Do you want your kids to be readers? Do you want them to be inspired by true-life characters? Do you want to have important discussions with your kids? Have you ever considered doing a mini-book chat with your kids and some of their friends? I have the perfect book to get you started: Gifted Hands, Kids Edition: The Ben Carson Story by Gregg Lewis.
I read the full-version of Gifted Hands last year and I was so inspired. Then I learned Ben Carson is running for president. I wanted my kids to know Carson’s story and I wanted to talk to them about his life. I also thought it could be a good segue to discuss the upcoming elections.
So, at the beginning of summer we e-mailed a bunch of friends—focusing on 5th grade kids—and invited them to read the book in the coming months and then come to our house at the end of the summer to discuss it with us.
As the time for our discussion approached, I decided to make a brain cake in honor of Ben Carson being the premier pediatric neurosurgeon in the world. The cake was shaped like a dome with two lobes of swirly fondant grey matter. Of course, inside it was red velvet and had oozy cherry preserves. After our discussion, I let one of the boys perform a “hemispherectomy” and remove half the brain with a serrated knife. This was a huge hit! [By the way, here is a foolproof fondant recipe if you want to try this. It’s not hard. I promise!]
We also watched the movie Gifted Hands, based on the book, which is currently on Netflix, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. That was a hit as well.
I was worried the kids wouldn’t really say much in our discussion, but I was in for a surprise. Out of 11 kids, nine of them had things to say and several of them had a lot of things to say. Also surprisingly, the boys far out-talked the girls. It was a very fruitful and engaging discussion, enjoyed by all.
Below are the discussion questions I came up with after re-reading the book, to prepare for my time with the kids.
Let me know if you have a Ben Carson discussion. I’d love to hear about it! Or, if there are any other good kids’ club books you can recommend.
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story Discussion Questions:
♦ Who knows what big event is happing next spring and how Ben Carson is involved?
♦ What character qualities did Ben show throughout his life?
♦ Ben was deeply influenced by his mother. Tell me what you know about Ben’s mother. Why is she such an inspirational person?
♦ In Ben’s story, words are spoken by various people that have a powerful affect, for both good and ill. Give some examples.
♦ Do you have any examples of how you have been either encouraged or hurt by words other people have spoken?
♦ How can you be someone who lifts people up with words? You can make a difference for other people! Think about how you can encourage someone (siblings, classmates?) with your words.
♦ Interestingly, Ben was made fun of by classmates for two opposite things. First they made fun of him for being a “dummy” and then, later, they made fun of him for being a smart “nerd” and studying all the time. Why do you think they made fun of him for both of these opposite things?
♦ Ben knew the answer to the science teacher’s question, about the name of the rock, because he had been reading books in his free time. Do you read extra books that your parents or teachers do not assign? Why or why not?
♦ The book states: “Reading was the key that would unlock Ben’s future and someday enable his greatest dreams to come true.” That’s a pretty amazing statement! Do you think reading more books could positively impact your own future? How could you make time for more books?
♦ When Ben was honest and returned the money (the store clerk gave him too much change), he said “When you do what is right, the satisfaction that results is better than having money.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
♦ What is Racism? Can you think of examples of how Ben experienced racism and how it affected him?
♦ People judged Ben based on his appearance—both in regards to the color of his skin and also the clothing he wore (indicating he was poor). What does the Bible say about this? (Hint: I think you memorized a verse about this in class last year!)
♦ Tell me about how Ben overcame his anger problem.
♦ The book tells us that, whatever job Ben had, he would work as hard as he could. Are you a hard worker? When your parents encourage you to work hard, why are they telling you this?
♦ After his first year in college, Ben worked during the summer to supervise guys collecting trash on the highways. He figured out a way to get his guys to collect 12 times more trash and do it a lot faster! Are you someone who just sees problems or someone who tries to find answers to a problem? Can you give an example?
♦ When considering a specialty in medicine, Ben asked himself: “What am I really good at?” This helped him decide what type of career to pursue. Have you ever asked yourself that question? What are you good at?
♦ There were a lot of big medical words in this book. Neurosurgeon. Seizures. Hemispherectomy. Craniopagus Siamese twins. Do you understand what all of these mean? What did you think when you read about those complicated surgeries, lasting 22+ hours?
♦ What were Dr. Carson’s thoughts after the failed surgery on the South African twins? Was it a complete failure?
♦ Why did patients undergo such risky surgeries? Do you remember the story of the adult women who underwent surgery to be separated? Why did Ben agree to try to help them?
♦ How did Dr. Carson’s faith help him perform these high-risk, extremely physically and emotionally taxing surgeries?
♦ How did Dr. Carson’s cancer diagnosis affect his life and his perspective?
♦ Ben Carson believes that “the most dangerous thing a student can face is P.E.E.R.S—people who encourage errors, rudeness, and stupidity.” What do you do to avoid negative peers and develop friendships with people who will encourage you?
♦ Dr. Carson says, “Your brain is amazing! Why would anyone utter the words, ‘I can’t!’?” Have you ever said “I can’t”? How can you change your perspective and solve problems, so you don’t have to say that anymore?
♦ “You have the ability to define your own life.” What does that statement mean to you?
♦ What habits are you forming today that will make a difference in your life story? Ben told his classmates “let’s see what we are all doing in 20 years” when the classmates made fun of him for studying so much. What will you be doing in 20 years?
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; second image by Amy Koons.