This week, I could no longer handle trying to read Jane Austen to my 11 year old. My tongue kept tripping over all the wordiness and I had to stop at least 10 times per chapter to translate the dialogue. When it became apparent that neither of us was enjoying what is usually the most enjoyable part of our day together, we just decided to end our misery. Jane Austen 1 – Mama/Reagan 0.

So, I turned to an old favorite. Perhaps my most favorite book of all time: To Kill a Mockingbird.

Depending on who you talk to, this little literary masterpiece is considered highly controversial for several reasons. It’s even banned reading in certain institutions, which seemed to me like one of the more perfect reasons to introduce it to her now. At an age when so many opinions are forming, when she is starting to slowly morph into the adult that she will eventually become, now is the time to address some of the most controversial issues she will face in her coming adolescent years.

We recently finished the Hunger Games. It too is considered controversial because of its subject matter. Children killing children? Horrible, isn’t it?

Yes, it is. But so is a lot of real life. Racism, sexism, oppression, war, violence, poverty – these are the hard subjects of life. And frankly, I don’t mind reading to my daughter about them. Why? Because these books, they make her think. They open up doors of conversation that I’ll bet not too many people are having with their children because they’re too busy or too lazy or just don’t care enough about the kinds of adults they are going to put out into society.

I love this story. I love it for so many reasons. The lesson of “crawling into another man’s skin and walking around in it” is one that people would do well to remember at any age. The fact that a handful of people stood for what was right even though it got them taunted and threatened – it reminds me to teach my daughter that even if something has been a certain way for 50, 100, 200 years, that doesn’t mean it’s right. And it’s okay to question things. And it’s okay to go another way.

I might not get a lot of things right as a mom, but I know that teaching Reagan to use her brain is a good thing. I know that teaching her compassion for others is a good thing. I want her to listen – listen to people, hear their stories. Let their stories change her, make her better. I want her to never be so damn sure that she’s right that she won’t listen. Because it’s in the listening, that we learn.

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