books · critical literacy · OBSERVATIONS

A Quandary: Educational Fast Food Prizes & My Beliefs

Panera Bread has typically been my idea of fast food for the past decade. I’m a healthy eater and therefore I shun traditional fast food. As a result, my daughter has never eaten a Chicken McNugget.  (Considering what’s in them, I think that’s a very good thing!)

Last spring, I took my daughter to Chick-fil-A when we needed a quick lunch.  I ordered her grilled chicken nuggets, a squeezable apple sauce, and an apple juice box. It was quite possibly the most healthy fast food meal I could ever imagine since nothing was fried or excessively high in sugar. She gobbled up the meal and has been hooked on Chick-fil-A ever since. She requests to go to Chick-fil-A nearly every day.  (I think she likes their play area too!)  At most we take her once a week and only after she has expended a lot of energy doing something since we know she’s going to eat the food there.

While I disagree with Chick-fil-A’s politics, I love the fact that Isabelle will eat their (somewhat healthy fast) food.  But even more than that, I like the prizes they give kids in their kids’ meals.  There’s no junky toy that falls apart before the meal is over. Instead, they usually provide books. We’ve gotten Paddington Bear books and nonfiction books on animals, which we often read during the meal and revisit at home.  Today we received a memory card game. While each card is essentially an advertisement for Chick-fil-A (with the cow mascot dressed as something funny), the concept behind the cards is great since it’s a game that promotes memory and matching skills.

I’m in a bit of a quandary about what to do regarding our trips to Chick-fil-A since Isabelle loves it there.  You see, I recently stopped buying Barilla pasta as a result of the CEO’s anti-gay statements.  Eating at Chick-fil-A feels hypocritical to me since they made some very strong statements last year about gay marriage, which I support. While Isabelle doesn’t mind notice me buying a different brand of veggie pasta now that I don’t buy Barilla’s, I know she’s going to request lunch at Chick-fil-A again. Eradicating our visits to Chick-fil-A could be tough because it’s located in a shopping center we frequent and she can “read” the logo when we pass it during our travels.

I blame myself for this.  I started taking her there because it was convenient. I didn’t realize how much she’d like it. While I have tried to justify the way their pro-literacy prizes could potentially offset their political stance, I find myself in a predicament since I want to make my child happy.  I thought writing about this would help me come up with an answer, but it hasn’t.  Do I make a statement and stop eating there (when she is too young to understand why) and deal with the fall-out or do I keep on keepin’ on?  Feel free to weigh-in by leaving a comment.

critical literacy · meme · parenting books · raising strong girls · RESEARCH

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

This week I’m participating in Book Journey‘s “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” Meme.  Last week I did the one over at Teach Mentor Texts, which I plan to do a lot.  However, since I just finished a non-children’s book that I’m longing to blog about, I figured the Book Journey Meme would be more appropriate.

Several months ago a like-minded mom tagged me in a post on Facebook with a link to Peggy Orenstein‘s book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.  I pre-ordered it on Amazon and then let it sit on my bookshelf for way too many months.  I finally had made the time to read it last week and I’m thankful I did because it’s armed me with the information I need to guide my daughter through the things she’s going to encounter as she matures.  When I say “things” I mean things like princess mania, making sure she plays with girls and boys so she develops healthy friendships with members of both sexes, everything surrounding the color pink (e.g., toys, clothes), body image, the way girls are portrayed in the media, consumerism, navigating cyberspace and social networks, etc.  That list, which is not inclusive of everything Orenstein discusses, can make one’s head spin!  However, I have come to believe that the only way I can help my daughter make smart choices as she navigates through all of these things is by understanding what’s coming down the pike.

Right now Isabelle is a “toddler.”  I put toddler in quotes since I learned that toddler is not a term that deals with the psychological development of children.  “[A]ccording to Daniel Cook, a historian of childhood consumerism,  it was popularized as a marketing gimmick by clothing manufacturers in the 1930’s.  … It was only after ‘toddler’ became common shoppers’ parlance that it evolved into a broadly accepted developmental stage” (36).  So really, I still have a baby on my hands!  A baby my husband and I must guide through this ever-changing, complex world where she will encounter provocative messages and images.  Some people might say, “Don’t worry about cyberbulling and the effect of the way Miley Cyrus dresses now.  She’s just a baby!”  And you know what, they’re partially right.  I don’t really have to worry about it now.  However, princess mania is going to start between the ages of two and three, which is just ’round the corner, so I’m thinking about how to deal with it before the madness begins.

Throughout the book, Orenstein shares excerpts of conversations with her daughter, Daisy.  I noticed Orenstein often asked Daisy open-ended questions and got her thinking more deeply about the messages and reasons behind the way someone acted, why someone said something, or what something could mean.  Their conversations reflect thoughtful discussions and are similar to the work we teach students to do under the umbrella of critical literacy.  (Here’s a link to a PDF I used with my fifth graders, who are finishing 11th grade this month, to help them ask questions of texts.  It was compiled using a articles by Barbara Comber and a book by Stephanie R. Jones, that dealt with critical literacy.)  What I took from the constant conversations Orenstein and her daughter had is that you have to do more than just keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your child.   Part of my job in raising a literate human being will be to constantly push her to think critically about things she encounters in her daily life.  As Orenstein says in the final chapter, “Girl Power — No Really,” of the book that “involves staying close but not crowding them, standing firm in one’s values while remaining flexible” (192).

Cinderella Ate My Daughter should be mandatory reading for every mother of a girl.  To me, it’s like a manual for raising a strong, healthy, confident girl in the 21st century.  It’s a book I’ve discussed with my husband and would like him to read. (Right now he’s reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, as well as Derek Jeter’s new book.  Next up I want him to read Blessing of a Skinned Knee.  After he finishes that, I’m certainly having him put Cinderella Ate My Daughter on his Kindle!)  This book is one  my mother and mother-in-law want to read after hearing me talk about it so they, too, can help Isabelle on her journey towards being a self-reliant and happy woman.  Cinderella Are My Daughter is the kind of book I foresee myself returning to again and again as I guide Isabelle through the various stages of her life.