Posts tagged ‘peer pressure’

WHO’S AT FAULT?

Blame the Child – It’s Easier: Learning Difficulties Can Be Solved!

Written by Henry Blumenthal

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This book portrays a common sense approach based on the author’s lifelong experiences in education. He bases his conclusions on study and experience which dictates it is far wiser to withhold blame and take an objective and realistic approach to the difficulties manifested in the learning process.

Student victims are often stressed because of the undue pressures placed upon them by parents, teachers and other students. The author attempts to explore flaws in the educational system, parents and supporting personnel. There are many reasons why a student falls behind, excessive absence, changing schools, peer pressure, and poor foundation in basic learning concepts. The system often finds it easier to do a complete psychological testing rather than allow the teacher to discover a particular educational diagnosis of a specific weakness that can be easily remedied. Some teachers move too quickly, teach only in large groups, and do not allow for individual differences. Placed under stress by school districts, teachers feel compelled to cover everything in the curriculum rather than ensuring a firm foundation for future learning. Understanding rather than memorization should be the goal. Teachers need to acknowledge that they too have weaknesses. Rather than fall into the trap of labeling and treating with medication, they should investigate possible symptoms of learning problems.

Blumenthal provides teachers with suggestions for teaching as well as hints for parents. He explores new ways of testing, approaches to curriculum and suggestions for incorporating good nutrition in successful learning environments, as well as productive ways to assess successful teaching. Instead of blaming, parents, students, teachers, and medical personnel can share in their success.

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WHAT’S IN THE SUITCASE?

Mr. Brown’s Suitcase

Written by Kate Hughes

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An interesting novel set in England explores the life at home and school of a middle school boy. Jez is understandably confused and bitter. His step-dad Steven is an out of work alcoholic who resents him, while favoring his two young sons Josh and Cal. Mum is so fearful of him that she has developed agoraphobia, refusing to go out alone even to shop for food. Jez has assumed responsibility for bringing food home and getting his brothers to school. He attempts to cover his problems by being a rebel at school.

One day, his teacher Mrs. Wright becomes ill. A substitute named Mr. Brown rapidly turns the tables on the out of control students in the class. Mr. Brown has only two rules; raise your hand to say something and treat others the way you want to be treated. At first Jez continues his mischievous behavior, but later becomes intrigued by the soft spoken man who makes learning interesting and rewards students by allowing them a peek in his secret suitcase. Jez is dying to know what is in it.

In the meantime, things get worse at home. Jez becomes the man of the house, but learns that he is not as tough as he thinks when neighborhood bullies try to lure him into vandalism and shoplifting. He discovers a hidden artistic talent which Mr. Brown encourages him to develop. Overhearing a conversation by chance, Jez decides he must act. He is really scared, but he forces himself to contact someone who will change all their lives for the better and give the family a new start.

This book honestly explores the issues of peer pressure, divorce, alcoholism and domestic violence that many children must face each day. The author does not preach or reveal solutions, but allows her protagonist to show the possibilities by trial and error. Children age nine or ten and older should find the story appealing and informative.

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SUMMER ANGST

Indian Summer

Written by Tracy Richardson

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Twelve year old Marcie Horton is feeling good about finishing the last day of school, but at the same time is dreading the upcoming summer. While she has always enjoyed spending time at her grandparents’ home on Lake Pappakeechee, this year is different. None of her friends will be going.

Marcie is a talented and competitive athlete, but not one of the “popular girls” at school. Her discomfort is increased when the parents of one of these girls inform her that they have just built a huge house on the lake, and invite her to spend time at their home with their daughter, Kaitlyn.

As the summer unfolds, things get more and more complicated. Kaitlyn pushes Marcie to make decisions with which she is not comfortable. Her loyalties are torn between peer pressure and family. When Kaitlyn’s father plans a development that will threaten the existing lake environment, Marcie is again forced to choose. To make matters worse, strange visions are haunting Marcie. She feels as if she in living both in the past and present. An unexpected turn of events allows her to be drawn by some mystical force to make a miraculous discovery.

In some ways the plot is predictable, yet the characters are compelling and so well-drawn that I read the book in one sitting. This book hits on so many issues that face tweens and teens. A bit of magic, history, fantasy, coming of age, environmental issues, family, and loyalty all combine to make one entertaining story With a page count of just over two hundred pages, it is a bit long for a middle grade read, but the book is a comfortable and easy read. Recommended for ages ten and above with lots of appeal for both boys and girls.

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FRIENDS OR FOES

The Jade Dragon

Written by Carolyn Marsden and Virginia Shin-Mui Loh

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This is the story of two second grade Chinese girls struggling to find their identity. Ginny was born in America and is being raised by Chinese parents who follow traditional customs and live out their Chinese culture. Stephanie, on the other hand, was born in China and has been adopted by white, Anglo-Saxon parents and does everything possible to avoid anything that associates her with being Chinese.

When Ginny arrives at school for the new year, she is delighted to find that this year there is another Chinese girl in her all white school. Stephanie tries to avoid her because she does not like being “different.” Ginny tries her best to make friends and finally succeeds because Stephanie’s mother would like her daughter to be exposed to her Chinese culture. When Stephanie visits Ginny, her mother is insulted because Stephanie won’t even try to eat Chinese food. Stephanie wants to play with blonde haired dolls and American toys. She makes fun of Ginny for wearing a traditional Chinese dress, and makes Ginny feel bad that her mother refuses to allow her to wear a party dress like that of Stephanie. As the girls get to know each other better, they exchange secrets. Ginny admits that she does not always like eating Chinese food, learning Chinese calligraphy and eating traditional Chinese foods. Stephanie admits that sometimes she wishes that she were not adopted and that she lived in China so that her parents would look like her. It is so hard to deal with the stares of people who see her walking with her American parents. The two girls trade gifts. Ginny is terrified that her mother will discover she has given her jade good luck dragon to Stephanie. At one point the girls become so close that they wear matching friendship necklaces, but that friendship is threatened when Stephanie becomes jealous of Ginny’s new talents learned in Chinese school. Will these two girls who seem to have so much in common find a common bond to develop and nurture their friendship?

This story is set in the 1980’s which does make some of the variables a bit different. I do believe the conflicts and struggles do present many similar challenges in the twenty first century, even though the times present us with more diversification in schools and communities. The story still speaks to immigrant and adopted children who are coping with similar situations. Targeted reading audience is age seven through ten. The one hundred sixty page book might present an independent reading challenge for children at the lower end of that range even though it is written fairly well and the vocabulary is generally not too difficult. Dialogue seems appropriate and flows well. There is a glossary with Chinese language expressions at the end for interested readers. This book will make a great addition to elementary classroom multicultural libraries.

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MIND GAMES

A Diamond in my Pocket: Book One of The Unaltered Series

Written by Lorena Angell

 

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Calli Courtnea is leading a fairly ordinary teen life in Ohio when one day she is whisked off to a new world that is anything but ordinary. She has always been an independent spirit, but Calli is somewhat a bright loner unwilling to give in to peer pressure. Recently, she has joined the school track team. On this day, she has broken both the world and the school record in the 100 meter race. Strange thing about all of  this; Calli has no idea how this happened! A beautiful woman named Mrs. Winter convinces Calli and her parents that she should attend a training camp for Olympic hopefuls in Montana. So Calli is transported there immediately.

What an eerie place she finds! Most of the athletes are younger than her sixteen years. They do not welcome her. She is ignored and taunted by them as a “muck,” which means slow runner. When Mrs. Winter calls her into her office, things get even worse. Calli is informed that she has been summoned here not to train for the Olympics, but because she has been granted special powers by cosmic rays that travel through the universe and altered her at birth. The children who are Runners have been chosen to transmit important communications. There are two other groups that have been given special powers, the Healers and the Seers.  Not much time passes before Calli finds out that she has been assigned with two other teams of Runners to rescue three of their own members who have been held hostage by the Shadow Demons.  These powerful spirits lurk outside in the night and possess the ability to rip you to death instantly. Why does Mr. Bates choose her to hold the Diamond in her pocket that will be the ransom to secure the hostages? Calli is mystified.

Because she is the slowest runner, Calli needs to be assisted by Justin or Chris who are much quicker than she. Calli has been developing a crush on Chris who, at first, appears to be much older and wiser than the others. Once on the journey Calli finds out that her powers are growing exponentially. She also  possesses the power of a Healer and like the Seers is able to peer into the future and know its outcome. Calli becomes confused and frightened as she is able to scare off her enemies and safeguard her fellow teammates. She will learn that when she uses her powers; she must respect the boundaries of nature and that she cannot impose her will upon others.

Will Calli and the Runners be successful in rescuing their friends and foiling the plans of the Shadow Demons? Does Calli succeed in learning how to use her powers in this strange new world or will she be able to control them and return to her world on earth? Teens will identify with themselves and their peers in the challenges that these well developed characters must face. The dialogue is well written with many twists and turns in the plot that definitely hold the reader’s interest. Good beginning to a new series.

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