Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Healing the Wounds

In 1994 my daddy died suddenly, unexpectedly. Our entire family was devastated and had no idea how to deal with the immense grief. My eventual coping mechanism was to shut down the emotion, and that wasn't a good idea. After a few months I joined a grief therapy group that taught me lessons that I am reminded of often. One of the powerful revelations: when we suffer emotional trauma, if we do not deal with it, we remain at that particular emotional age, in that stage of grief, and every time we are stressed we revert to those feelings. The only way to begin to heal is to revisit the pain (it will be as fresh and raw as the day it was initially experienced), and work through it.

I am reminded of this every time I see a kid who was traumatized into hating reading. Every year I have kids who tell me they loved Hank the Cow Dog, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or picture books when they were little. Until they were forced out of those books and into what an adult said was more suitable. Until the joy of story was replaced by the stress of getting the "right" answer. Until reading became a chore to be completed for a "reward." I've learned to put the books they loved in front of them, to let them revisit those times, and to let them talk about the trauma that the education system inflicted on them. Those kids often spend a few days with the titles they loved in earlier years, they rant about the injustices done to them, and then they're ready to move ahead. For those who NEVER had a positive reading experience, who never had an association of love and warmth with reading, it's a more difficult task.

I've got some serious holdouts this year. I know the level of personal pain some of them have experienced, and I know that rebelling against the idea of reading is an outcropping of that pain. So I handle them lightly. It's kind of like dealing with a skittish colt. I put down the books and walk away. They come up and sort of snort at them. When they realize the books won't bite, they'll start to look. But there will still be the lost lamb. And you know that we always go out into the wilderness to try and bring back that one. They've been wounded. And we may not be able to heal all of their wounds. That's the hardest part, isn't it?

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