Title: Go Figure
Author: Jo Edwards
Summary: Go Figure reads like a journal of a girl named Ryan who struggles with her weight. She fluctuates from being comfortable with her body to using her reflections for her therapist to rate how much of an imact her weight has had on her failed relationships with boyfriends, friends and family members. Her closest friendships seem to be full of weight and body type comparisons and secrets about what size clothes she wears and her love for baggy pants and oversized shirts. Ryan's ex-boyfriend is an up-and-coming musician and she's thrilled when she finds out that he's written a song inspired by her, and after telling everyone in her social circle about it, she hears it for the first time and is crushed to discover that it's very hurtful, although it wasn't written in an aggressive way. Ryan begins paying serious attention to her weight and it becomes even more of the focus of her day to day life.
Reflections: Go Figure is written in a very sincere, honest voice. A teacher who decides to use this book or parts of it in an elementary classroom certainly has her work cut out for her, but I feel that it is worth the effort. Many aspects of the storyline and the language used as the story builds are quite mature and take place once Ryan is in high school, but the prologue takes place when she is in fifth grade at cheerleading camp, and the story continues on as she grows older, showing the lasting, painful effects of hateful words and how they can alter a person for their entire life. Body image is a serious topic that needs to be addressed in classrooms, and clearly it starts young and continues to get worse as we get older and progress through the rest of our schooling.
How would I use the book/curricular units: I would use the prologue to this book [available on the amazon.com page, see "links" below] and a brief overview/selective retelling of the rest of the story with a 4th or 5th grade class. Different sources have different opinions on the appropriate grade levels for this book, ranging from sixth to twelvth grade, but I think that it would be a little bit too provacotive for fourth and fifth graders in its entirety, aside from the challenging vocabulary we come across from time to time. The prologue could be used either as a shared reading text, a read-aloud or as an independent reading piece. I would introduce the piece to my class by telling them that I was reading a book over the weekend and found something that I wanted to share with them, because I felt that we could all relate to it in one way or another, no matter how old we are or where we go to school. I think that the piece is powerful, and will leave quite an impression if its used as a read-aloud with the whole class or with a small group, or if the students read it on their own for homework and then we discuss it as a whole class the next morning, highlighting important parts of the text. Which method I used would depend on that particular class and the climate within the classroom. With reference to the TC aspects of Literacy Education, Ryan and Sadie & the others who teased her at cheerleading camp are both suitable candidates for a Character study. I would ask students to think about how Ryan felt when she heard those things about herself, and we would discuss how she reacted (she chose to quit cheerleading and "stopped caring" about what she ate and what her body looked like). Then I would ask students to think about what they would do if they were in Ryan's position, and how they could have helped Ryan if she was in their class. Overall, my goal with this text would be to make my students much more aware of how they speak to each other and what effects words can have on us.
Domains of Social Justice:
1. Domain of self love and acceptance & 2. Respect for Others: After working with this text and seeing how hard it can be to be spoken to out of hate, students will work towards making their classmates feel better about themselves rather than worse and in turn, will begin to hear more positive comments about themselves, building up their own self-image.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice & 4. Social Movement and Social Change: Students could look into professions and other aspects of life where people are discriminated against based on their appearance. Students can become active observers in their own school, making note of put-downs they overhear and thinking of ways they can make others feel better rather than feel worse.
5. Taking Social Action: Students can work to form a system within the classroom and within the school where students can use compliments as currency for things like in school celebrations and going on class trips to further build community. Both the person giving the compliment and the person deserving it would gain a point. Students can lose points for putting down their classmates. This is just one example of a way that the overall atmosphere of the classroom and the school could be changed, and in this way, the older grades in an elementary school would be establishing the system of change and positive reinforcement for the entire school.
Book for sale on Amazon.com:
[The prologue that I mentioned using as the main text with students is available on the amazon page, so even without the book, teachers can use that part of the text with their classes!]