If all teachers today had the freedom and ingenuity to create an engaging and challenging educational program for their students similar to the one in this book, then more of our country's poor children would receive the exciting and dignified learning experience they desperately deserve.
Educator Deborah Hicks tells the story of an after- and summer-school literature program she created for a small group of poor eight-and nine-year-old girls in Cincinnati, Ohio. The author came from a somewhat troubled working-class family herself and shares poignant stories of the girls' home lives and their journeys together as she tries to illuminate the road that was her own salvation: education.
Readers learn that Hicks is a wonderful educator, creative and relentless in her drive to teach, regardless of the fact that her students are continually confronted with supersized versions of social troubles that would leave most adults stuck in their tracks. Hicks's program is supplemental to regular public school and strikingly distinct from it. Aside from her class being small, all female, and voluntary, her knowledge of her students' lives does not come from documents, social workers, or teacher-parent conferences, but through personal interactions, writing, group discussions, and vists to their homes and neighborhoods. Their shared experiences explore the students' lives in deeply revealing and necessary ways that are sometimes taboo in today's increasingly restrictive classrooms. Also included in Hicks's curriculum are some of the perks readily available to other children: a trip to a French cafe or an excursion to a bookstore to meet an author. When writing of her pupils' talents, personalities, and gifts, Hicks's reflections take on the gloating tone more commonly heard from parents or relatives of her students' more affluent peers.
Whether any or all of the girls featured find an educational "road out" cannot be wholly credited to, or blamed on, the author's efforts. But at the very least, Hicks introduced to them the notion of their entitlement. This touching book is sure to inform and remind its readers of all the difficulties faced by an increasing number of children today, and of what is lost and missing in their education and their lives.
Educator Hicks (education, Duke Univ.) relates the intimate story of her experience teaching a literary workshop to young girls in a poor Cincinnati neighborhood. She explores the quotidian question of how to improve the results of public schools serving impoverished communities by focusing on seven initially third- and fourth-grade students in whom she invested four years of extracurricular literature and writing instruction to infuse a passion for these subjects that would produce a desire to learn more. As a mentor to girls whose backgrounds in many ways mirrored her own, Hicks started by explaining how literature has the power to expand one's horizons while she simultaneously focused on literature that depicts troubles all too familiar and that helped her students to make sense of the outside world. Hicks observed that a sincere desire for education could not alone guarantee that students would avoid truancy or earn a high school diploma. VERDICT By illuminating this schism and depicting her students as vividly in words as in the included photographs, Hicks offers a testimony to the "teacher experience" and contributes a valuable resource to the national discussion on school reform. Highly recommended for educators and others studying American public education.--Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL[Page 92]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.