Students discuss lessons learned in Ghost Boys
By Sue Tiffin
Ghost Boys, a novel by Jewell Parker Rhodes that is loosely inspired by the story of 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s fatal shooting in 2014, is creating an opportunity for thought-provoking discussions in Shannon Blanchard’s Grade 7/8 class at Archie Stouffer Elementary School.
The themes of the book: racism, honesty, prejudice, compassion, gun violence, bullying, remembering the past, justice, privilege, grief and friendship are resonating with the students.
“Great experience,” said Blanchard of what it has been like introducing the book to the class this year. “Especially since the characters are the same age and [it] gives us a global experience to other parts of the world (cultures, areas of the U.S., etc.).”
Many of the students in Blanchard’s class told the Times that they were skeptical the book would be interesting, but that they enjoyed both the story and the format in which it is told as they began studying it.
“When I first started reading the book, I wondered why they started with the death of the main character, but it made me want to read more at the same time,” said Aiden Milley.
Aleyah McGovern said she has liked studying Ghost Boys, noting the story line is interesting and mysterious, and compelling to readers. She said the book gives students the opportunity to learn about what challenges people face in their lives.
“Some people have a worse life, and have to worry about bullying and racism and have to be more careful with what they do,” she said in response to questions from the Times.
Maya Johnson said the book is sad but an important read that increased her empathy for others.
“This book makes me think about the fact that I don’t have to worry about this on the daily,” she said. “It’s sad to think about the fact that black people have labels constantly on their backs. It doesn’t matter how young or old, people just assume that black people are dangerous and don’t have the same opportunities, let’s say, as white people. It’s really disappointing that black people have to have this stereotype constantly pulling them down and ‘super glued’ to them. Just because someone is black doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated differently.”
Andy Lippolis said he thought the book was an important one to read because of how it speaks to racism and real-life situations. “And we can really learn from this book because of these situations,” he said.
He noted that the story differs from his own everyday life in Minden, where he said there is less violence and bullying in comparison to Chicago where the main character is from. “In Chicago there is a lot of racism, and in Minden, most of us treat each other equally,” he told the Times.
Ali Mantle said the book has helped raise awareness that “this is happening all around us.”
“It has made me think about how lucky I am to not go through this every day,” said Mantle. “It is really sad that this is happening to people my age all over the world. And [I] should also be more grateful for my family and life and home and everything I have.”
Sofie Mills commented on the interesting cliffhangers in Ghost Boys, and speculated on later events in the book that the students haven’t yet finished. She said she had learned important lessons about bullying, and the importance of confiding in trusted adults to stay safe, as well as in appreciating life.
“I think this book is important because racism is a rude thing and all black people should be treated the same as white,” she told the Times. “I think my teacher picked this because there might be still people out there who don’t treat black people the same as white and will bully them. They don’t deserve that.”
Nicole Lee said she had already thought of police brutality, especially toward black people, as being a problem noting that she had learned similar lessons through history lessons and other books.
“I still do think that it’s all really important for people to learn about, and stop,” she said. “I hope that us reading the book will help people learn these things.”
Black History Month in Canada has been officially recognized since December 1995.