“I used to live in an airport.”

Fly Away Home

These were the words one of my smartest kindergartners said to me.  As I had never known her to lie.  I sat in stunned silence.  It was my first year of teaching.

As a new teacher, I had some highly essentialized images of homelessness floating around in my head; and the drunk Korean War veteran who pushed his shopping cart of rags back and forth in front of my classroom reiterated them.  So hearing “I used to live in an airport” from a cute, neatly dressed, brown eyed, white girl shattered my undersized worldview.

Eve Bunting’s portrayal of homelessness in Fly Away Home helped me develop a more accurate perspective.  This is the story of a father and son desperately trying to escape homelessness.  Bunting didn’t weave a feel-good happy ending for this book.  But it is a story of hope, realistically balanced with the hard realities many families face in a downturn economy.

What I have since found working with local agencies that strive to meet the long and short term needs of the homeless in my community matches Bunting’s description.  Homelessness includes the mentally ill, drug addicts and yes, working families too. Bunting didn’t hesitate to address this issue with a children’s book.  I don’t think we need to either.

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