Monday, February 27, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 02/27/17

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Middle Grade

Return to Sender (2009) by Julia Alvarez [a Pura Belpré winner]. This story about illegal immigration and undocumented workers is told in two points of view: a present-tense narrative from the perspective of Tyler, whose father's injury creates a need for help on the farm, and letters written by Mari, the oldest of three sisters whose father and uncle are undocumented and hired by Tyler's father.

I think this is an important story to tell, as it brings to light many of the issues and struggles of immigrant families, but I wish it had been done a little better. The present tense of Tyler's sections drove me absolutely batty! The letter-writing style also didn't really work for me, and I thought a narrator could have gotten inside Mari's head just as well. Some issues also seemed to be solved too quickly and predictably (oh, old immigrant-hating neighbor! One chapter later, staunch defender).

Young Adult

Island Treasures: growing up in Cuba (2015) by Alma Flor Ada. This collection of several smaller memoir anthologies brings them all together in one book. Alma Flor Ada relates tiny stories of her childhood in Cuba with a focus on storytelling and the connections between families and history. Each short memoir also includes photographs. This could be a great mentor text for writing memoirs and using photos for inspiration (perhaps paired with Lois Lowry's Looking Back).

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 02/20/17

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Last Week's Posts

      • Diverse Books for Children: Love. We could all use a little more LOVE in the world. Come share your love-themed posts or find some great recommendations with #diversekidlit! 

      Young Adult

      The House on Mango Street (1990) by Sandra Cisneros. Every single one of the incredible vignettes in this book could be a mentor text for writing. (For years with my third graders I used both "Papa Who Wakes Up Quiet in the Dark" and "Laughter.") We are winding down our reading and analysis unit of this book in seventh grade, and it has spurred so many important and thoughtful conversations - about identity, about stereotypes, about the struggles of being an adolescent, and more. I am looking forward to reading my students' final analysis papers!

      The Surrender Tree: poems of Cuba's struggle for freedom (2008) by Margarita Engle [Newbery Honor book]. This powerful novel-in-verse is the first in Margarita Engle's series about Cubans and Cuban history. It covers the 1850s to 1899 and includes several of the wars fought for Cuban Independence from Spain. We have been listening to the audio book and then reading it aloud, which forces students to slow down and really savor the words, language, and rhythm of this book.

      Happy Reading!

      Saturday, February 18, 2017

      #DiverseKidLit: Love

      Our theme for #DiverseKidLit in February is Love. Please consider sharing diverse books and resources that support love and families. (As always, the theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

      What Is #DiverseKidLit?

      Diverse Children's Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children's books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

      We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.


      We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, March 4th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

      Upcoming Theme

      Our theme for the current month is Love. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you're interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes ...
      • March 4th and 18th: Changing Seasons. As we eagerly await the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern, let's share favorite books and resources on the seasons.
      • April 7th and 14th is our one-year anniversary of #diversekidlit! Stay tuned for some big events to celebrate!

      Most Clicked Post from Last Time

      The most-clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit is Svenja's Multicultural Book of the Month: The Case for Loving. This picture book brings Richard and Mildred Loving's Supreme Court case to a younger audience in an authentic and interesting way.

      #DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

      Katie @ The Logonauts
      Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

      Carolina @ La Clase de Sra. DuFault
      Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

      Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me
      Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

      Jane @ Rain City Librarian
      Blog / Twitter / Instagram

      Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors
      Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

      Mia @ Pragmatic Mom
      Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

      Myra @ Gathering Books
      Blog / Twitter / Facebook

      Guest Hosts for February

      Gauri @ Kitaab World
      an online bookstore for South Asian children's books, toys and games
      Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestInstagram

      Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries
      Blog / Twitter / Facebook

      Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live?

      Receive an email reminder for each new #diversekidlit linkup

      Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at

      (Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

      Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

      Our Pinterest board highlights a wide range of amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children's Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

      Friday, February 17, 2017

      Poetry Friday: six words

      Thank you for all the amazing posts and comments last week! I am still making my way through all of them, and you can expect belated comments soon. Exciting news - as a result of last week's post and review of Here We Go: a poetry Friday power book, I've been given the opportunity to giveaway five copies of the book! Please enter the drawing at the bottom of the post for your chance to win.

      Six Word Stories

      My students are in the middle of a unit on family history and our connections to immigration and immigration stories. We are exploring many different genres of researching and reporting on our findings and our thoughts, and, of course, poetry is one of those outlets.

      Last week, I showed my students the promo (below) for the current Six Word Stories contest, Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America. [We did not enter the contest, but if you are interested, it runs through this Monday. Details here.] We had done some work with six word memoirs a few months ago (kids created "meme" style images with text overlays). What I love about six word stories is that the tiny size makes them seem approachable, while the necessary economy of words really forces you to "think like a poet."

      We created a shared Padlet for kids to write and share their six word memoirs. (Nothing motivates most middle schoolers faster than the chance to share and show off in front of others.) Kids had the option to put their name to their comments or to post anonymously.

      Made with Padlet

      One of my favorite things about this exercise was how much excitement and inspiration they got from each other! Once a few students started posted deeply personal posts, others immediately followed suit.

      Check out this week's Poetry Friday linkup at Check It Out!

      Happy Poetry Friday! Do you have a six-word family story? Consider sharing it in the comments below!

      Thursday, February 16, 2017

      Great Diverse Books to Give - for Middle School!

      One way to support diverse books, authors, and illustrators is with our dollars. Publishers speak "money," and it is important to purchase diverse books as well as to check them out from your local library.

      I love giving books as gifts, so I thought I would put together a series of posts on great diverse books to give as gifts. This first post introduces some great books for middle school readers.

      Diverse Books for Middle School

      Contemporary realistic fiction

      • Listen, Slowly (2015) by Thanhhà Lại. An incredible story of family, heritage, and belonging told through the eyes of Mai/Mia, a Vietnamese-American California girl who finds herself unexpectedly in Vietnam for the summer with her grandmother.
      • Blackbird Fly (2015) by Erin Entrada Kelly. Middle schooler and Filipino-American Analyn (Apple) is trying to navigate the horrors of middle school after being ranked as the third ugliest girl on the school's unofficial "Dog Log." This is a story about the power of acceptance and true friendship contrasted with the terrible bullying and racism of middle school. 
      • A Long Walk to Water (based on a true story) (2010) by Linda Sue Park. This powerful story includes two separate (at the beginning) narratives of 11 year olds from Sudan in the 1980s and 2000s. Some very harsh realities about the experiences of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan are included but make the uplifting ending even more powerful.
      • Drama (2012) by Raina Telgemeier. This realistic-fiction graphic novel focuses on seventh-grader Cassie, and the drama of the title refers both to her interests in theater set design as well as the kinds of drama one expects in middle school - issues with friends and relationships (including gay characters and crushes). 
      • Hour of the Bees (2016) by Lindsay Eager (realistic verging on magical realism). Carolina (Carol) has to spend the summer with her family, getting her grandfather's ranch ready to be sold so that he can be moved into an assisted living home, now that his dementia is progressing. She is curious about this grandpa she has never met, and his dementia serves as a gateway between the realism of much of the novel as it contrasts with the story he tells her about the ranch and its history. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful debut novel. 
      • The Crossover (2014) by Kwame Alexander, winner of the Newbery Award and a Coretta Scott King Honor Award. This novel-in-verse features the inside perspective of eighth grade Josh Bell. Josh and his twin brother are basketball stars and take after their father. 
      • Booked (2016) by Kwame Alexander. Booked is another novel-in-verse, this time told from the perspective of twelve-year old Nick Hall, an up-and-coming soccer star, plagued by his wordsmith father's book, Weird and Wonderful Words. The story touches many important issues and difficulties in tween/teenage life but without getting too heavy into more grownup content.
      • Better Nate than Ever (2013) by Tim Federle. This charming debut chapter book stars wanna-be actor Nate Foster who runs away from home in Pennsylvania to a Broadway audition in New York City. Packed with theatrical and musical references, this humorous story will delight readers, while also helping build empathy and celebrate differences. There is also a sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!
      • Lily and Dunkin (2016) by Donna Gephart. Each telling their side of the story, eighth graders Lily (neé Timothy) and Dunkin (neé Norbert) are both trying to figure out who they are and their places in the world, as they work through the special challenges of middle school. Lily is looking for the confidence (and parental support) to publically embrace her transgender identity, while Dunkin is worried about fitting in at a new school and balancing the demands of his bipolar disorder and medications. This is an important book for so many reasons, but just as important, it's a great read and an engaging story.

      History and historical fiction

      • The Inquisitor's Tale: or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (2016) by Adam Gidwitz and illuminated by Hatem Aly [a Newbery Honor book]. The Inquisitor's Tale is told as an homage to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with various narrators picking up the story while sitting around in an Inn. Each narrator brings something different to unfolding tale of three very different children who suddenly find themselves together (and eventually facing off against the King). There are many important lessons about friendship, religious tolerance, and the power of words and books ... plus much hilarity (and a flatulent dragon).
      • How I Became a Ghost (2013) by Tim Tingle. As the title implies, our Choctaw narrator and main character does not survive his family's journey along the Trail of Tears. This is a powerful and moving story that grips the reader immediately. (First in a series still being written.)
      • The War that Saved My Life (2015) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley [Newbery Honor Book and Schneider Family Book Award Winner]. Tenacious young Ada, born with a club foot, hasn't seen the world outside her family's apartment until she and her brother, Jamie, are sent out from London as World War II looms. This is an immediately engaging story, featuring a strong heroine, and one that I think many kids will enjoy.
      • One Crazy Summer (2010) by Rita Williams-Garcia [Newbery Honor, Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Coretta Scott King Winner, and a National Book Award Finalist]. Sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to spend a month in the summer of 1968 visiting their mother in Oakland, CA. Delphine, the oldest (and our narrator), is the only one with memories of their mother, who left right after Fern was born. This is a book with strong characters that pull you into the story, balanced against a tumultuous time period (with enough explanation and context provided to help kids without strong background knowledge about the Civil Rights Movement or the Black Panthers). A fascinating and thought-provoking book. The series continues with P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.
      • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson [a Newbery Honor book, Coretta Scott King Winner, National Book Award Winner]. This incredible memoir is told in vivid poems that are rich with history and imagery. Suitable for middle school and up, this book could be read by later elementary students, but a strong background in US history and the Civil Rights movement would help a student understand much more of the nuance and the references woven through the book. Inspirational!
      • Echo (2015) by Pam Muñoz Ryan. This lovely, lyrical novel weaves together three individual stories into its powerful conclusion. I have heard tell that the audiobook is fantastic, because of the inclusion of music, which is central to the book and all three stories.
      • Salt to the Sea (2016) by Ruta Sepetys. This World War II historical fiction novel is a young adult novel, but it is hugely popular among my middle schoolers. Salt to the Sea is told in four alternating perspectives as different groups of people (mainly children) find themselves together fleeing the advancing armies and faced with their only escape route across the sea. There are so many parallels here to the modern refugee crisis in Europe, which add additional painful layers to this story. For mature readers.
      • March series (2016) by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell [National Book Award Winner, Printz Award Winner, Sibert Winner, and Coretta Scott King Award Winner]. This is an important and powerful read, especially now. It is frankly disconcerting to see this look back at the work leading up to the passage of the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts and then compare it to how they are currently being eroded. A must-read.
      What are YOUR favorite diverse books for middle school?

      Monday, February 13, 2017

      It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 02/13/17

      It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

      Last Week's Posts

          • Diverse Books for Children: Love. We could all use a little more LOVE in the world. Come share your love-themed posts or find some great recommendations with #diversekidlit! 


          Here We Go: a Poetry Friday Power Book (2017) by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. I received my copy of this book this week, read it, loved it, and already wrote a whole post about it (click here). Even better, publisher Pomelo Books has offered to donate FIVE copies of the book for me to distribute to readers! Good luck!

          Picture Books

          When Marian Sang (2002) by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick [a Caldecott Honor book]. I knew the story of singer Marian Anderson performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but this picture book biography does a great job of setting the context. Plus, those incredible illustrations!

          Red Bird Sings: the true story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist (2011) adapted by Gina Capaldi and Q. L. Pearce and illustrated by Gina Capaldi. Fascinating biography of Zitkala-Sa, a Native American musician, teacher, and activist. Told in "updated" selections from her own writing, the book does a good job of showing the difficulties of her successful life - what it meant to leave her family and the reservation. A study that deserves to be better known.

          Jingle Dancer (2000) by Cynthia Leitich Smith and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. A modern day Native American story about a girl who longs to become a jingle dancer. I liked this gentle, repetitive story, but I wish there had been more emphasis on the work and practice to become a dancer. (The impression the book gave was that all she needed was a dress.)

          Fancy Party Gowns: the story of fashion designer Ann Cole Lowe (2017) by Deborah Blumenthal and illustrated by Laura Freeman. I know nothing of fashion designers, period, but I certainly hadn't heard about Ann Cole Lowe before. An interesting look at her life and impact on the pop culture of her time.

          Estas Manos; Manitas de mi familia / These Hands: My Family's Hands (2014) by Samuel Caraballo and illustrated by Shawn Costello. Love this simple poetic format, celebrating the hands of each family member. A great mentor texts for making a class book of similar poems.

          Happy Reading!

          Friday, February 10, 2017

          10 Who Stood Up and Made a Difference #nf10for10

          Hooray, it's time for Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10! Get your library card out, because this is a great opportunity to find out about new nonfiction books.

          I had a lot of different themes bouncing around in my head this year (most inspired by the current political situation), but I finally settled on Ten People Who Stood Up & Made a Difference, especially when facing unfair or discriminatory situations.

          Now in its fifth year, Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 (#nf10for10) is co-hosted by Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, Julie Balen of Write at the Edge, and Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine.  This year all activity is collected on the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.

          Previous #pb10for10

          10 Folks Who Stood Up and Made a Difference

          1840s: Sarah Roberts. The First Step: how one girl put segregation on trial (2016) by Susan E. Goodman and illustrated by E.B. Lewis [long listed for the Jane Addams Award]. Sarah was the only African-American girl in her all-white Boston school ... until she was thrown out. She and her parents fought all the way to the Supreme Court, becoming the very first case to challenge the legality of segregated schools (and the first case argued by an African-American lawyer before the Supreme Court). They may have lost the case, but it was the "first step" on the road towards Brown vs. the Board of Education.

          1903: Mother Jones. On Our Way to Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and her march for children's rights (2016) by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Felicita Sala. This book focuses on Mother Jones and her children's march - her effort to draw attention to the plight of child laborers at a time when newspapers were in the pockets of the factory owners. Although the march was unsuccessful, in that president Teddy Roosevelt refused to meet with them, it succeeded in its goal of bringing the rights of children into the national dialogue.

          1909: Clara Lemlich. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 (2013) by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Clara may have come to the US from Ukraine without a knowledge of English or her rights under the US Constitution, but she proved a quick learner. Not satisfied with the long hours and working conditions, she helped organize the largest walkout of female workers the country had ever seen and paved the way for fairer labor practices.

          1939: Marian AndersonWhen Marian Sang (2002) by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick [a Caldecott Honor book]. I knew the story of singer Marian Anderson performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but this picture book biography does a great job of setting the context. Plus, those incredible illustrations!

          1940s: Vivien Thomas. Tiny Stitches: the life of medical pioneer Vivien Thomas (2016) by Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrated by Colin Boolman. As a research assistant, Vivien Thomas pioneered the procedure for saving the lives of "blue babies" through the first-ever successful open-heart surgery on infants. But due to the racism and discrimination of the time, these findings were published without his name attached, leading to Nobel Prize nominations - for his colleagues. This picture book and a longer academic work are seeking to bring him the credit he deserved.

          1947: Sylvia MendezSeparate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation (2015) by Duncan Tonatiuh [a Pura Belpré Honor book and a Siebert Honor book]. This is an important book that sheds light on a lesser known side of the Civil Rights Movement: the segregation of children of Mexican and Hispanic descent, especially on the West Coast. I think it is critical for kids today to understand that discrimination is not just a white/black issue and that many groups have been treated differently for many "reasons." The Mendez case led to the desegregation of California and helped pave the way for Brown vs. the Board of Education.

          1960: David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, and Ezell Blair Jr. Sit-In: how four friends stood up by sitting down (2010) by Andrea Davis Pickney and illustrated by Brian Pickney. The Woolworth's lunch counter sit-in was one in a long string of important moments in the Civil Rights Movement, and this book is one of my favorites. Told in a rolicking poetry style, the Pickney's infuse the story with a call to action that the reader can't help but hear.

          1967: Richard and Mildred LovingThe Case for Loving: the fight for interracial marriage (2015) by Selina Alko and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. The story of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter and their fight for interracial marriage is presented very much from today's point-of-view but also offers children background about how this fight came to be. The author's note draws the natural connection between the history of this fight and the current battle for recognition of same sex marriages and also shares some of the authors' backstory as an interracial couple. (You can read my review of the new documentary novel about the case here.)


          1970s: Wangari Maathai (2004 Noble Peace Prize). Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson and illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler, Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola, and Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter. These three biographies  focus on the incredible work on Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. I used to prefer sharing  Planting the Trees of Kenya with my students because it goes a little more in-depth about her actions and some of the difficulties she faced, but Seeds of Change is my new favorite. They are all great books and emphasize the same lesson that one committed person can make a difference in their environment.

          1995: Iqbal, 2012: Malala Yousafzai. Malala: a brave girl from Pakistan and Iqbal: a brave boy from Pakistan (2014) by Jeanette Winter. This book masterfully combines the stories of Malala Yousafzai and Iqbal Masih, by letting you read either story, depending on which cover you choose, and having them both meet up in the middle. This device works especially well to introduce children to Iqbal, a former child laborer, who was killed for speaking out against child slavery and debt bondage. The continuation of Malala's work and mission lend a feeling of hope to his story as well.

          What will YOU stand for?

          Thursday, February 9, 2017

          Poetry Friday Roundup: Here We Go

          Welcome to this week's Poetry Friday roundup!

          Quick introduction: My name is Katie, and I am a language arts and social studies teacher in Wisconsin. I am in my first year of teaching middle school after eight years in third and fourth grades. I have been holding weekly Poetry Friday time with my students for several years now, and it is one of my favorite things about teaching.

          Poetry Friday: Here We Go

          Here We Go: a Poetry Friday Power Book (2017) by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. 

          I was beyond thrilled to receive a copy of Here We Go from a giveway on Irene Latham's blog as part of Multicultural Children's Book Day last month.

          I love this new addition to the "Poetry Friday" family! I have used weekly "Poetry Friday" celebrations in my classroom for years, and my own thoughts on The Power of Poetry Friday can be found here. I own and have used both the original Poetry Friday Anthology and the Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School. Unlike the anthologies, however, which are geared towards teachers, Here We Go has both kids and adults in mind.

          The book is organized into 12 power packs, each of which includes a poetry mini lesson, an anchor poem, a response poem, and a mentor poem with a prompt. As a bonus, the response and mentor poems work together to tell the story of 4 friends who use their poetic inspiration to make a real difference.

          Part story, part workbook, ALL poetry, this is a great resource for the young poet (or teacher or parent of young poets). Plus I love the focus on activism and making a difference in your local community.

          (This book also dovetails well with my current blog series about teaching students about issues of diversity and inclusion: Teaching Family History and Immigration or Talking to Elementary Students about Stereotypes. You can find the rest of my Poetry Friday posts here.)

          * This just in! Pomelo Books has kindly offered me the chance to giveaway FIVE copies of Here We Go.

          Poetry Friday Linkup

          Please check back during the day for more poetry goodness - or get started now by jumping into the links and comments! (Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.) I look forward to getting around and reading all your amazing poems and contributions. (If you are having problems leaving a link in the linkup, please leave it in the comments, and I will be sure it gets added.)

          Happy Poetry Friday!

          Wednesday, February 8, 2017

          Talking to Elementary Students about Stereotypes

          I wanted to share some of the lessons and resources that I use when teaching students about issues of diversity and inclusion. My previous post detailed my lesson plans for teaching family history and immigration for elementary . In this post I want to share about a lesson I did specifically to address the idea of stereotypes and misconceptions with younger students.

          Discussing Stereotypes through Postcards

          I started by having my third graders brainstorm some of their favorite things about Wisconsin (where we live). Then I introduced the definition of a stereotype: a widely held but oversimplified idea about a particular type of person or thing. Together we brainstormed some stereotypes people might have about Wisconsin. My kids were easily able to come up with ideas like “Everybody likes cheese,” “It’s always cold,” or “Everyone cheers for the Packers.”

          Then, I shared a variety of images taken from postcards about Wisconsin and asked them to write some notes about what the postcards showed about Wisconsin. The kids could easily draw connections between our discussion of Wisconsin stereotypes and what showed up in the postcards (cows, farmland, winter scenes, etc.).

          Then it was time to confront some of those stereotypes directly. I asked the kids to write down their best estimate for the following three questions:

          • What percentage of people in Wisconsin live in a rural area (like a farm)?
          • What percentage of people in Wisconsin own cows?
          • What percentage of people in the state live in Madison?

          (Take a minute and make your own guesses before reading on, if you wish.)

          Most of my students’ guesses were in the range of 50-80% of the state living in a rural area, 40-60% owning cows, and 10-20% living in Madison. Based on statistics drawn from a few different state sources, the actual answers are that less than 30% of Wisconsinites live in rural areas, less than 1% of residents own cows, and less than 5% of the state’s population lives in Madison.

          To wrap up this activity, we reflected on the following two questions:

          • What did you find the most surprising when comparing the actual numbers to people's stereotypes and general ideas about Wisconsin?
          • What do you think other people should know about Wisconsin?

          Students then applied those understandings by designing their own postcard about Wisconsin. At the time, we were participating in a postcard exchange as part of the Global Read Aloud, so we sent out our postcards to schools in several different states and a few different countries. The postcards we received back helped us continue our discussion about stereotypes as we pondered what each postcard showed about the place it was from. (Click here for the worksheet used.)

          Continue the Conversations

          This discussion about stereotypes helped establish a foundation for our discussions throughout the rest of the school year. Every time we read a book about another place or another culture, we could refer back to these understandings.

          I encourage all teachers and parents to seek out multiple perspectives on any issue or culture or country. Don’t read one book to a child to teach them about "Africa." Read a whole series of books that feature some of the diversity of people, places, and animals from this very large continent. Don’t read only Native American folktales without also reading books that feature modern Native American peoples and perspectives. Use these multiple sources to encourage kids to ask critical questions and to compare and contrast differing perspectives.

          Click on the "Teaching" tag for more lesson plan ideas.

          What are your favorite lessons or books for talking to kids about stereotypes?

          Monday, February 6, 2017

          It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 02/06/17

          It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

          Last Week's Posts

            • Diverse Books for Children: Love. We could all use a little more LOVE in the world. Come share your love-themed posts or find some great recommendations with #diversekidlit! 

            Picture Books

            The Composition (2003) by Antonio Skarmeta and illustrated by Alfonso Ruano [an Américas Award Winner]. My students are currently studying the history of Latin America and the long history of occupation and dictators. This book makes a great tie-in by showing the impact of a totalitarian regime - where even a simple assignment can serve a darker purpose.

            The Wall: growing up behind the iron curtain (2007) by Peter Sis [a Caldecott Honor and a Sibert Winner]. I found the structure of this memoir a little hard to follow at times (the way the story overlaps with factual details), but it was a very insightful and relatable look at living under a repressive regime.

            Happy in Our Skin (2015) by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Lauren Tobia. I appreciate what this book is aiming to do - and the illustrations do a great job of celebrating all kinds of people and families - but the rhyme really doesn't hold up, making it hard to see sharing this book even with younger elementary students.

            Happy Reading!