It is a little eerie seeing eleven-year-old boys tend a blazing hot furnace with no adult supervision, so it may be crazy for me to say, but I can’t help but sense some pride in the faces of some of these capable children. Could twelve hour days have been scaled back to five hour weeks in lieu of cutting work out of children’s lives all together? Clobber me if you will, I'm just wondering. My son is 14 this summer and had high hopes of making money working at a marina near our house, but because of the child labor laws, he can’t be considered for employment until he is 16. My boy grew up around boats and helped bring a boat from the Bahamas to Florida in rough seas when one of the two adults on board was laid up with a bad back. He's earned his boating license, has several hours of flying time and scuba dives. He is quite capable of fueling a vessel, tying a line and helping passengers get their supplies on and off boats...but now he has to wait two more years in order to be paid for it.
On another note, we have a fig tree in our yard. It produced vast quantities of figs this year. My eleven-year-old daughter and her friends scrambled for every opportunity they could get to pick the fruit...because they loved doing it. I’ve heard that Georgia farmers were having a hard time finding fruit pickers this year because the state has scared illegal immigrants away. Why aren’t high school and college kids stepping in to fill the void? I remember my father’s tales of picking apples in upstate New York when he was a kid looking for a buck.
Well, I think Kids at Work will be a great conversation starter at your house too. The book sums it up this way: “Hine’s images of working children stirred America’s conscience and helped change the nation’s laws. With his box camera and his sympathetic eye, he made a dramatic difference in people’s lives. In a real sense, the face of America never looked the same again.”
Ages 6 and up
Activity: For goodness sakes, learn how to peel your own shrimp: