Tonight I asked my students to write about a book they have read recently for their entry in their Learning at Home (LAH) notebooks. I asked them to tell a bit about what the book is about, include big ideas and concepts the book brings up, and make a recommendation about whether or not their classmates (or me) should read the book.
So…I think I’ll take that same writing invitation. I’ve been carrying a book around in my teaching bag that I plan to use with my students one of these days. Dad’s Camera by Ross Watkins grabbed my attention a year or so ago, before it was available here in the United States. I’m always interested in books about photography, so when this one became available, I was quick to purchase it.
While this book is a children’s picture book, it is not really a book for children. This book tackles the heavy topic of Alzheimer’s disease and the confusion and devastation that families face as they deal with it. The author describes this book as a tool for opening up conversations with children…and with adults to talk about Alzheimer’s.
I love the idea of photography as activism. In this case, the book uses photographs as a way to talk about memories and memory loss. The dad photographs ordinary things, things most people don’t photograph. “Dad took photos of the things he didn’t want to forget.” What he didn’t take photos of were his family, much to the frustration of the mom in the story.
Disease, memory loss, confusion, and frustration are all strong themes in this book. Communication breaks down and the dad does things the mom and kid don’t understand. The dad’s deteriorating memory makes it hard for him to explain the whys behind his actions. And while the book does not tie up in a neat package, the ending is satisfying. (No spoilers here!)
Although this is not a typical children’s book, it is one I plan to use in my classroom. I want to use it along with some other books about photographers, including Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange who both used photography as a ways to shed light on issues they were passionate about. How can we use our own passions and art, like photography, to make the world a better place…in ways big and small? I think I’ll have more to say about this book and what happens in my classroom once I take this ideas from seed to implementation!