Jennifer Brown's book Thousand Words is one of those books I think every junior high and high school student should read. Although it is fiction, the events in this book could and have taken place in many locations the world over. With the use of cell phones, facebook, and the internet in general, it is important that kids understand that what they share online never really disappears and can cause a lot of problems.
Ashleigh makes a poor decision, impetuously deciding to text - or sext- her boyfriend Kaleb a naked picture of herself. At a party with friends who encourage this and with a bit of alcohol involved, Ash, isn't thinking clearly, and wants Kaleb to remember her since he will soon be leaving for college.
Ashleigh isn't the type of person who anyone would typically expect this from. She is an honor roll student. She cooks supper with her parents every night. She is a "good girl." Initially Kaleb and Ashleigh's relationship seems fine after she sends the picture. But, when the two break up and Kaleb forwards the picture to some friends in anger, things quickly spiral out of control.
The whole school seems to have seen the picture of Ashleigh. She is being called names, shunned by her friends, and the whole sexting incident makes the local news. To top it all off, Ashleigh's father is the superintendent of schools, and the school board is calling for his resignation.
My husband thought this story seemed a bit far-fetched, but I think that Brown lays out what the ramifications of Ashleigh's and Kaleb's actions very realistically. Both of them pay - perhaps too high a price- for their decisions. And while it was never their intent to create such a huge problem, they both made decisions that resulted in their own demise - decisions that no one forced them to make.
I grew up before cell phones were even around, a child of the 80s. Reading this book made me want to delete my kids' instagram accounts, or at the very least scare the living daylights out of them when it comes to sharing information on social media sites.
Brown's book is such a timely story. I will be recommending this title to teachers, parents and junior high and high school readers.