The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker has some really helpful information when it comes to reminding people –primarily women– that paying attention to their gut instincts is good. However, de Becker is a bit of a proselytizer. He grew up in a violent family and managed to survive, and therefore everyone should do what he did and they’ll survive too. It’s frustrating that someone who grew up in a culture of domestic violence would posit that someone who gets hit by a family member/loved more than once is “a volunteer,” especially as on the same page he goes into details about how abusers are controlling including controlling finances, and how women who flee abusers frequently wind up murdered by their abusers. There was just this victim-blamey disconnect between the reality of domestic abuse and what de Becker’s ideal is (that people get smacked around once, have a sudden brilliant wake up, and then stalk out triumphantly never to be abused again). de Becker also buys into some shitty gender essentialism about women being more innately intuitive than men.
One of my favorite parts of the book involves addressing tools that Pick Up Artists use including “negging” (insulting a woman to keep her off balance and hope that she’ll want to prove the insult wrong IE “I bet you’re too proud to accept help” “but of course you’re too stuck up to have a drink with me” etc) and “loan sharking” (forcing a favor/debt on a woman so she owes you IE insisting on fetching/buying her a drink or insisting on carrying things for her). So there’s some really interesting and useful info in here, but there’s also some personal baggage of de Becker’s and some sexist malarky to wade through as well.
I have a kid who might be starting pre-k next year which means, as we live in Chicago, if we want to get him into a gifted/classical/accelerated/magnet/etc school we need to test him this December. And there’s a lot of politics, both personal and other, about choosing a selective school versus neighborhood school, testing, everything. So Nesko and I have been doing a lot of thinking and talking and reading about education and options. “A Family Of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide To Children’s and YA Literature,” edited by Roger Sutton and Martha Paravano, was a welcome diversion amongst all the nonfiction heaviness I’ve been handling lately.
Part of the reason it’s so welcome and not-heavy is that Nesko and I are both readers. We are already doing pretty much everything that will ensure Niko will grow up to love and enjoy books. We have a large variety of books for him, we read to him frequently, we tell him stories and sing him songs, we read instead of watching tv, we go to the library regularly… Look. We’re book nerds. This book is basically written for book nerds. We are the target audience for this book. You probably are too.
And unlike a lot of books about education in general that I’ve been reading, it’s not judgmental or preachy or weirdly Conservative or racist/sexist/classist/homophobic out of nowhere. They define a family as “at least two people who care about each other” and define reading as “books.” And those “books” include comic books, statistics books, audio books, fiction books, fantasy books, all the books that are so often sneered at and looked down upon while being exactly the books that kids enjoy and that can best foster a love of reading. I mean, the prologue talks about the much-loved syndicated comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” and how Calvin’s parents are frequently and consistently seen with books, reading books, with books right near them.
Everyone involved in this book obviously loves books, loves reading, loves sharing their love of books and reading, and loves kids. It’s a delightful and thoughtful book that breaks book categories down into roughly-age-appropriate areas like “reading to them” versus “reading with them” and “reading on their own.” It talks about what makes a good picture book, biography, fantasy book, book about dinosaurs. It talks about the books marketed toward girls and books marketed toward boys. It talks about fostering a love of poetry. And it gives examples of recommended books and why they’re recommended.
I plucked this book from the library on a whim. It caught my eye on the “new arrivals: nonfiction” shelf. It’s so good I plan on buying it and referring to it frequently throughout Niko’s reading career.
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