Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I know prayer is not part of the secular circles in which I generally work, but Hallelujah! Whenever the start of school rolls around, I have to give thanks to a higher power. What a great gift to be a teacher in America. What a great gift to be able to freely teach girls and women. What a great gift to be able to work in racially integrated classrooms. What a blessing to raise a child at a time and place in which this is taken for granted. Though we still have so far to go towards fully realizing the end of "separate but equal," especially in terms of intergrating our schools by socioeconomic class, children's literature is a powerful source of hope; remember, a great book is the same in the hands of an economically poor child as it is in the hands of a wealthy child, and every time you read aloud or promote literacy, you are working towards equalizing eduaction in America.

In celebration, introduce this generation to the work and heart that paved the way with these stories of how we got over:

by Toni Morrison (Houghton Mifflin)
This is one of the best books for introducing children to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Powerful black and white photographs from the period focusing mostly on children are captioned with rambling, stream of consciousness captions that mirror the way a child might have felt (actual events depicted are described in notes at the back of the book). This unusual approach is impressively effective. This is a book that raises so many questions that will connect children to this chapter in our history. How did if feel in those days? How would I have felt in that situation? How did the problem get solved? How can we keep the problem from ever happening again? Children will remember their own power to do the right thing after walking this pictoral timeline. Pair with SEPARATE BUT NOT EQUAL by Jim Haskins (Scholastic), LINDA BROWN, YOU ARE NOT ALONE: THE BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION DECISION by Joyce Carol Thomas, illlustrated by Curtis James (Jump at the Sun)(stories, memoirs and poems from people who remembered when it happened) and THROUGH MY EYES by Ruby Bridges ( or watch the movie if you want tears through your eyes!). (All ages)

And new on the shelves:
DEAR MR. ROSENWALD by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Scholastic)
Inspired by the leadership of Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company donated millions of dollars as matching grants to build schools in the rural, reconstructionist South. Based on this true unfolding of events, here is a rendering of an honest-to-goodness "school raising" from the point of view of a girl from a sharecropping family ("this school is the first new thing I ever had to call my own"). From the new school rally at the church to the box party (great fundraising concept!) to the cutting of the lumber ("those trees about to make history"), the excitement is palpable, just look at the illustration of those smiling faces of the whole community as the blueprints are laid out! More than history, more than lovely, thoughtful prose, this is a poignant book that will remind children of all races what a wonderful gift it is to be able to go to school.

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Current favorite read-aloud:
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner.

This book is pure fun to read outloud. I read it to my fellow Elementary Education majors last year during a presentation and it is still being talked about. I also read it in a classroom and the kids were hooked on it. The accents, exclaimations, and rhyming words lend themselves well for a dramatic reading. The story is funny and the kids said they really liked the illustrations.


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