Just a School Librarian

Thoughts of a Middle School Librarian

Charlie Brown? Who is that?

Posted by CGibson on January 14, 2012


The other day I had to read aloud a passage to one of my students. It was one of those drill-and-kill test-preparation lessons. This student is an over-aged boy in the 8th grade. The passage I read to him was about Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts cartoon.

After he finished, and I collected the testing material, I struck up a conversation by commenting how Linus was my favorite. I then asked this student who was his favorite character in Peanuts.

The boy just looked at me.

“Do you like Charlie Brown, or maybe you’re a Snoopy fan?” I persisted.

The boy said he doesn’t know who is Charlie Brown or Snoopy.

I thought he was kidding, or maybe mistaken.

“You know Snoopy is that cute white beagle with the black spot and big floppy ears” I reminded him. I started to feel desperate.

Blank.

After this sad conversation, I kept thinking about this boy. He was born and raised here in the US. He doesn’t know Charlie Brown or Snoopy.  What happened?

Now you know I’m not saying everyone has to know Charlie Brown, or any particular comic strip for that matter. What disturbs me is that this boy seems to lack general background knowledge.

Maybe the test-writers need to select passages about topics that are more contemporary. I don’t know.

But what I DO know is parents need to wake up and smell the coffee. Parents, YOU are your child’s first teacher!  You MUST make time to read to your children and to talk with them.

Can’t afford to buy books and things? No problem! A library card is free, and so are all the resources at your public library.

Don’t have time? Then MAKE TIME. Do you honestly think I have time to read with my grandson after school? I work all day, and then come home to cook and clean and work some more. I remember falling asleep sometimes while supervising his homework and/or reading. That’s how tired I am after work.

There is no substitute for parental involvement. Parents (grand parent, legal guardian, whoever) must interact with their children in order to build a rich wealth of background knowledge. This “background knowledge” will act like a magnet for all the academic knowledge his/her teacher will impart later in the classroom. It’s true. I know. I’ve seen this work, and it’s amazing.

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3 Responses to “Charlie Brown? Who is that?”

  1. True, true, true! We have found here in Colorado that our state test seems to be written for students who live in metropolitan areas (Denver), even though a large majority of the state is small town/rural/agricultural. There is so, so much wrong with standardized testing and what they do to educators and students.

    I have also noticed a lack of common background knowlege. My “Charlie Brown” was the Wizard of Oz. (I threatened to get out the flying monkeys….blank face.) A few years ago, I had a contest to win a book signed by the author. In the process, found out that this would be the first book any of them owned. I wrote the author, he agreed to sign more books and each kid got a book. Parents need to take up some of that slack. Teachers cannot replace all of the background knowledge with limited time and resources.

    Unless the standardized test is banished and parents decide to help their kids, our education system will continue to struggle along with kids and educators.

    (One of my big “soap boxes”–could you tell?!)

    Heidi, First of all TY for popping over here. This whole thing about (some not all) parents slacking off just annoys me to no end.

  2. The best memory I have of my otherwise not-so-wonderful father is of him reading the Winnie the Pooh books to me every night until we’d read them all. I know he read to me every night when he was around, but those books, read when I was about five or six, have been among my favorites ever since.

    My son is 17 and a high school senior. He wants to be an English teacher when he grows up and he will tell anyone who asks that his love of literature and reading started when his mother and I spent hours reading to him.

    The middle school students I teach are poor, but I can immediately tell which ones had parents who read the them when they were very young.
    Deven, You speak very wise words. I remember back in the day I used to teach kindergarten, and we would know on the first day of school which kindergartner went to Pre-K and which did not. The difference is startling, even on the very first day of school. Thank you very much for visiting my blog. I really need to blog more. My life is just too busy.

  3. Tina Napolitano said

    If only children came with instruction manuals for parents… So many parents are simply ignorant. At one time, their children may have been able to overcome the lack of early education, but as population (and class size) continues to increase, this becomes less and less likely.

    We’ve seen the abysmal failure in one-size-fits-all testing. (I tested at a “genius” level IQ and I can tell you with certainty that this is not the case. My parents, who lacked education beyond high school, knew that reading to me was important.) The story of the boy walking along the beach, tossing stranded starfish, one at a time, back into the ocean, comes to mind. When told he could not possibly make a difference, because he couldn’t save them all, he replied, “it made a difference to that one.” Sadly, I think that is the current situation in education in this country.
    Hi Tina,
    You make some very good points. I especially agree with what you said about the “one-size-fits-all testing”. It is abysmal to say the least. Thank you very much for reading my post.

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