I’ve taught it as a read aloud for 5th grade, three years running. I taught a one month Social Studies unit on the history of African Americans in the US and another mini unit on the Great Depression to give the students background knowledge of the Jim Crow South during the Depression. I have seen students who hate reading become “converted” to the world of great literature. I explain to the students that, while the main characters are children, it’s not a children’s book. I also explain that there is a difference between the books that they have read up to that point and Pulitzer Prize winning books. I teach it to children in the 5th grade knowing that they will probably read it again in Junior High or High School. I want them to have a good relationship with the book before it becomes a tedious task.
This kind of journalism requires, I believe, a somewhat different ethical stance for journalists. In classic journalism, it’s the reader who is identified as what media ethicist Stephen Bates calls the “client” — the person the journalist is serving above those he is writing about and above those who employ him. That makes sense because the institution of American journalism is justified and protected by the First Amendment, which is meant to serve neither journalists nor subjects but the public interest. Yet when writing about the intimate lives of ordinary people, I believe journalists must adopt a hybrid ethical outlook closer to the one Bates says anthropologists use when writing about their normally ordinary subjects: “The anthropologist must do everything within his power to protect their physical, social and psychological welfare and to honor their dignity and privacy.”