Among the Hidden is one of my FAVORITE novels we teach in the fifth-grade. This year we had an issue come up with the book that I wonder if other schools have run into and if so, what are you going to do about!
Among the Hidden is a novel about a young boy that is the forbidden third child. His family has to hide him, as the country where there are living has a law against having more than two children. The book also has Population Police that search for and arrest families with more than two children. Luke, the main character of the book, wrestles with the fact that he is an illegal third child and looks for ways to gain freedom.
A situation that we are needing to address in our school is the students that are in the United States because of a policy, like the one in the book, in China. Many children (mostly girls) have been adopted from China by families in the United States. A lot of those children are given up for adoption because of the population laws in China. We have several children in our school that have been adopted from China and we are trying to be sensitive to those students developmental needs. When is the appropriate time for these children to wrestle with their adoption history. Does, Among the Hidden, present a history that children are not able to cope with appropriately in 5th grade OR should we view this as a time for children to deal with an issue that is going to impact them and have the ability to frame the issue for the students?
One key theme that we have played on throughout the book is the population control. In my fifth-grade class we have a debate over Population Control. The students are always stunned when they find out that population control actually does exist in our modern society. We have the students research, using heavily censored resources that we provide (NO GOOGLING ALLOWED in this research project). The students are assigned sides and they have to debate population control. Going forward we are going to edit this part of our unit of study out because this is too much for a fifth-grader to be able to process if they are actually a product of the law. You can find my debate materials and my entire unit plan here.
We, as a school, are still trying to research our options in regards to this book. I have spoken with our school counselor and she thinks 5th grade is the appropriate time to deal with these issues. We also called in the parents and discussed the issue with them. Their opinion was that it was the appropriate time as well (as long as population control materials were deleted from the plan), although they were understandably nervous! I am going to call the adoption center at UAB (University of Alabama, Birmingham) and ask their opinion on the issue as well. We are still trying to work out what we should do to protect the interest of these students, but for now our plan is to read the book and be sensitive to the needs of our students at the same time!