Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Poetry and Empathy, #classroombookaday week 3

This week our writing focus was poetry, so I wanted to share books that used poems or poetic language, as well as titles that would prompt conversations around empathy and understanding. You can't go wrong with any of these titles.

Week Three: Poetry and Empathy

Titles: Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Lauren Castillo and The Stuff of Stars (2018) by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. (An advanced review copies of both books were provided by Candlewick. All thoughts are my own.) Can I Touch Your Hair: poems of race, mistakes, and friendship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis.

Imagine by former US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Lauren Castillo is fantastic! The entire book is an invitation to the reader to imagine themselves through the life of the author and eventually to what they could accomplish in their own lives. With both my classes it took about halfway through the story before they suddenly started to realize that the author was sharing about himself. This realization made them especially excited and engaged for the rest of the read aloud.

You can read my full review of The Stuff of Stars (2018) by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ekua Holmes here. Suffice to say, this is an absolutely incredible book for language classrooms, science classrooms, and giving as a gift at baby showers. Caldecott-contender for sure!

Can I Touch Your Hair: poems of race, mistakes, and friendship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. We spent two days unpacking this one, as the poems make for a longer read than most picture books. It also has some heavy content that required some schema-building with my fifth graders: about police shootings, about Trayvon, about the N-word, and continuing our conversations about identity, prejudice, and stereotypes.

Our conversation about the N-word turned into a mini discussion about reclaiming words and the pejorative use of the term "gay," which led to a brief discussion of the full LGBTQIA abbreviations, which led to me deciding to move up our read aloud of Prince and Knight to the next day. The kids enjoyed this rhyming fairy tale book, and while many of them suspected that the mysterious knight would turn out to be a girl, none of them blinked an eye when instead the knight was still a boy and still the prince's one true love.

What books have you been sharing lately? Click here for all of our #classroombookaday posts.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

#ClassroomBookaDay: the First Weeks of School

This is my first year teaching fifth grade (after ten years in third, fourth, and seventh), and one of the additions to the curriculum I am most excited about is incorporating the #classroombookaday commitment to daily read aloud (at least during our reading periods, which are four times per week).

Most weeks' readings will have a common theme as well as a title related to some of our year-round themes around identity, acceptance, and kindness. (See this year's #cyberPD posts about Sara Ahmed's Being the Change for more details.)

Week One: Identity and Community

Our theme for the first week was about personal identity and classroom community. On the first day of school we shared Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, followed by All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, and I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien to round out the week. We also read and discussed the new The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson during our Library time.

Jabari Jumps was a great first day of school read. The story of Jabari and the various ways he wrestles with his fear of the high dive serves as a great extended metaphor about facing your own fears and be willing to try new things. We also used the character of Jabari to discuss issues of identity and make a model "identity web" (below, inspired by Being the Change). Students then used Jabari's web as a jumping off point for making their own personal webs. Below you can also see our brainstormed list about characteristics of own identities.

All Are Welcome is a short poem of a picture book based on a celebration of school's like the one the author and illustrator's children attend. There is a lot going on in the illustrations, which my students enjoyed examining and discussing. This would also make a great read aloud and discussion for staff - how does your school measure up to these ideals and what can you do to make it an even more welcoming space?

I'm New Here tells the story of the beginning of a new school year through the eyes of three children who are all recent immigrants to the US. It's a great book to get kids thinking about what it might be like to be new to a whole country and not just a new school.

Finally, we shared The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson during our Library time.This brand new picture book shares some elements with those above (first day being new at school, feeling like you don't belong, etc.) but instead addresses the reader directly.

Week Two: Names

For the second week of school, we focused on stories about names and their connections to identity. In writing, students wrote etymologies about their own names, with these titles serving as ideas and inspiration.

In Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, the titular Alma is frustrated by the length of her name, but her father patiently explains to her where each name came from and how each is connected to her family and her history. This one has a structure that would be easy for younger students to emulate when writing about their own names.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is a great story that forces kids to think about what they consider "normal" names and how that can be exclusionary. Unhei has just moved to the US from Korea and is considering choosing her own "American" name rather than introducing herself as Unhei.

Younger students at our school also share Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, but my fifth graders were happily nostalgic about the story and willing to talk about it again. Chrysanthemum the mouse loves her name until she starts school and hears the reactions of her classmates.

Someone New by Anne Sibley O'Brien is a companion book to I'm New Here and revists the story from the perspective of the three kids already at the school who each reach out to welcome the new immigrant students. We had some great conversations around the ways that each character has to choose to take action and the impact it has.

What books have you been sharing lately? Click here for all of our #classroombookaday posts.

Monday, September 3, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 09/03/18 #IMWAYR

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.

Recent Posts

Board Books

Tooth (2018) by Leslie Patricelli comes out tomorrow. This is an adorable addition to her wide-range of toddler- and baby-centric stories. Tooth conveys the mystery, confusion, and excitement of the arrival of those first shiny white chompers, as well as some useful reminders about how teeth work and what to do for them. Super cute book!

As my son has been drooling enough for teething for at least two months at this point, this was a particularly timely arrival! (An advanced review copy of the book was provided by Candlewick. All thoughts are my own.)

Picture Books

The Stuff of Stars (2018) by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ekua Holmes also comes out tomorrow. I normally don't start thinking about my Mock Caldecott list until well into December, but after this book I think I'll just hang up my library card and call it. This. book. is. gorgeous! (Read my full review here.)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

September #diversekidlit is here!

Welcome to #DiverseKidLit ! Please join us in sharing your diverse children's book links and resources, as well as visiting other links to find great suggestions and recommendations.

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 serves as a resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, October 6th and the first Saturday of each month.

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Katie @ The Logonauts
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