Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Outsiders: Why You Should Read It With Your Kids




My daughter is recovering from a concussion so she is unable to do much of anything, including reading. As an 8th grader, she was assigned The Outsiders to read and her teacher suggested I read it to her during her recovery. It’s been a long time. In fact, so long that I have decided I either never read it or just saw the movie. In truth, the only thing I can remember is C. Thomas Howell and Matt Dillon. So, what does that tell you?

But this book was so good; we read it in a weekend. I decided to let my son, 9, join us. He only lasted through the first chapter. In truth, the book focuses more on the main character’s insights and feelings than the action sequences. So, he got bored quickly. And it was good thing because this book deals with a lot of violence, death, complicated emotions and societal issues. What was I thinking? 13 is a much better age for this one.

The Outsiders weaves its tale of social class, personal losses, family, friendship and honor, choices good and bad, and the limited options of the poor. I don’t think my daughter will ever complain again about not having enough. To see the poverty, economic, cultural and emotional, that the characters experience is to peek into the lives of the very poor and disadvantaged. S.E. Hinton paints a picture with no violins playing in the wings. Her (yes, S.E. Hinton is a woman) story is raw and honest and wrenching. A fact your child might find interesting is that she began the book at age 15, finished it at 16. By her high school graduation she had a publisher. That in itself is an inspiration.

Reading this with your child is an opportunity to talk about class and bullying, about impulsivity and choices in adolescence and about hope. The theme of lost hope is another powerful message in the book. Do you give up hope or do you continue to look for the sunset? In truth, these issues are ones most teens wrestle with. Themes of how to fit in, what is your group, being cool vs. being honest about who you are and how you feel are all common issues of adolescence. Yet another reason this book resonates generation after generation. It understands adolescence.

Just last week a young girl in our community, 15 years old, committed suicide. She had lost hope after a loss. My heart breaks for her family, for her, for her peers. Hinton reminds us all not to lose hope, to see the beauty this world has to offer, to remember to keep believing. Try reading it with your teen. It will open up a whole new world of discussion, will remind you of the challenges of your own adolescence and will offer you and your teen yet another bond.


learn more about the book and the movie here.

2 comments:

  1. great thing you got to read that book. its a thing for kids (teens) to understand a life of another teen.

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