How shall we tell the children?

“Writing about the Holocaust for the next generation is as important as it is difficult,” writes Nicolette Jones in her Telegraph piece,  “How shall we tell the children?.”

Most of the books mentioned in the piece seem for older children (e.g. The Book Thief that was published as adult title in Australia) and I’m kind of okay with most of them. However, I’ve yet to be convinced that this is a topic that younger children (e.g. 4th grade and under) need to know about. I’m the child of Holocaust survivors, by the way; read this post of mine if you want to know more of my opinions on this: The Holocaust and Young Children.

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4 Comments

Filed under History

4 responses to “How shall we tell the children?

  1. hope

    Monica, I notice that many teachers, when they have a holocaust book on their reading lists, make an effort to teach the context of the book, even with fairly young children. Do you think that children should be taught about the holocaust when they first read Pink Rabbit, at nine or ten, or do you think they shouldn’t be reading anything like that until they are older? Is it a bad idea to have books for 8-12 that have the Nazis as fairly nebulous bad guys, and have the children read them without much context? Villains who want to kill you, and your family, and ruin the world, aren’t that unusual in fiction, but unlike Voldemort, these villains were real. Do you think that distinction needs to be made from the beginning, or do you think that young children might encounter them first as storybook villains and learn more later? Is using something as real and as horrifying as Nazism for a fictional device, unethical or is it a reasonable act of storytelling?

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  2. Hope,

    Your questions are excellent. I think whether it is ethical to use the Nazis as a fictional device in a book for this age (9 and under) depends on why.

    What troubles me enormously and I’ve argued this over and over is that I do not think that the Holocaust is best taught through literature. I think it should be taught through history. A teacher providing a bit of historical context for a fictional book still doesn’t work because the focus is the fiction (character, plot, etc) rather than looking at the situation historically. These are very different learning stances. And when it is for an age not intellectually ready to grapple with the hard historical questions, well… I agree with the Holocaust Museum that this is a topic better approached with kids older than mine.

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  3. hope

    I agree with you that the history should be taught to older children. And I think that I’m okay with the books being read out of context at an earlier age. A good story, with the Holocaust as a backdrop, is a good story. A bad story, is a bad one, no matter the subject matter, although I’d give bonus negativity-points for using the Holocaust for cheap emotional effect.

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  4. betty

    thank you thank you for posting this link.

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