This is Part 5 of a series about 4th Grade reading assignments in Wake County, North Carolina. See earlier posts to get you up to speed:
- 4th Grade Reading Topics
- 4th graders read about the Black Panthers
- 4th graders read about immigration and class
- 4th Graders read police are pigs and Black Panthers are freedom fighters
In this post I will include some quotes from Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan which was assigned to 4th Graders in Wake County. To read a summary of the book, see 4th graders read about immigration and class Once again, the title of the book is innocent, the book cover is attractive and uplifting so I can see where parents would not be alarmed if they only looked at the book title. Thankfully, the parents who alerted me to these assignments did read the story from cover to cover. This book is not on the Common Core suggested reading list, these parents were told this was a local decision. However, the reading assignment and any accompanying writing assignments are likely aligned to Common Core ELA Standards. I wonder which specific standards this assignment will fulfill.
I do not know how many 4th Grade classes are reading this book. Parents and teachers, please use the comments section to chime in with specific feedback if your child/students are reading Esperanza Rising or any other books of concern.
Where do I start, there is so much to be concerned about when you read this story? I want to be honest with my readers so again, full disclosure, I have not read the entire book yet. However, it doesn’t take much to alert your spidy senses. A few pages are cited below to illustrate some of the mature themes in the story. You can read some of the preview pages on Amazon by clicking on the book cover.
Did you know 4th graders read US Citizens can be deported? Children also read negative views of wealthy people, negative views of immigration officials, pro union views, income inequality, broken families, and other mature immigration matters. These children are young and impressionable; they are being introduced to topics that I suspect many parents feel are inappropriate for this age group. As I noted in my other piece, even the School Library Journal lists this story for grades 6-9. These children are nine and ten years old.
Below are quotes from the book with links to the pages (copyrighted material) so you can read them for yourself.
Page 12 – “Change has not come fast enough, Esperanza. The wealthy still own most of the land while some of the poor have not even a garden plot. There are cattle grazing on the big ranches yet some peasants are forced to eat cats. Papa is sympathetic and has given land to many of the workers. The people know that.”
Page 48 – “But crossing the border is more difficult these days. You have to have papers but ours were lost in the fire and they forbid anyone to enter without a visa.” “I will arrange it,” said Abuelita. “My sisters, in the convent. The can discreetly get you duplicates.”
Page 83 – “They boarded and waited an hour for all the passengers to get through immigration. Esperanza looked out the window. Across the tracks, several groups of people were being prodded onto another train headed back toward Mexico. “My heart aches for those people. They came all this way just to be sent back,” said Mama. “But why?” asked Esperanza. “Many reasons. They had no papers, false ones, or no proof of work.
Page 98 – “They don’t want us banding together for higher wages and better housing, ” said Marta. “The owners think if Mexicans have no hot water, that we won’t mind as long as we think no one has any. They don’t want us talking to the Okies from Oklahoma or anyone else because we might discover that they have hot water. See?”
Page 99 – “Just so you know. This isn’t Mexico. No one will be waiting on you here.”
Page 132 – “Senor, does it not bother you that some of your compadres live better than others?” yelled one of Marta’s friends. “We are going to strike in two weeks. At the peak of the cotton. For higher wages and better housing.!”
Page 170 – “How can they send all of them back?” asked Hortensia. “Repatriation,” Marta’s aunt. “La Migra – the immigration authorities – round up people who cause problems and check their papers. If they are not in order, or if they do not happen to have their papers with them, the immigration officials send them back to Mexico. We have heard that they have sent people whose families have lived here for generations, those who are citizens and have never been to Mexico.” Esperanza remembered the train at the border and the people being herded on to it. She had been thankful for the papers that Abuelita’s sisters had arranged.
Page 204 – 213 are loaded with content that should concern you. I have captured highlights but it won’t take you long to read the pages to see the full context
Page 204 – Where will it end? said Josefina. “Everyone will starve if people work for less and less money.”
Page 205 – “Immigration!” said Josefina. “It is a sweep.”
The buses and cars screeched to a stop and immigration officials and police carrying clubs jumped out and ran after them.
Page 206 – One of the officials took the papers from her hand and tore them into pieces. “Get on the bus,” he orderd.
Page 206 – “But some of them are citizens,” said Esperanza. “It doesn’t matter. They are causing problems for the government. They are talking about forming a farm workers’ union and the government and the growers don’t like that.”
Page 207 – They call it voluntary deportation. But it is not much of a choice.”
Page 208 – Something seemed very wrong about sending people away from their own “free country” because they had spoken their minds.
But then she thought about Marta and her mother holding hands, and couldn’t imagine them being separated from each other. And besides, they were both citizens. They had every right to be here.
Page 210 – Esperanza lay in bed that night and listened to the others in the front room talk about the sweeps and the deportations.
Page 211 – How was it that the United States could send people to Mexico who had never lived there?
Page 211 – No one should have to be separated from her family.
Page 212 – It was quiet and desolate, except for the goat still tied to a tree, bleating for freedom. “Immigration has been here, too,” said Miguel. He got out of the truck, walked over to the tree, and untied the goat. Esperanza looked out over the field that used to be crawling with people who thought they could change things – who were trying to get the attention of the growers and the government to make conditions better for themselves and for her, too.
Well, what do you think? Is this what you want your children reading in school in the 4th grade? What discussions are taking place in the classroom? Who chose this book? and Why? I support academic freedom and believe in empowering teachers to choose classroom material but when historical fiction contains such a glaring error regarding the deportation of US Citizens, not to mention the heavy political themes, you have to stop and question who is accountable for this selection? There are plenty of age appropriate books to choose from. Parents please stay engaged, you may not realize what your children are learning in school.
I’m going to take a break and go for a walk before continuing with this series. I have more information to share with you, stay tuned.