Sleeping in My Jeans by Connie Kind Leonard is a powerful book that highlights the struggles of homelessness through the journey of sixteen-year-old Mattie, after she, her mother, and her sister are forced to face out of their home after a domestic abuse dispute. While carrying the question of where she will sleep at night, Mattie also has to juggle the pressures and tribulations of high school, boys, and sisterhood. After the disappearance of her mother, Mattie is pushed to fight against the threat of starvation and ultimately, the threats to young women who appear homeless.

Mattie’s trials bring topics and realities to readers’ attention that many may be unfamiliar with. The struggles that Mattie is pushed through are largely uncharted territory for many young adults and adults alike. So how do we make sure these issues are understood by younger readers? Here is a quick list of discussion questions that can help guide a conversation through concerns as they appear in Sleeping in My Jeans:

  1. How do you feel about Darren’s actions? What are some better ways Darren could have dealt with his anger?
  2. If you were also seeking a safe place, like Mattie and Meg going to the library after school, where would you go and why? What makes a somewhere a safe place?
  3. What do ‘homeless’ and ‘poor’ mean to you? How do they make you feel? How do you think people that are affected by them feel?
  4. If you knew someone was sleeping in their car, how would you feel? How would you feel if you were in that situation?
  5. What do you think are some characteristics of people that you should keep a distance from, such as the man in the library that Mattie moves away from? How would you have gotten out of a similar situation?
  6. Why do you think the mechanic takes Mattie’s mom? Do you think Mattie should have called the police before going in alone? What would you do in a situation where someone you know or love may be hurt, but you are alone?

For a fuller list of conversation-starters circling the topic of domestic violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

For tips for talking about homeless, visit the Wellspring Family services website.

For further suggestions for talking with children specifically about sex-trafficking, visit the Human Trafficking Search website for more information.

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