16 answers

Is the Book NIGHT Appropriate for Middle Schoolers?

Our middle school is suggesting Elie Weisel's book, Night for our 8th graders next year. We were anticipating reading The Diary Of Anne Frank. Night is a book that is extremely violent. As an example, describes taking babies, tossing them in the air for machine gun practice among other atrocities. While I am not surprised by these things having occurred, I am struggling with such a book being used to introduce the Holocaust with this much detail of the violence. The children will not only be reading it, but they will be analyzing it, discussing it and searing those images of hopelessnes in their hearts and souls. I think that the end of Anne Frank is enough of a gulp to get the point across.

Does anyone else have an opinion on this?

EDIT after reading 18 wonderful posts ---> I am not saying my children shouldn't read this ever. Rather, is NOW the right time? We do very little TV or video games. Too busy with tons of fun things, developing skills, and service work.

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow! Thank you all for your very thoughtful and diverse responses. I suspect that our teachers,parents and kids would have the same range of perspectives. It is so helpful to have this group provide a glimpse at what others might be thinking if I were to raise the question publicly within our school community. We will not ask the school to pull the book. I find it dreadful when a minority of opinions forces the masses to change.

Our children are very aware of the holocaust, and at a personal level. They have lost ancestors to Auschwitz, they have traveled on many of the same soils as Hitler did. We spend our time on world affairs and pursuit of creating joy (rather than tons of TV and video games.) I think, thanks to your wonderful and robust responses, that we will ask for an alternate assignment at this time. However, your points are well taken about the reading content in high school AP classes. Certainly additional discussions at home are in order. You are wise. If you don't know about it, history will repeat itself.

I will circle back after I speak with the middle school English department. Thank you all! Feel free to keep other comments coming. It's all good.

Featured Answers

My son read Night in the 8th grade and we had many conversations about the book and the holocaust. He read The Diary of Anne Frank in the 6th grade, so Night was not his introduction to the holocaust. You may try to read along with him and discuss it as you progress through the book. It will help you to gauge how he's being affected by the story.

1 mom found this helpful

I just asked my daughter who is in 9th grade, her class read the book about 2 months ago. She said no it's not appropriate for middle school. I asked her why and she said because it's very graphic and very depressing.

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I am assuming your child is in Advanced Language Arts classes? They are reading on High school level. Our daughter was the same and remember, their senior years they will be taking AP classes which are on a college level, so again those books will also be a bit more mature..

Yes, this book is very disturbing because it is the truth.
Your child is just months away from being in High School.
If you are concerned about YOUR child reading this book, ask for your child to not be a participant. But do not ask that they not teach it to all students.

We had parents that did not like a particular book in 4th grade. The teacher told the 2 parents that their children could choose from the list of over 25 books, but the parents said they did not feel any of the 4h graders should read this particular book. This is book that had been read for many many years before. I read it and had not problem with it. "The Egypt Game" The parents were concerned because she felt in encouraged the children to run away and had occult over tones..

Our daughter read all sorts of books by the time she was in 8th grade. many way above high school level. I read all of the same books. We loved sharing our thoughts, rating the writing, the content all sorts of things. It helps me know how she makes decisions.

Once she got into high school it was hard to keep up with all of her reading, but I am glad for all of the previous years, I can honestly say I read every book she ever read.

I trust teachers to do their jobs. The fact that the will be analyzing it and discussing it as a group is important to understanding human behavior at its worse. It will be interesting for your daughter to hear what others felt about the different subjects and if she wants, she will be able to express her feelings and reactions. This is how we will make sure it will never happen again.

If you have read the book, you will also be able to discuss these subjects more openly with your child. Isn't this our goal? To keep communications about any subject with our children open so they will continue to come to us no matter what? Once she is in High school, this will REALLY be even more important, this is the first step.

It is hard to allow our children to know the ugly truths, but I would rather they learn it in a school setting, than on their own with no educated support.

6 moms found this helpful

I is a horrible thing to expose 8th graders to, but it was an even worse thing to expose the victims to, as you point out some of those victims were much younger than your 8th graders. Maybe searing these images into their minds while they are young and impressionable will serve as insurance that they won't let it happen to any other group ever again. You and other carring teachers will be there to help them understand the book and see the hope that also came from the situation - there were survivors, there were people who stood up and spoke in support of those being victimized, there were those who worked behind the scenes to rescue those who would have perished without their help (Oskar Schindler springs to mind, the people of Denmark are also noteworthy). Perhaps you would feel better if you balanced Night with a story about one of the many acts of heroism that took place. In other words, I believe the kids should learn what really happened - but that would include both the frightening images of Night and the contrasting image of what can be accomplished by those who stand up against evil.

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It's history, and 8th graders are old enough to understand.

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Just watched the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?" on hulu.com - - the episode where Lisa Kudrow goes back to the village where her great-grandmother lived and was murdered. When the reality of what happened in that village hit her, it hit me, and made me "gulp." I am one of those who was taught history fluff during my teen years - - names of generals, dates of surrender and treaties. This show brought it to reality for me. I am 51. And it was hard on me emotionally. Don't know how I'd handle the book "Night." Perhaps, ask teacher to let your child choose alternative book during that time.

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Just my two cents...I took a course in college, Literature and the Holocaust, and that was the first time I read this book. I am 24 and the images from the book are still with me, along with the ending and the emotions I felt when reading the book. I think it's your decision if you want your child to read this book, but it is definitely a book you can't forget.

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I have taught 8th grade through 12th grade, so I am familiar with the maturity level of a variety of students, though of course it varies by individual. I used to teach Night to 9th grade pre-AP students, and our regular 9th graders read it as well, and it was an amazing unit. I think 8th grade is a bit young for Night, though many of them could handle it. There are many others who probably aren't quite mature enough in the 8th grade to handle the images in Night.

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Hi,

I am often struck by how much violence our children are exposed to for entertainment purposes in everyday life (yes, this included us moms who don't let our children play violent games, watch violent movies, etc.), but when the violence is real, we hesitate and say it is too much.

I read the book in junior high and in college.

Perhaps in your discussions with your children about the book, you can make the point that violence is not funny and should not be sold as entertainment. Maybe you can talk honestly with your child about why we think some forms of violence are funny and not others. I firmly believe that these types of conversations will help us to live out the mandate "Never Again."

Sorry this sounds preachy. I keep trying to get my point across without sounding obnoxious. Hope you understand that I am not accusing you of anything nor saying your children are insensitive to violence. Just a comment about our society in general!

Peace and Joy,
M.

2 moms found this helpful

It depends on your 8th grader. My daughter (now 22) read it in 8th grade and I read it along with her. It's short and easy to read. Yes it's violent but it's the truth. Anne Frank really isn't much less disturbing. Less violent maybe but quite disturbing. My daughter also read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom in 7th grade. These books also speak the truth. It's not video games or vampires and werewolfs or some of the other things kids are exposed to. If you don't want her to read it I'm sure you could ask the teacher for an alternative book. But if you read it with her perhaps it would all be ok.

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It depends on the maturity of the child. I have noticed a lot of middle schooler's now are a little immature as far as reading material goes. I'm not sure why this is, but I suspect too much tv time and video games. I don't think it's too much, but then I don't know your child.

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I am a high school teacher, and all of our freshman read Night. Yes, it is disturbing. However, I think it's probably good that the kids read it in 8th grade rather than freshman year because they are probably in a more familiar school with teachers who are specifically attending to the needs of the less mature students. My guess is that the teachers have talked a lot of about how to support the students as they read this difficult book. It's not that we don't do this in HS, but HS expects a different level of independence and emotional maturity than middle school teachers expect (even if there's only one year difference).

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I agree with you completely. A parent has the right to make that decision knowing the child and what they can handle. This is way too extreme for a group study in a public school setting. It may have some merit but it's a book about hopelessness and the depraved things that brought him to it. The resentment of his father is just over the top for a middle schooler. This is college level curriculum if I ever saw it. The Diary of Ann Frank is as truthful as any to any story of this time and it also expresses the depravity, just not as graphically.

I'd take it straight to the principle and keep going if I had too. That's how strongly I agree with you.

God bless,

M.

1 mom found this helpful

I have read both books and I agree with you that the book, Night, is not age appropriate for 8th grade- Anne Frank is. I would think they would wait until high school for Night. I would bring my concerns to the teacher and principal and also to other parents to see if they have the same concerns- maybe if you get enough parents that don't want their kids to read this book yet, they will switch it back to The Diary of Anne Frank. If not, read the book Night with your child and discuss it with him/her. Yes, horrible things happened and they do need to be remembered so that they don't ever happen again.
~C.

1 mom found this helpful

I worked in a high school where the freshman class I was working in read Night. I read the book along with them, and thought it was one of the best books I've read. However, I thought that at the freshman level they were just too immature to really process it, and take the book as seriously as it needs to be taken. I don't think it will hurt them by any means, and I think analyzing it and discussing it will help them maybe take it more seriously. I think this about a lot of books I read in high school though, and then went back and read 5 years later as an adult. You just don't fully get out of them what they are wanting you to as a high school student, but as an adult I really appreciated these books.

1 mom found this helpful

I just asked my daughter who is in 9th grade, her class read the book about 2 months ago. She said no it's not appropriate for middle school. I asked her why and she said because it's very graphic and very depressing.

1 mom found this helpful

My son read Night in the 8th grade and we had many conversations about the book and the holocaust. He read The Diary of Anne Frank in the 6th grade, so Night was not his introduction to the holocaust. You may try to read along with him and discuss it as you progress through the book. It will help you to gauge how he's being affected by the story.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree. Anne Frank is just about all one can take even as an adult. I went to Europe as my friend's grandparents were killed with Hitler and one was a doctor and one a Scientist. We visited the concentration camps and such. I do think we all need to know the power of a sick man and if we put are noises in tv and electronics instead of being aware of the mess this country is in, we could be there again. Take away our power and look what happened? G. W

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