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Watsons Go To Birmingham


New Member
Hi everyone. Per recommendation of my colleagues I am currently reading this book to my 4th graders. I am a first year teacher and I am concerned about not censoring this book for my students. I teach in a innercity school enviroment and doubt the exposure to these things is lacking but I am still worried about parent phone calls/complaints. What are your feelings or how would you handle a parent upset about my choice not to censor the book? Thanks in advance for your help.


Full Member
My principal came in the other day while I was reading Bridge to Terabithia aloud. Not sure if you have read it, but there is some "questionable" language in it. They say "#####ing" and "damn" and some other words. Well, there is one section where the kids have just gotten home from church and are talking about heaven and hell. They get into a discussion about beliefs and one character says she does not believe in the bible. Another character tells her that she will be "damned to hell" when she dies. OF COURSE, during that exact section is where my principal decided to walk in! I felt very weird that she was there when I was reading it. Not that there was anything wrong, but it was uncomfortable. So, that afternoon I went and talked to my principal and told her I was feeling weird about it. She said that she knows it was in context and that she has no problems with it. I am sure that your principal will feel the same. It is not like we are saying those words just to say them, but we are sharing quality literature aloud with our class, using the words that the author intended us to use.

Hope that makes you feel better :)


Junior Member
I would change the wording, myself.

Especially as a first year teacher, you need to make sure that everything is in your best interests. If you feel that you must read the book as it is written, perhaps a "head's up" to the principal and/or parents about your intentions would be in order. The peers that have suggested the book are not in your position. As the parent of a 4th grader, I would be concerned that my son is hearing these things in school from a teacher. (Granted, we are not inner-city.) Just my thoughts, good luck with whatever you decide.


Senior Member
love the book

Watson's is one of my favorite books I read to my students. This is a book you can have great discussions about. The only part I skipped over is when they are talking about the naked lady. I just skipped the entire paragraph and it doesn't change the meaning in the story at all.

The kids have heard worse!


Full Member

I think the book is one of the best, especially when I stop reading and they all beg me to continue!! As for the language, you have to know your audience. If your students are less mature, then I'd censor. If you think you should notify parents first, then that's a great idea. I also think it's sad that so many people think that because kids are in the inner city that they've heard so much worse and that it's okay to read content that could be a problem. We all have to remember that children are children, regardless of where they live. Their exposures are not all the same just because they're from the inner city.
The main thing is to give ALL children a quality educational experience and the learning that they can gain from Watson's is incredible and unforgettable. I spend a lot of time teaching about the church bombings. This is a perfect opportunity to pull out some primary source documents and photos to make the real connection for the students. I say enjoy the book, but always know what your students can and can not handle. There are great lesson plans online for the book too!!


New Member
Go for it!

I love that book! I read the whole thing word for word. The description of a turd-brown car cracks me up! That is very fine writing as far as I'm concerned. I am currently reading Blood on the Water about Jamestown to my class. The orphan boy says if he dies he is either going to heaven with his mom or to hell with his dad. I didn't change that either, and the kids went crazy. When I read Best Christmas Pageant Ever, I do skip the word sex when they say the Herdmans just talk about sex. I say "dirty things" instead and it still riles the kids up. Call me crazy, but I think sometimes when kids know there are "bad words" in certain books it makes them want to read them. I just want them to read and if "bad words" hook them- so be it! I teach in a typical suburban school.


Full Member
I agree with the above posts! I absolutely love this book and am currently reading it to my class as a read aloud!

I don't sensor the words when reading the book. As the above poster mentioned, you have to consider the context. Some of my kids OOoohed and some covered their ears (which I thought was funny). Also, which was mentioned before, I did leave out the part about the naked lady and the part when the father brushed over the mom's breasts (well, I didn't leave that entire part out, but I did change it to say that the father carefully brushed against her).

Definitely use your judgement. My students were getting very rowdy when I read those bad words so I did omitted some of them. And, of course we have a discussion about the use of bad words!

Enjoy the book!


Would I want to read this to my children?

Personnally, I would feel uncomortable reading this to my own children. I just think that 9 and 10 year olds don't need to hear about husbands " brushing over mom's breasts". I have WAY to many students that will ask exactly what that means. If my principle came in at that time, I would just die. She would know it, the class would know it too. Know what you are reading and what you feel comfortable with. Do you really want to explain this to them, because you have to ask yourself... What if they ask about this? What will I say? Will I read this if the parent was in the room?


Full Member
I definitely understand what you are saying. The part about brushing the breasts is very small. It can be left entirely out or you can just say the father brushed against her. For all they know, he could have brushed his hand against her hand. The book is a very excellent--it is a medal winner and a good read. Most of my students are African American, so I think it is important for them to hear stories written by African American authors.

Also, it is a book that you should read before reading it to the students so that you can make these important decisions. You don't want to be shocked mid sentence or not know what is coming next!! After reading it first, you can decide whether it is something to continue to read.