My First Grader's Book Shocker

I hope readers will find the following true story amusing as well as informative, and besides, sharing it gives me an excuse to brag about what a great reader my daughter is. My first grader reads at a level 4.1, which is the level a beginning fourth grader is expected to be reading. She gets a book each week that she is to read, and also is sometimes tested on the material. A few weeks ago she got the book, Make Like a Tree and Leave by Paula Danziger. She reads a little each night, but in this case, the book was long (117 pages) and she was sick part of the week so she got a bit behind on her reading. The night before she had to return the book my husband, my ten-year-old daughter, and I took turns listening to her read the book, and occasionally reading some parts of it along with her.

The book was cute and funny. It was about a boy and his classmates who rallied to raise money to help save the home of an elderly lady who volunteered in their classroom. There were some amusing scenarios in the book, but one did not amuse me so much. On page 41, one of the characters in the book lost her contact lens. The mom of the main character decided to share with the sixth grade children in the book a story from her youth. She told them how she and her boyfriend were “making out” and he swallowed her contact lens. The kids asked the Dad what it was like to swallow a contact lens. He said he didn’t know because that was one of Mom’s other boyfriends.

I sent a note to my daughter’s teacher the following day saying that although the book was otherwise good, it was a bit too “mature” for her and I pointed the teacher to the pages referenced above. I had to go to school for something else that day and saw the teacher. She had not yet read the passage, but told me she wanted to take a look at it while I was there. I watched her read it and saw her jaw drop as her eyes became as big as saucers. She was pretty shocked, even after being warned of the “mature” material. She apologized profusely and said she had previewed it and read reviews of it, but had not read the entire book, but would now do so for all books and would take that one off of the first grade reading list immediately.

In order to provide challenging material for advanced readers it is sometimes necessary to assign books intended for older children. To be perfectly honest though, I would not exactly be comfortable with my fifth grader reading about someone losing their contact lens while “making out.” How the heck does that happen, anyway? I have heard the term “sucking face,” but really.

The moral of this story is that when your kids are in public school you cannot assume that what they are given to read or what they are being taught is always appropriate. Be vigilant and take a look at what your kids are reading. You might just be in for a bit of a surprise — even in first grade.

Update: I received a link to this brilliant post from a home schooler. In it she asks “how hard it would be to untrain a person in something that they were taught since they were 5?”

Think about it, if you taught that blue is yellow, it would be extremely difficult to convince you later on the correction. You would always think yellow for the sky. Then you would correct yourself.

Suppose you taught children that Jews are pigs. Not in name calling but in actual reasoning. Then what? How does the world treat pigs? (think Islam) Results are exactly what you would expect.

Suppose we taught that a theory was a fact. For example, suppose we taught that the earth was flat. Totally a theory,yet as a controlling person teaching the children, I was able to teach this. What would the children believe? Of course, that it was flat. Now I know that this example can be disproved through many means. But several hundred years ago the earth was flat as far as the world was concerned.

Cross-posted at

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