Child Development 145 (01; 66-69) - Hembree
Controversial Issues in Child Development
Spring, 2012 


Book Club

Groups of students will read and discuss one of five books (listed below) during two "book club” sessions. Before each session, students will submit discussion questions and assignments related to their group’s book. Each group will present a summary of their book to the class at the last book club meeting. Please email me your first two choices from the books listed below by the end of first week of class. Based on these requests, you will be assigned a book and a book club group.  To receive full credit for book club assignments, you must participate in book club meetings. NO LATE BOOK CLUB ASSIGNMENTS will be accepted.


Book Summaries

1) Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, by Rachel Simmons
Dirty looks and taunting notes are just a few examples of girl bullying that girls and women have long suffered through silently and painfully. With this book Rachel Simmons elevated the nation's consciousness and has shown millions of girls, parents, counselors, and teachers how to deal with this devastating problem. Poised to reach a wider audience in paperback, including the teenagers who are its subject, Odd Girl Out puts the spotlight on this issue, using real-life examples from both the perspective of the victim and of the bully.

2) Another Place at the Table, by Kathy Harrison
The startling and ultimately uplifting narrative of one woman's thirteen-year experience as a foster parent. For more than a decade, Kathy Harrison has sheltered a shifting cast of troubled youngsters-the offspring of prostitutes and addicts; the sons and daughters of abusers; and teenage parents who aren't equipped for parenthood. All this, in addition to raising her three biological sons and two adopted daughters. What would motivate someone to give herself over to constant, largely uncompensated chaos? For Harrison, the answer is easy. Another Place at the Table is the story of life at our social services' front lines, centered on three children who, when they come together in Harrison's home, nearly destroy it. It is the frank first-person story of a woman whose compassionate best intentions for a child are sometimes all that stand between violence and redemption.

3) The Color of Water, by James McBride  
 As a boy in Brooklyn, James McBride knew that his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she'd simply say, "I'm light-skinned". Later he wondered if he was different too, and asked his mother if he was black or white. "You're a human being", she snapped. "Educate yourself or you'll be a nobody!" When James asked what the colour of God was, she said, "God is the colour of water". As an adult, McBride finally persuaded his mother to tell the story. Her story was of a rabbi's daughter, born in Poland and raised in the South, who fled Harlem, married a black man, founded a Baptist church, and put 12 children through college. This is James McBride's tribute to his eccentric and determined mother, and an exploration of what family means.

 4The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.


Book Club Assignments

       Reading Assignments




Another Place at the Table 

Odd Girl Out

The Color of Water

The Glass Castle

Meeting #1

Intro + Ch. 1-7

 pp. 1 -128

 pp. 1-128

 pp. 1-121

 Meeting #2  

Ch. 8-13


pp. 129-285

 pp. 122-288

Besides the reading assignments listed above, the following assignments are due prior to the two book club meetings:

     Written Assignments

Meeting #1 Assignment  (10 points)

Based on the first reading assignment for your book, prepare two discussion questions and written responses to the following questions:

1) Why did you choose this book? What appealed to you in reading the book’s description?

2) What are your first impressions of the main character/protagonist? What challenges does the protagonist face? What do you think are some possible solutions to those challenges?

3) What sorts of issues related to children’s lives does the book bring up? Do you have an opinion about these issues?  Can you support these opinions?

Meeting #2 Assignment (20 points)

Based on the first reading assignment for your book, prepare two discussion questions and written responses to the following:

1) What, if anything, did you learn from reading this book? Was there anything that struck you or surprised you about it?

2) Relate what you’ve read so far to material you’ve studied in class. Make reference to a particular topic or study we've discussed in the class.

3) Write a 1-2-page (double-spaced) "review" of your book. Include a brief summary of the book and 1-2 of the themes present in the book. Then provide a critique (do you recommend the book; why or why not?). During the book club meeting, you will present your book review to other members of the class who have not read the book.


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Send problems, comments or suggestions to:

California State University, Sacramento
College of Education
Department of Child Development

Updated: January, 2012

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