female I was offended.” Seriously? Maybe try looking deeper and not making it about you.
I ordered the book online, starting reading it Friday during my lunch, and finished it today. Is there salty language in there? Yep. Is the existence of heaven brought into question? Yep. Is the name of Christ taken in vain? Yep. Do I think the book should have been pulled? Nope. Will I let Kaitlyn read it when she is a little older? Absolutely!
While I was reading the book, I could see different traits of Kaitlyn coming through in the narrator. Good at math. Logical and rational thinker. Difficulty with jokes and sarcasm. Literal application of words. All of those things are true about the narrator, and are true about Kaitlyn, and are true about so many other kids. It’s called Asperger Syndrome.
My advice to the mom I quoted above, and who was quoted in the local paper would be to get over yourself. It is a book, written from the perspective of someone who has a brilliant mind and no filter. That is life. As a self-described “Christian woman,” I would have expected her to show tolerance and understanding of a book written from the perspective of a child who is probably not like her perfect little angel. It is people like her, who cannot seem to accept people who are not like them, that make life difficult for people like Kaitlyn. Instead of attempting to understand people who may be “different,” they are shut out and shunned. That is not really the way I want to go about my life.
If you get a chance, pick up this book and read it with an open mind. You might learn something about yourself, and you might learn something about people like Kaitlyn.