[Editor's note: In an electronic message on January 23,1999, Christopher Paul Curtis wrote the following, as a response to my question about his feelings regarding the popularity of his novel among young readers and teachers.---psc]
I am really overwhelmed and so happy that The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 lends itself to classroom use. My first hope is that young readers first and foremost have fun reading the book. Once they understand that a good time can be found between the covers of this novel, hopefully they will search out other stories that teachers and librarians can recommend.
Pushing the envelope of hope even further, I hope that the book might encourage students to do some independent or guided investigations on the Civil Rights Movement. Maybe by the time the story has reached Birmingham, readers have become involved enough with the Watsons that they will have a deeper understanding of what kind of pressures the African American characters in the South were under. Maybe by becoming a member of the Watson family and taking that trip, they will get a hint of what it must've been like to have a loved one who was living under the umbrella of constant racism and hatred that were particularly strong in the South.
Maybe that's too much to ask, but if the novel lets one child see that there is a real potential for beauty and fun and emotion in a book, I'm not greedy, I'll happily take that.Reference Citation: Curtis, Christopher Paul. (1999). "On The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963." The ALAN Review, Volume 26, Number 2.