Recommended Reading For Fourth Grade posted a story today about the Fourth Grade reading list for Wake County, North Carolina, recommended under Common Core Standards. I realize that today’s fourth grader is a little different from fourth graders back in the age of dinosaurs when I was in school (Just for the record, I attended fourth grade in Greensboro, North Carolina, schools.) However, this reading list is scary to me.

Some excerpts from the article about the books:

…One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, in which three sisters are sent by their negligent mother to a camp run by the Black Panthers.

Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. When they arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

The book is recommended for ages 8-12 years and grades 4-7.

The article mentions one of the goals of having the children read the book:

Delphine is a positive female African-American role model for girls. She displays tremendous responsibility and loyalty to her family. Her mother, however, is mean. At one point she tells Delphine that she should have gotten rid of her when she had the chance, but there is no indication that her true meaning is understood. The Black Panthers are portrayed in a positive light, and the reader is educated about some of the charitable community programs they set up.

Before the people supporting this book get too excited about the charitable community programs of the Black Panthers, they might want to take a look at a book called Radical Son by David Horowitz. David Horowitz was a ‘red diaper baby’ raised in New York City. His parents were avowed communists who taught in the New York City public schools. Throughout his younger years and college years, David supported such groups as the Black Panthers. He even got a friend of his a job as a bookkeeper working for the group. In the book he relates his belief that the Black Panthers killed that person when she started to ask questions about some of their activities and was no longer of use to them. There is also the matter of the New Black Panthers voter intimidation in Philadelphia in 2008. Are these the role models we want to hold up to our children?

Another book on the reading list is Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan.

The article summarizes that book as follows:

Told in a lyrical, fairy tale-like style, Ryan’s (riding Freedom) robust novel set in 1930 captures a Mexican girl’s fall from riches, her immigration to California and her growing awareness of class and ethnic tensions. Thirteen-year-old Esperanza Ortega and her family are part of Mexico’s wealthy, land-owning class in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Her father is a generous and well-loved man who gives his servants land and housing. Early in the novel, bandits kill Esperanza’s father, and her corrupt uncles threaten to usurp their home. Their servants help her and her mother flee to the United States, but they must leave Esperanza’s beloved Abuelita (grandmother) behind until they can send for her…

Ryan fluidly juxtaposes world events (Mexico’s post-revolution tensions, the arrival of Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl victims and the struggles between the U.S. government and Mexican workers trying to organize) with one family’s will to survive – while introducing readers to Spanish words and Mexican customs. Readers will be swept up by vivid descriptions of California dust storms or by the police crackdown on a labor strike (“The picket signs lay on the ground, discarded, and like a mass of marbles that had already been hit, the strikers scattered?”).

Where are the stories of George Washington, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or Benjamin Franklin? Do the two books above really reflect an accurate picture of America? What are the ideas these children are going to have about America as they grow up? What kind of understanding of American history and the things that make America unique are these children going to have? It’s time to scrap the Common Core recommended reading list and go back to letting fourth graders be fourth graders and learn about the good things their country has accomplished.