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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: reading aloud, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 221
1. Building Classroom Community in Second Grade

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for Second Grade! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of second grade is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for Second Grade consists of eight read alouds and provides a structured approach for this important work, yet the lessons are flexible enough for you to teach language and behaviors specific to your students’ population, preferences, and goals. Each lesson is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

Scope & Sequence
Scope & Sequence

This unit combines relationship-building opportunities with direct instruction and guided practice in the art of thoughtful conversation. Then, by closely studying a variety of engaging protagonists, students learn to use characters’ thoughts, words, and actions to gather information about their emotions and goals. Discussions structured around graphic organizers, such as two-column charts and concept webs, help students begin to make connections between characters’ actions and the pro-social behaviors present in a strong classroom community.

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).
Book extension activities encourage exploration of these topics through writing, drama, and art, as well as lay the foundation for collaborative learning during your year.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

PINTEREST Building Classroom Community Grade 2Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for Second Grade here

Further reading on teaching literacy in SECOND GRADE

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

2 Comments on Building Classroom Community in Second Grade, last added: 10/13/2016
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2. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Bird

Lee and Low 25th anniversaryLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Bird

Author: Zetta Elliott

Illustrator: Shadra Strickland

Synopsis: Young Mekhai, better known as Bird, loves to draw. With drawing you can erase the things that don’t turn out right. In real life, problems aren’t so easily fixed. As Bird struggles to understand the death of his beloved grandfather and his artistic brother’s decline into drug addiction, he escapes into drawing as an outlet for his emotions and imagination. Along the way, with the help of his grandfather’s friend, Bird finds his own special somethin’ and wings to fly. Told with spare grace, Bird is a touching look at how a young boy copes with real-life troubles. Readers will with be heartened by Bird’s quiet resilience and moved by the healing power of paper and pencil.

Awards and honors:

  • New Voices Award Honor, Lee & Low Books
  • Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, American Library Association
  • Ezra Jack Keats Award, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation
  • ALA Notable Children’s Books, American Library Association
  • Best Children’s Books of 2008, Kirkus Reviews
  • Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
  • Celebrate with Books List 2008, Cleveland Public Library
  • Editor’s Choice 2008, The Bloomsbury Review
  • “Choices” 2009, Cooperative Children’s Book Center
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • 2009 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, The Poetry Center
  • Storytelling World Resource Awards Honor, Storytelling World magazine
  • West Virginia Children’s Choice Book Award

The story behind the story (read the full interview here):

 LEE & LOW BOOKS: What part of this book was the biggest challenge for you?

Zetta Elliott, author: When I first wrote the story at the start of 2002, there was nothing challenging about it at all. I wrote it quickly—in less than a day, I believe. The story was simply ready to come out. The biggest challenge came in 2006 when my editor asked me to turn the book into a [longer form]. It was difficult to accept praise for the unique voice I had created but then to manipulate that voice after I felt I had said all I needed to say. The story felt complete to me, but it wasn’t complete to others; and so it was challenging to satisfy other readers’ needs.

LEE & LOW BOOKS: Bird tackles some very serious subject matter. Why did you choose to approach these subjects through a picture book as opposed to something aimed at older readers?

Zetta Elliott, author: Children are open: they see, and hear, and feel things, just like adults; but they don’t have access to the same information, and they can’t process that information in the same way. I understand the impulse to protect children from difficult subject matter, but sometimes our efforts to shield children actually silence kids instead. The children I’ve worked with know about drugs; they know what junkies look like, how they act. But they may not understand why. Many urban children have had a family member affected by drug addiction, and increasingly, many children in small towns are also having their families torn apart by drugs such as crystal meth. We teach children to “just say no,” but we don’t always give them the tools they need to understand addiction. I felt a picture book could promote discussion between children and adults. I definitely see parents reading this book with a lot of conversation—it’s okay to stop reading and start talking! Give the child an opportunity to ask questions or express emotions. When we demystify things such as drug addiction, we empower children to make better choices.

—Zetta Elliott, author of Bird, in an interview with LEE & LOW BOOKS

Resources for teaching with Bird:

  • Inspire a philosophical exchange overBird with these discussion questions created by the University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children, which is dedicated to bringing philosophical inquiry into schools
  • Discover how to teach philosophy with elementary school students with the Bird book module from the Teaching Children Philosophy Program
  • Use the activities and discussion questions on page 17-18 for Bird created by the 2009 Coretta Scott King Awards Committee, American Library Association
  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide from LEE & LOW BOOKS
  • Read why to read sad and dark books with children

Additional collections including Bird:

Book activity:

Uncle Son is a mentor for Bird. Pair students up and have them interview each other about who their mentors are. Ask students to brainstorm a list of questions to ask their partner first, such as: What is a mentor in your opinion? Who is or has been a mentor for you? What advice has she/he given or model behavior has she/he demonstrated for you? Do you think every person needs a mentor? Why or why not? What makes a good mentor? Students should take notes during their interview of their partner and then write a description of their partner’s mentor. Encourage volunteers to share their reflections with the class.

How have you used Bird? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

0 Comments on Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Bird as of 10/3/2016 9:34:00 AM
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3. Building Classroom Community in First Grade

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of first grade is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade consists of eight read alouds and provides a structured approach for this important work, yet the lessons are flexible enough for you to teach language and behaviors specific to your students’ population, preferences, and goals. Each lesson is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

PINTEREST Building Classroom Community in First GradeDuring this unit you will:

  • review and build on the expectations for listening and discussion participation introduced in kindergarten, with a new emphasis on staying focused on a topic and building on others’ responses
  • encourage students to learn about one another through discussions of favorite individual and family pastimes and goals for the year ahead
  • engage in rigorous yet developmentally appropriate discussions about crucial topics such as individual strengths and challenges, managing disagreements kindly, and persevering through mistakes and difficult tasks

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).

Book extension activities encourage exploration of these topics through writing, drama, and art, as well as lay the foundation for collaborative learning during your year.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 1.06.57 PM
Scope & Sequence

Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade here

Further reading on teaching literacy in FIRST GRADE

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

Stay tuned for second grade!

0 Comments on Building Classroom Community in First Grade as of 9/28/2016 8:40:00 AM
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4. Building Classroom Community in Kindergarten

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of the kindergarten year is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten consists of eight read aloud lesson plans. Each lesson paired with a book is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

Scope and Sequence
Scope and Sequence

During this unit you will:

  • help students connect to one another by discussing things they like and their families
  • share goals for the kindergarten year to create a sense of shared purpose
  • establish a common vocabulary for discussing emotions, which will support both social and literacy goals
  • generate clear, specific expectations for active listening in groups and partnerships, respectful communication, treating one another with kindness, solving problems, and working together as a community of learners.

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).

Book extension activities provide initial opportunities to practice these crucial behaviors, and the resource materials you create will support ongoing focus on these topics.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten here

Building Classroom Community in Kindergarten (1)Further reading on teaching literacy in kindergarten

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

Stay tuned for first and second grades!

4 Comments on Building Classroom Community in Kindergarten, last added: 9/16/2016
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5. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Babu’s Song

LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Babu’s Song

Author: Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Illustrator: Aaron Boyd

Synopsis: Babu’s Song is the story of a young Tanzanian boy who learns a lesson about family love after selling the special music box his grandfather made for him. Set in contemporary Tanzania, this story is a tender testament to the love between grandchild and grandparent.

Awards and honors:

  • Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • “Choices,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • 40 Books About Sports, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Parents’ Choice Recommended, Parents’ Choice Foundation
  • South Carolina Children’s Book Award Nominee, South Carolina Association of School Librarians
  • Storytelling World Resource Award, Storytelling World magazine
  • Children’s Africana Book Award, African Studies Association
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Master List, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
  • West Virginia Children’s Book Award Master List, West Virginia Children’s Book Award Program

The story behind the story: 

“To this day Babu’s Song is still one of my favorite books and though I’ll illustrated over 20 books since then, I still go back to it when I’m speaking with kids and other artists. Babu’s Song is such a beautiful story and it is still one of my most requested books when I talk to people.

Working on Babu’s Song continues to touch my life as an artist as much today as it did when I began illustrating it. Not only because it’s one of my most recognized and colorful books I’ve illustrated, but also because it helped set the trajectory of my artistic and social conscious. Growing up where books (and movies) too often didn’t contain subjects or people that I saw in my own life I knew that when I began illustrating books my priority would be to capture people and places that we don’t often see or know on a map.

In Babu’s Song I got to show a boy and his father in Tanzania dealing with poverty and loss that while not uncommon in the world are often unseen by most of us, even when next door. And while this story does deal very honestly with the boy’s struggles, it always keeps its heart and shows us that there is a way to persevere. So a story about a little boy and his grandfather on the other side of the globe becomes someone we can begin to see (empathize with) thus bringing us all a little closer. “

Aaron Boyd, illustrator of Babu’s Song and new title Calling the Water Drum

Resources for teaching with Babu’s Song:

babu's songBook activity: Ask students to write a letter to their grandparent or grandparent-figure in their life. Review the structure and tone of a friendly letter. Students should describe what they admire about this person and include questions to learn more about them.

How have you used Babu’s Song? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

0 Comments on Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Babu’s Song as of 8/22/2016 8:36:00 AM
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6. Try! Try! Try!, by Lindsey Craig | Book Review

Try! Try! Try! is an entertaining board book that encourages young readers to try new things.

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7. Part 2–Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It Is

Guest BloggerEarlier this month, we highlighted the impressive work happening in the classroom of Jessica Lifshitz, veteran educator in Northbrook, Illinois. Following her popular essay on how Jessica empowered her fifth grade students to analyze their classroom library for its culturally responsiveness and relevancy, she shares in this interview with LEE & LOW BOOKS why she wanted to take on this project with her students, where families and administrators fit into this process, and her hopes for her students.

LEE & LOW: What inspired you to have your students analyze your classroom library?

After the events surrounding the shooting and death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, I felt compelled to find a way to bring more discussions on race into my classroom. I teach in a suburb of Chicago, where the vast majority of my students are white. There were little or no conversations about race at all taking place. I knew that if things were going to ever have a hope of getting better in this country, my mostly white students HAD to be a part of the solution. They had to recognize the bias that exists in this country and then find a way to fight against it. But that is really hard to do when the concept of race is not one that my students have had much, if any, experience dealing with. So, like with most problems, the first place that I looked to try and find a solution was with the very books that make up a huge part of the work that my students and I do together.

We began by doing a small experiment (explained here) where we looked only at the images on the covers of picture books and made predictions on what those books would be about. Based on our results, we realized that we made MANY predictions because of the race and gender of the people shown on the covers of those books. After a powerful discussion with my students, they crafted the following inquiry question: Where do the biases and stereotypes we carry around related to gender, race, family structure, religion, etc. come from?

We then set out to try and answer that question. This eventually led us to think about the picture books in our classroom and that led us to the work of analyzing our books to look at how they represented or misrepresented different groups of people.

So the short answer really is that this work was inspired by students and the conditions of the world that they are living in.

LEE & LOW: Why do this at all? This project is not a part of the curriculum or scope & sequence for fifth grade—why did you think this was important enough to use instructional time?

As teachers, we have an incredible opportunity to truly make the world a better place. Not to sit and wait for others to fix the problems, but to ask our students to join us in the powerful work of actually starting to make the world a better.

I think that a lot of times we waste this amazing opportunity because we feel limited by standards and objectives and curriculum. But what I have found is that if I begin with what work I want my students to be engaged in and then work backwards to connect that work to the standards, I am then able to do the work that I feel is most important AND meet the standards and objectives that I am asked to teach.

For example, the work that we did here was a part of our unit on synthesizing. We looked at how we could pull pieces of information together in order to gain a better, more complete understanding. So we took the issue of stereotypes and biases and that is what we worked to understand. We looked at advertisements, fairy tales, modern day picture books and novels. We pulled all of these pieces of information together to grow our understanding of how biases form. This allowed us to cover many standards and learning targets.

But more importantly, the kids were learning about their world. They were studying the problems that surround them and thinking of ways to begin to solve those problems. That is learning that will last. That is learning that will make a difference. So if I am able to help them to do that kind of work AND I am able to cover the skills I need to teach in the process, then everyone wins and the world gets better.

BiasesLEE & LOW: What foundation, classroom work, or background context do you think was imperative before leading your students through this project?

I think that one of the most important pieces of work that allowed this project to happen was that, from day one, we had worked to create a culture of trust in our classroom. We practiced making ourselves vulnerable and we practiced listening to the ideas of others without passing judgments on people. These things were absolutely necessary for our work to take place because part of our work involved sharing things about our own thinking that we weren’t necessarily proud of. No one likes to admit that they carry biases, and yet we all do. Ignoring that doesn’t help anything. Confronting that and working to dismantle those biases is what leads to real change. But that takes a lot of trust. So from the start of the school year we talked about big issues.

We began with during our unit on memoirs and on making connections to the texts that we read. These units became a chance to study the power of a person’s story. We learned the power of sharing our own stories and the power of learning from the stories of others. This work allowed my students to open up to each other about their own lives and also allowed us to practicing listening to people whose lives are very different than our own in order to learn more about them and build empathy. These were skills we needed for this project as well.

When we started to look at biases and stereotypes, we began first with gender before tackling race. We began by looking at catalogues like Pottery Barn to notice the differences in what was marketed towards girls and what was marketed towards boys. We did work that helped us to distinguish the actual things we observed from the more hidden messages that this sent. We started with gender because I think it is easier for kids to grapple with. It is more concrete. While my students had almost no experience discussing issues of race, they did have some experience discussing issues of gender. So we started with where they were and then moved on from there. That was really important because I think that if I had just thrown them in to the discussions of how races were misrepresented in the books in our classroom library, they would not have been ready. The work we did with issues of gender helped us to better understand the work we later did with issues of race.

LEE & LOW: For teachers interested in leading their students through similar thinking and analysis, what would you recommend they prepare either for themselves or their students?

I hope that others want to take on similar work and I know that so many already have. The beauty of this kind of work is that is uses materials that are already present in your classroom. We have books and we can all look more closely at those books.

One thing that I would recommend is a whole lot of communication before beginning. I had several conversations with my principal about the work we were taking on. It was never to ask permission to do the work, but instead to just let him know and make sure I had his support in case of any push back from parents. Issues of race often spark fears and concerns with parents and having administrator support makes all of that much easier. On that note, keeping parents informed of the work was also really important for me. I wanted to make sure that parents knew what we were doing so that the conversations we were having could be continued at home. I also made sure to let parents know how our work was connected to our curriculum and our standards and learning targets. Therefore, when questions were asked, I was able to refer back to the information that I had already shared. This was extremely helpful.

Other than communication, I would also just encourage teachers to not say too much. Instead, allow the students observations to drive the conversation. We began by looking at the infographic and then jumped pretty quickly into the data collection in our own classroom library. I have a terrible habit of telling my students all of the things that I want them to discover on their own. I have really had to work to stop myself from doing that because taking away that power from my students takes the learning right out of their hands. So I wouldn’t recommend preparing too much and allowing the students to really guide this work.

LEE & LOW: Is this only valuable for classrooms with a majority of students of color? What can classrooms of various demographic configurations take away from this project?

As I mentioned before, my students are mostly white. Because of that, this work is especially important for them. So often, our white students do not ever think about race. That is part of the privilege they are living with. But that makes it really easy for them to ignore what others have to deal with precisely because of their race. I believe that my students MUST be a part of a solution to the many problems connected to race in this country. But they cannot be a part of that solution if they are not even able to recognize that the problems exist.

For Further Reading:


Jessica Lifshitz is a fifth grade teacher in Northbrook, Illinois and has been teaching for 13 years.  She believes in teaching her students that reading and writing can make the world a better place and is honored to learn from her students and to be inspired by them every day.  She writes about teaching and learning at crawlingoutoftheclassroom.wordpress.com.

0 Comments on Part 2–Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It Is as of 7/21/2016 9:17:00 AM
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8. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.


Featured title: Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

Author: Matthew Gollub

Illustrator: Kazuko G. Stone

Synopsis: This award-winning book is an introduction to haiku poetry and the life of Issa (b. 1763), Japan’s premier haiku poet, told through narrative, art, and translation of Issa’s most beloved poems for children.

Author Matthew Gollub’s poignant rendering of Issa’s life and over thirty of his best-loved poems, along with illustrator Kazuko Stone’s sensitive and humorous watercolor paintings, make Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs! a classic introduction to Issa’s work for readers of all ages. With authentic Japanese calligraphy, a detailed Afterword, and exhaustive research by both author and illustrator, this is also an inspirational book about haiku, writing, nature, and life.

Awards and honors:

  • Notable Books for a Global Society, International Literacy Association (ILA)
  • Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
  • Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies, Children’s Book Council (CBC) and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
  • Children’s Books Mean Business, Children’s Book Council (CBC)
  • Not Just for Children Anymore selection, Children’s Book Council (CBC)
  • Outstanding Merit, Children’s Book of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Books to Read Aloud with Children of All Ages, Bank Street College of Education
  • “Editor’s Choice,” San Francisco Chronicle
  • Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award finalist
  • Children’s and Young Adult Honorable Mention for Illustration, Asian Pacific American Award for Literature (APAAL)
  • “Choices,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association (ALA)
  • A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year, The Horn Book Magazine
  • California Collections, California Readers
  • Utah Children’s Book Award Masterlist
  • Children’s Book of Distinction, Poetry Finalist, Riverbank Review
  • Read-Alouds Too Good to Miss, Indiana Department of Education
  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
  • Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine

From the author: “A haiku, because of its brevity, resembles a quick line sketch. It’s up to the reader to imagine the details and to make the picture complete. In a sense, we can think of a haiku as a telegraph; for example: “Should arrive Tuesday, supper time.” From this short message, we can infer that, weather permitting, the sender will arrive early on Tuesday evening, and that after the long, tiresome journey she would appreciate a good meal.

Often, haiku describe two events side by side, such as: “Plum tree in bloom—/ a cat’s silhouette/ upon the paper screen.” Does the silhouette of the plum tree also appear on the paper screen? Does the plum tree in bloom suggest the warmth of a spring day? Again, it’s up to the reader to imagine how or if the two things are related.

Haiku tend to be simple and understated, so there’s never one “correct” way to interpret them. The idea is to ponder each poem’s imagery and to discover and enjoy how the poem makes you feel.”

–Matthew Gollub, from “What is a Haiku?

Resources for teaching with Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa:

Book activity:

Expand students’ experience with haiku by having them read and discuss works by other seventeenth century and eighteenth century poets such as Basho, Jöso, Ryota, Buson, or Sanpu. Students may also enjoy reading more contemporary haiku and comparing the contemporary poetry with the more traditional.

cool melonsHow have you used Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

0 Comments on Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa as of 7/18/2016 8:17:00 AM
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9. Rediscovering Sueño. La Palabra Wraps for 14. GF Chicano.

Review: Martin Limón. The Iron Sickle. NY: Soho Press, 2014.
ISBN: 9781616953911

Guided serendipity led me to find a Martin Limón novel on the new books shelf of the library and in a flash I realized I hadn't seen a Sueño and Bascom novel in a while. Turns out I've missed two since enjoying 2009's G.I. Bones. Finding The Iron Sickle went ahead and made my day.

Reading a Sueño and Bascom crime novel comes with everything, and more, readers find in the best cop novels: Intriguing setting, local color, irrepressible heroes, insurmountable odds, ingenious plotting. The add-ons include an outcast Chicano detective, Korea, and the U.S. Army in the 1970s.

Martin Limón weaves all the elements together in The Iron Sickle, latest novel in the long-lived cop series. One needn’t have read other titles to enjoy everything The Iron Sickle offers, but Limón consistently alludes to events happening in earlier novels, head-turning, momentous stuff, dropped into a paragraph in passing. Limón gives a reader plenty of motivation to seek other titles in the series.

The Korea and Army setting will be completely foreign to all but a tiny fraction of U.S. readers. This makes the author responsible for a lot of explaining about language, culture, and attitudes, both Korean and Army. Limón uses that as a way to enrich the novels with fascinating local color and military slang.

George Sueño is the only Chicano in the novels, so his East LA background is noted only spottily in the series—he has no contemporaries at work, no one to talk to, so it doesn’t come up. Such is the life of being “the only one.” Plus, he’s a cop. But Limón isn’t glorifying cops shooting U.S. civilians. The cops in The Iron Sickle battle the Army as much as criminals.

In the novel, it’s been twenty years that events spun out of control on a remote mountainside during war, launching a murder spree for revenge and ruining lives. Sickled necks and a butchered rat lead the CID agents to a remote commo site in the middle of nowhere to discover a morally ambiguous criminality.

Bilingualism singles out the agent for going against the Army’s monolingual grain. In series novels, he speaks a little Spanish, but that’s not the issue. Sueño is the only CID agent in country who speaks and reads Hangul. Knowing the language inevitably leads to cracking the case while providing interesting insights into local language and culture. It’s also a signal that Sueño not only is a lifer, he’s addicted to Korea. Sueño’s so alienated from The World, as overseas GIs call the US, he’s never coming home.

Military culture puts obstacles in the investigation’s path. Hardheaded Officers and Senior NCOs follow the Army way which is uniformity and chain of command. Sueño and Bascom hold that in contempt and are the opposite of STRAC troopers expected of high headquarters minions.

Their results make them immune to all but spite, no matter how wild and impetuously the detectives act. Limón gives them lots of ways to act up; Bascom, a ville rat and short-fused jerk, Sueño, the oddball who thinks too much and hooks up with the wrong woman. When Sueño’s thinking too much he misses clues or gets his ass kicked.

When the boss or some general gets a case of the ass, the pair catch their ration of shit details, like arresting housewives for buying too many toothpastes. What really irks the chain of command is having the Koreans request Sueño and Bascom work a case.

Limón tirelessly exposes mindless military rivalry between US forces and local authority. These cops are righting wrongs despite established power, not to further the military’s goals. Solving crime often gives a well-deserved black eye to military politics. Higher ups prefer to keep matters quiet and tidy. Sueño and Bascom are loud and unruly, and that’s only half the fun of reading a Sueño and Bascom mystery.

The Iron Sickle treads on forbidden territory, cannibalism. While fiction can take readers into the most perverse territory, it won’t stop them from getting queasy at the horror of the crime, the imperative of revenge, and the unasked question, “how many wrongs make a right?”

The Iron Sickle is a great companion for a winter read. Curling up next to a fire and whiling away the hours until 2015 might be just the ticket for mystery readers with a hankering for off-the-wall travel writing.

Korean farmer at DMZ 1970. foto:msedano

La Palabra Has Last Word

Gente crowd into the main gallery at Northeast Los Angeles' Avenue 50 Studio. Here for the final La Palabra reading of 2014, the prospect of hearing three of the city's most distinctive poetic voices draws them in well after the Open Mic is underway. Late-arrivers line up against the wall between the art or step gingerly into the space between the circled chairs to sit on the floor. SRO means "sitting room only" for Poet Laureate Luis J Rodriguez and friends Peter J Harris and Hector Flores.

Today's reading culminates the first year of emcee Karineh Mahdessian's service organizing the monthly series. La Palabra at Avenue 50 Studio has enjoyed a thirteen-year run showcasing high calibre art and engaging an Open Mic poetry community nurtured by the social churn of working class eastside L.A.
Karineh Mahdessian
Mahdessian's high spirits spark the already energized crowd as she gets the Open Mic started. The day offers wonderful examples of the "community" in "poetry community." Visitors today include people from Arizona and the U.S. midwest. One reader is making her debut in front of an audience today. People exchange abrazos and introduce new friends.

The first speaker doesn't read. He's a social scientist with a book and rambles for awkward minutes before audience members interrupt him with applause. He's reluctant to finish but the relieved Mahdessian steps in and the fellow fills his chair. The presentation offers one of the awful moments in an emcee's role, how to use the hook.

Rudy Calderón
Rudy Calderón works from memory, in Spanish and in rhyme. The packed house and floor eliminate the lectern and lets speakers choose reading in situ or using the constricted bit of open space.

Calderón stands and projects with excellent resonance. There's so much energy in his body aching to break loose if allowed a stage. He controls it well and redirects much of that energy into the reading.

C.E. Jordan
C. E. Jordan is the fourth poet after Calderón. Jordan stands in place to share a holiday piece that makes an appreciated change-of-pace. That microphone is ironic because Jordan projects sonorously with crystal clear enunciation that serves her words well. One reader uses the mic and it doesn't go over well. No reader uses the mic again.

Juan Carlos Valadez
Juan Carlos Valadez follows Jordan in one of those change-of-pace presentations that keep audiences coming back to La Palabra.

Mahdessian announces the next reader. From his chair, Valadez introduces his wife and daughter. He walks into the open space, and asks the teenager's permission to read a poem letter he wrote her from prison.

Rosalio Muñoz
Rosalio Muñoz is the final Open Mic reader. He selects a few paragraphs from the Laguna Park section of Stella Pope Duarte's movimiento novel, Let Their Spirits Dance. Muñoz is sitting next to me so I point and shoot hoping for a good moment. This is approximately the perspective the crowd had of Rosalio up on the podium that day in Laguna Park.

Muñoz is the final name signed to the Open Mic. A number of poets have asked for a slot so Mahdessian announces a second Open Mic after the three featured readers.

The featured poets have conferred and adapted to the setting and audience. Rather than do three stand-ups, Hector Flores, Peter J. Harris, and Luis J. Rodriguez will do a round-robin. Harris goes first.

Peter J. Harris

Peter J. Harris
The round-robin is a wonderful way to treat an audience. People universally appreciate variety, whether within a single poem or a set. The three featured writers each performs with unique voice and distinctive style. Harris and Flores read so deeply moved by their own emotions that their words come out as heartfelt music.

Hector Flores
Hector Flores
Luis J. Rodriguez greets his audience today as a proud father, local poet, and Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. The Laureate vows to infuse LA with poetry during his tenure, though the exact program remains in development. Today's reading signals an important development.

It's not that Luis forgot his stuff back at the house and will read old stuff. Rodriguez' good stuff is timeless and he keeps working on them, if not in the craft in the performance.

Rodriguez has rarely read these poems with the kind of sustained energy he displays in the packed space today.

He's loud, he's angry, he's emotional, ya se cansó. Thoughts and emotions in words come out in his arms, eyes, brow, posture. He fills the space allowed. He reads today focused on content over form, breaking at thoughts instead of lines.

Media aren't the Laureate's friend today. One poem comes from an orange quarter-fold booklet, another from a telephone screen, two from a book. He needs his anteojos, plus he's getting off the floor every third reader.

Rodriguez, like Harris, works to personalize the reading through eye contact. Reliant upon their text, it's sparse and momentary. Their work has enough power that audiences don't miss what they're not getting. But because these poets could do these poems from memory without the prop, there's a lost opportunity to magnify their audience's enjoyment of the work.

Luis J. Rodriguez

Luis J. Rodriguez

Luis J. Rodriguez

The Gluten-free Chicano
Good Mexican Girl Hits the Spot

Earlier in December, The Gluten-free Chicano sat around feeling sorry for himself that gluten-free analogs are crummy and he needed a snack. The Gluten-free Chicano, in a fit of antoja, wrote about a gluten-free bakery that sounded like it would hit the spot, the Good Mexican Girl's cookies.

The Good Mexican Girl herself took the column as a challenge, to get some of her cookies to The Gluten-free Chicano. She did it. And he's glad.

GMG gluten-free Mexican Wedding Cookies aren't quite the powdery puro butter and wheat flour nuggets of yesteryear, but GMG Mexican Wedding Cookies are number hana, as they say in Korea, number one.

They hit the spot.

GMG discovered the secret to a velvety texture on the tongue. Other GF treats have a raspy grit to them like 440 sandpaper on the tongue. Yuck. Bite into the crumbly texture of a GMG Mexican Wedding Cookie and all the flavor and a pleasing tooth greet one. Savor it and allow the crumbs to work their magic. Smooth all the way down. Next: GMG chocolate chip cookies.

¡Ajua! Good Mexican Girl. Te aventastes.

Late-breaking News!


Click link to get your tickets.

Floricanto for Michele Serros
Sunday, January 4, 2015at 6:00pm
Alumni House, UC Berkeley
1 Alumni House, Berkeley, California 94720

La Bloga encourages readers to purchase tickets to support Michele Serros' challenges during her health crisis. Gente in the Bay area will want to appear in-person for this important event. Here is the latest organizer report.

Joseph Rios- friend of Michele and poet
Jennie Luna- friend and Cal State Professor of Xican@ studies at Cal State Channel Islands

Readers/Friends of Michele: 
Melinda Palacio- author and friend
Joe Loya- author and friend
Cindy Cruz- close friend of Michele and professor of education at UCSC
Alberto Ledesma- friend, UC Berkeley professor and DREAM artivista

Silent Auction at the event with works by: 
Malaquias Montoya
Maceo Montoya
Melanie Cervantes
Mitsy Avila Ovalles
Santos Shelton
Lalo Alcaraz
Ester Hernandez
Jessica Sabogal

Signed vinyl records from the band, Chicano Batman 

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As we wait for the snow to melt

and SPRING to arrive, it's a great time to enjoy READING!

I usually highlight story books, but today I'd like to celebrate
some fun research sites.

DK Publishing has a free online encyclopedia: FIND OUT
The site is for simple searches on a variety of science-related
topics. Results provide a colorful illustrated page with brief
explanations and related topics. Of course, if one of the topics interests you, check at your local library for a corresponding DK book on the subject.

Another free online site, available through public and school libraries, is EBSCO Kids Search. This is a more in-depth database of magazines, encyclopedias, dictionaries, web articles, biographies, books, newspapers, and photos. A handy tool to have at your fingertips.

Kids Info Bits from Gale/Cengage Learning is search resource available through some libraries as well. It's a more simplified database of sources, including magazines, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and maps. It includes advanced search capabilities and is geared toward elementary school students.

So during this month focused on READ ALOUD time, choose a topic of interest (I know my grandson would pick Monster Trucks); use one of these kid-friendly sites or a book and read together for 15 minutes.

Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter--every season is just right for READING!

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11. The Joys of Reading through Windows

We all know that when it comes to stories, children need both mirrors and windows to understand their place in the wide world.

This never ending winter has given my life a different pace. Curtailed from Saturdays scheduled with errands and voice lessons, sewing lessons and play dates, my children and I have been reading aloud. They are both independent readers and have been for some time. My son is 16 and my daughter turns 11 this month but the joys of reading aloud are even richer than when they were little. Our options are more varied and their views of the world are wider. As librarians we have always known and advocated for reading aloud to older children but at least for me, making the time has been a challenge.

My pledge is that after the snow melts, I will still suggest and make space for Saturday morning readings that start our day with ideas, passion and a look into other worlds. This ability to glimpse into other worlds and gain greater empathy for others is the kernel of our concern and commitment to diversity in all its forms in our profession. While this is a personalized call to action and one I tend to avoid, having time to share books with my children in this amazing and profound way, reading aloud, makes me grateful for our public library and all its offerings. I really have everything I need in our literary backyard.

For our families, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), celebrates the stories in our communities. Our libraries are the perfect place of acceptance, inclusion and harmony. While we celebrate Día on one special day, April 30th, its name also stands for Diversity in Action and through this work, we reaffirm our daily commitment to ensure that all families have access to diverse books, languages and cultures. Without access to stories from other cultures, places and passions, we are a lesser world.

The post The Joys of Reading through Windows appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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12. 83% of Kids Love Being Read Aloud To: Scholastic

Most parents of small children know the benefits of reading to kids, but older kids can also benefit from the activity.

In fact, 83 percent of kids ages 6 to 17  say they love being read aloud to, according to Scholastic’s \"Kids & Family Reading Report: 5th edition.\"

The report found that parents often stop reading to their kids as they get older and can read independently, yet 40 percent of kids ages 6 to 11, said they wish their parents kept reading aloud to them, mainly because of the special time together. Ninety-one percent of kids said they prefer books \"I picked out myself\" and 70 percent like books \"that make me laugh.\"

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13. Weekend Links

weekend links

So far this month has been jam-packed with insightful education, Booklists, Activities and Resources for Kids and parents interested in raising global citizens.  I would like to share them this weekend as my Weekend Links Round-up. Enjoy!

Marie’s Pastiche ALWAYS has amazing information for cultivating global citizens and this one caught my eye:”We really enjoyed getting a glimpse into Ashanti royalty and customs from Ghana – have you ever seen anything like it?”

Using and Creating Art to Explore World Cultures at Art Curator for Kids


Episode 41: A Bilingual Avenue-Strategies to help you navigate multicultural and multi-ethnic family relationships with Harriet Cannon | Bilingual Avenue

Episode 41

Randomly Reading: The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle

Spring is in the air! Let’s get outside and MOVE! Outdoor Games, Crafts & Nature Activities for Kids at KCEdventures.

outdoor crafts

Third Culture Mama has a wonderful list of Beautiful Multicultural Books for Children.


Read Aloud to Ignite a World of Possibility  via @blackvoices


How are you celebrating Music In Our Schools month? Free E-book here for MIOSM during March from the amazing Daria Music.

Have you seen the “Cultural Iceberg”…Fascinating! {Thanks to Languages Around the Globe for sharing on Facebook)

cultural iceberg

Sign up to receive your Free copy of Read Your World Multicultural Books Activities for Kids! downloadable eBook.  It’s my free gift to YOU. Click here for more details.

The post Weekend Links appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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14. Why I Love to Read Sad and Dark Books to Children (and You Should Too)

  • Gleam and Glow written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Peter Sylvada
  • Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
  • Hiroshima No Pika written and illustrated by Toshi Maruki
  • Fox written by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ron Brooks
  • The Harmonica written by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Ron Mazellan
  • Peppe the Lamplighter written by Eliza Bartone, illustrated by Ted Lewin
  • The Shark God written by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon

What do they all have in common?

  1. They have very sad and dark themes
  2. I love to read them to third graders

According to the What Kids Are Reading report from Renaissance Learning and Kids & Family Reading Report from Scholastic, it seems pretty clear that funny books are the most popular when choosing books for unassigned reading. In the Kids & Family Reading Report, 70% of 2,558 parents and children look for a book that “makes me laugh.” As you scroll across the top fiction titles per grade of the 9.8 million students from 31,633 schools nationwide who read more than 330 million books during the 2013-2014 school year tracked in the What Kids are Reading, you see the same lighthearted, amusing titles appear over and over again.

Although these reports do not encompass all the books students read or measure all the students in the United States, these do provide useful snapshots into the homes and schools of today’s young readers.

I get it: Light humorous fiction provides much-needed escape and reminds readers not to take the world or ourselves too seriously. These books offer an escape from harsh realities and a place to dream and imagine another, better, or different world.

Sad and Dark Books for ChildrenWhile I encourage all readers to choose their own books based on their interests, needs, and experiences, our unique roles as educators make us critical influencers on exposing students to a wide variety of texts they might not have considered for themselves.

Some of my most meaningful teaching moments and conversations came when the 27 of us would be clustered together on the carpet reading one of those texts. When we read Fox, my students were disturbed at the Fox-Magpie-Dog relationship and were dismayed by Magpie’s actions. This led us to a discussion (and away from the day’s read aloud lesson plan…) about betrayal they had experienced in friendships and families.

The world is messy, sad, and dark. Kids face racism, poverty, homelessness, neglect, violence, hunger, sexism, divorce, disempowerment, and more. Sharing sad or dark books with students starting in elementary school, like A Shelter in Our Car and When the Horses Ride By, challenges students emotionally and recognizes their realities and capacity to empathize.

Using books with dark themes or settings in the classroom can give students the language to express their emotions, models for how to discuss and engage on these topics with adults and peers, and a safe space to explore difficult topics. When students read about characters struggling with abuse, bullying, or poverty, they also see how the characters found strength and resources to cope and thrive.

Think of your most memorable texts from middle school, high school, or college. The further students advance into social studies and literature they engage with darker subjects and content. Incorporating such texts early on stretches the types of books young readers can see themselves reading and liking, as well as prepares students for analyzing complex themes and characters.

Next read aloud, choose a sad, dark book because it can:

  • provide an opener into difficult conversations and topics
  • offer complex themes, characters, and motivations worthy of multiple readings
  • give young readers words to express what they are feeling or experiencing
  • model how we act and talk about tough situations, including the grieving process, processing anger, witnessing trauma or violence
  • reinforce the development of the whole child: we want children to explore the whole human condition and develop empathy
  • prepare young readers for the world they belong in and will someday lead
  • prepare them for profound, challenging books to come in middle school and high school  (hello, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Metamorphosis, Their Eyes Were Watching God among so many others)

When I look for a meaningful text, I am on the hunt for authors and illustrators who have tackled difficult topics with not only respect, but also with honesty and with the perception that even the hardest topics like racism, sexism, poverty, and war can be understood by children.

Things to think about when selecting a sad or dark book:

  1. What is the purpose of introducing a sad, dark book?
  2. Is this the best book for the unit’s content or skill?
  3. Where do parents fit in this?
  4. What background information do students need beforehand to handle, appreciate, and comprehend this book and its message(s)?
  5. What follow-up discussion or activities should I organize to help students process and appreciate this book?

There are many authors and illustrators who are finding powerful stories, communicating difficult subjects to children, and treating young people with respect and dignity. Looking for your next thought-provoking book to explore with students? Try…

What are the saddest, darkest books your students love? Share with us!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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15. 4 Mentor Texts and Activities for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. With so many forms of poetry to explore and share with students, what will you choose? 

Here are 4 ideas for using mentor texts to guide students in poetry study.

Additional bonus: a letter to teachers from author and poet, Pat Mora, on the power of poetry.

Poetry MonthPoem type: FOUND POETRY

Mentor Text: Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet

Activity with students: Students select words and phrases from a primary text and use those words to create their own unique poems.

As “Primary Sources + Found Poetry = Celebrate Poetry Month” suggests, the Library of Congress proposes an innovative way to combine poetry and nonfiction. Teaching With The Library of Congress recently re-posted the Found Poetry Primary Source Set that “supports students in honing their reading and historical comprehension skills by creating poetry based upon informational text and images.” Students will study primary source documents, pull words and phrases that show the central idea, and then use those pieces to create their own poems.

This project not only enables teachers to identify whether a student grasps a central idea of a text, but also encourages students to interact with primary sources in much the same way as Etched In Clay’s Andrea Cheng. When researching Dave’s life and drawing inspiration for her verses, Andrea Cheng integrated the small pieces of evidence of Dave’s life, including poems on his pots and the bills of sale.

Lee & Low teacher’s guide

Poem type: HAIKU

Mentor Text: Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

Activity with students: Students write haiku using sensory language and drawing inspiration from body movement, music, and art to create their own haiku.

Check out the classroom-tested, standards-aligned lesson plan Experiencing Haiku Through Mindfulness, Movement & Music by Rashna Wadia with Cool Melons— Turn to Frogs! provided by ReadWriteThink.org, a website developed by the International Literacy Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.

Additional resources:

Lee & Low teacher’s guide


Mentor Text: Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building

Activity with students: Students choose a building to describe in a poem and shape the poem to look like the building.

In Reading is Fundamental’s educator activity guide for, Dreaming Up, encourage students to try the writing activity “Shape It Up:” Let students pick a type of building and write a poem describing that building (how it looks, its purpose, etc). Students should write their poems on white paper in the shape of the building and decorate the background. (RIF)

Lee & Low teacher’s guide


Mentor Text: Chess Rumble

Activity with students: Students compare narrative and lyric poetry and write their own narrative poem based on real or imagined experiences or events.

Check out the research-based novel study unit for Chess Rumble created by the staff at the award-winning, non-profit ReadWorks.org. Students will compare the story elements of Chess Rumble to Where the Sidewalk Ends and Keeping the Night Watch.

Next, students write their unique narrative poem—for tips “by youth for youth” check out How to Write a Narrative Poem from Power Poetry.

Further reading on using poetry in the classroom:

What are your favorite poems to enjoy in the classroom? Share with us!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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16. What is Día de los niños/Día de los Libros? 5 Questions for Pat Mora

Día de los niños/Día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) is an annual celebration of books and literacy that takes place each year on our near April 30. The American Library Association says:

Día is a nationally recognized initiative that emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds. It is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures.

Pat MoraDía’s founder, and one of its biggest proponents, is award-winning author Pat Mora. We asked her 5 questions about the holiday and how to celebrate it:

What is bookjoy and how do you hope Día will cultivate it in young/early readers?

I coined the word bookjoy to convey the private and delicious pleasure of enjoying time with books. Little ones can thoroughly experience bookjoy long before they’re readers if the adults around them share excitement about books.

What impact is Día having on communities where it is celebrated?

Día strengthens communities because it brings diverse children and families together to celebrate all our children and to connect them to bookjoy. Día is a year-long commitment to share literacy creatively with culminating celebrations held in April on or near How to Celebrate Día de los niños/Día de los LibrosApril 30th.

Do you feel that the recent push for more diversity in publishing (especially with the We Need Diverse Books community campaign) has sparked renewed interest in Día?

I hope so. We celebrate Dia’s 20th Anniversary April 2016. For years, I’ve written and spoken about the importance of a national book community, including publishers, authors, illustrators, and award committees, and reviewers that reflect the diversity of our children. Those of us in this community need to participate in creating a body of children’s literature that honors our plurality.

What would you say to a library or school that wants to celebrate Día but doesn’t have many resources at its disposal?

Those of us committed to Children’s Day, Book Day, in Spanish El día de los niños, El día de los libros are creating a tradition in the same way that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are traditions in our country. Exciting: honoring all children and sharing bookjoy with them. Some April observances are small and some are big, but the important element is annually sharing this tradition. Literacy is essential in a democracy. Let’s celebrate kids and books!

What role does community play in the celebration of Día? How can individual readers support or celebrate Día?

Readers enjoy sharing an important value in our lives: books! We can ask our nearby or local schools and libraries if they celebrate Día and be prepared to explain what it is and why it’s important. We can volunteer to help or provide a donation. Many Día celebrations include book-giveaways and books as prizes. Schools and libraries welcome our support. When diverse groups of diverse ages join together for children, it energizes communities.

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17. How to Read With Your Rising First Graders and Kinders This Summer

For parents of soon-to-be kindergartners and first graders, helping their children be prepared for the start of school can be exciting and daunting (and not just for students).

What can parents do over the summer to help their children maintain the growth they made this past year in preschool or kindergarten and be ready to tackle new topics and skills in the fall?

Below is one way parents can read and explore books over the summer. This model can be adapted for both fiction and nonfiction texts and follows how many teachers practice guided reading, which children may experience the first time in the upcoming school year.

I’m going to model how parents can practice reading using the text, David’s Drawings.

We do not need to, nor should we, ask every question for every book during every reading time. We may have only four minutes of our child’s attention one day and maybe twenty on another. The goal is not to drill our youngest learners in Common Core standards by the start of school.

Rather, the ultimate goal here is to show our beginning and soon-to-be readers how reading can be a joyful, positive experience. This mindset will set them up for the best start to their school journey.

Getting Ready to Read

1. Questions to ask and talk through with our rising kinders or first graders about the book:

  • Who is the author? / Show me where the author is on the cover. What does an author do?
  • Who is the illustrator? / Show me where the illustrator is on the cover. What does an illustrator do?
  • Where is the front cover? The back cover? The title page of the book?
  • As we read, which direction do we read the words?

2. Practice making predictions:

  • Together, look at the front cover. Using the title and picture on the cover, ask: what might happen in the story? What makes you think that?
  • Take a picture walk through the book. Ask: What do you think this story will be about? What do you notice when you look through this book?

3. Build background schema and draw on your child’s past experiences:

  • What do you know about drawing, or making a picture?
  • What types of things do you like to draw?
  • Where do artists get their ideas for drawings and paintings?
  • Who might help you draw a picture?

Reading the Book

  • As you begin to read, make sure the book is between both of you so your child can clearly see the text (and illustrations) and be in the position of the reader (rather than a regular listener at a group story time).
  • Make sure to point your finger to each word as it is read aloud. In doing so, your child can follow the text as well as the storyline and learn that we derive meaning from print—we in fact are not just making up a story to match the pictures we are seeing!

Video examples of parents reading with primary grade students:

After Reading

Discuss the meaning of the text. Here are some questions to check comprehension during and after the reading. (CCSS Key Ideas and Details)

  • Who is the main character? Or, who is David?
  • Where does the story take place? When does the story take place?
  • Where does David get his idea for his picture?
  • What details do his classmates add to David’s tree?
  • How does David feel when the other children draw on his picture? Share a time you felt the same way.
  • Why do you think David decides to make another drawing when he arrives home?
  • What does this story remind you of?
  • Could this really happen?
  • Do you think David is polite? Why or why not?
  • If you were to add one more page to the story, what do you think would happen next?
  • Why do you think the author, Cathryn Falwell, picks the title, David’s Drawings? Do you think this is a good title for the book? Why do you think so?
  • What do you think might happen the next time David starts a drawing in class?
  • Why do you think David isn’t shy anymore at the end of the story?
  • What was an interesting part for you in the story? Or, what part of the story made you smile? Why?

Video examples demonstrating book comprehension:

rising kinder readingExplore foundational skills and language:

  • Please show me a word that starts with the uppercase letter D. Show me a word that starts with the lowercase letter p.
  • Put your finger on a word that starts with b. Put your finger on a word that ends with e.
  • Can you think of another word you know that rhymes with day?
  • Can you show me a sentence that has a question mark at the end? A period? An exclamation point?
  • Can you show me a word that ends in –ed? –s?
  • Find a word that starts with the same letter as your name.
  • Find a word that ends with the same letter as your name.
  • Find a word that has a letter that is in your name.
  • Can you show me the (high frequency) words: the, of, and, a, to, you, on, I, me, my? Many primary grade classrooms build reading fluency with sight word practice. For a review for rising first graders or a peak for rising kinders, here are kindergarten high frequency word lists:

Post-Reading Activities

Done with sitting still? Time to move but keep the connections going!

1. Write or draw an answer to this question: Would you be friends with David?

2. Find a tree near school, at a park, or near your home. Sketch it using a pencil and then later decorate it.

3. Re-read the story or have another adult read the story—re-reading stories is great for helping children practice fluency, make predictions, retell events, and build confidence in eventually reading parts on their own.

For more further ideas on early literacy:

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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18. Weekend Links: The Importance of Reading Aloud & The Last Day on the Giveaways!

Welcome to Weekend Links!

I don’t know about you but summer is has been crazy-busy so far! We have mountains of books to read, travel plans galore and I am enjoying yet another batch of baby fox kits who have taken up residence at my house. As always I am determined to provide booklists, activities and giveaways to keep the whole family pulling books from shelves and stories from pages during the lazy, hazy days of summer.

Speaking of giveaways, did you know I have TWO wonderful ones that will be ending TODAY??!! (6/21)

One is a Linda Sue Park Booklist Giveaway. Linda Sue Park has written many children’s books, many of which one lucky reader will win! You can view the booklist and giveaway HERE.

Linda Sue Park book giveaway

The second giveaway is my Book-Jumper Summer Reading Series Secret Garden Booklist giveaway. More chances to win great books! Read the booklist and view the giveaway HERE.

The Book-Jumper Summer Reading Series

I have another awesome giveaway running right now that will end June 27th. Again, this booklist and giveaway is based on yet another amazing female children’s literature author. Pam Muñoz Ryan is the author of more that thirty books for young readers, including four beloved novels, Riding Freedom, Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi León, and Paint the Wind, which collectively have garnered, among countless accolades, the Pura Belpré Medal, the Jane Addams Award, and the Schneider Family Award. She lives in Southern California with her family. You can visit her at www.PamMunozRyan.com.

ONE winner will receive a copy of  each of these Pam Munoz Ryan books: Esperanza Rising, Echo, Riding Freedom, Becoming Naomi Leon. The Dreamer and Paint the Wind. Giveaway begins Wednesday June 17th and ends June 27th, 2015. You can enter the giveaway HERE.

pam munoz ryan collage

All three are great opportunities to get some wonderful books into the hands of your young readers.

Reading at any age is soooo important. I recently found some great articles that reinforce this fact so I will post them here for you to read and enjoy:

Why Keep Reading Aloud in the 5th Grade? Monique at Living Life and Learning offers up a great perspective.
Reading Aloud

@NerdyBookClub Parenting, Bonding, and Reading Aloud by Jenny Houlroyd

@NerdyBookClub Reading Aloud by Debbie Shoulders

TOP TEN Read-Aloud Books for Students with Special Needs by Aimee Owens

Slow Reading Family Style by…ME!

reading aloud

Read Aloud to Ignite a World of Possibility at Huffington Post


Do you read aloud in your family? Which books are the best for reading aloud?

Looking for more ways to not only get your youngsters reading, but get them OUTSIDE as well? Enjoy more month-by-month activities based on the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden! A Year in the Secret Garden is a delightful children’s book with over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. AND, it’s on sale for a limited time! Grab your copy ASAP and “meet me in the garden!” More details HERE! http://amzn.to/1DTVnuX

A Year in the Secret Garden

The post Weekend Links: The Importance of Reading Aloud & The Last Day on the Giveaways! appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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19. The Perfect Picture Book for the Last Day of School

The Perfect Picture Book for the Last (2)Your last day with this class is here. You have one last time to share the moment when you gather for a read aloud. How will you honor the moment?

The last day of school is hectic, a blur, a blast, sweet, and wistful.


Will you pick a book you already read this year with your students to live again in that moment? Or will you pick a book to launch your students toward their summers and the rest of their education journey?


Will your last read aloud be nostalgic or hopeful? 

We’ve gathered some of our favorite Lee & Low titles to conclude and celebrate a year’s worth of reading with your students. Let us know what you recommend (any book!) and your reading tradition on the last day of school!


Amazing Faces

An anthology of universal poems focusing on the human experience–emotions, perceptions, and understandings–as expressed by poets of diverse heritage and reflected in illustrations featuring people of all ages and backgrounds.

Confetti: Poems for Children

The renowned poet Pat Mora celebrates the culture and landscape of the southwest through the eyes of a Mexican American girl. 

I and I Bob Marley

A biography in verse of reggae legend Bob Marley, exploring the influences that shaped his life and music on his journey from rural Jamaican childhood to international superstardom. 


My Steps

An African American girl shares her private world of playtime on her front steps over each of the four seasons. 

Quinito’s Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito

This bilingual book takes readers around the buildings, streets, shops, and people that make up Quinito’s neighborhood. 

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy

A biography of William “Dummy” Hoy, one of the first deaf major league baseball players. 

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

The inspirational true story of Sammy Lee, a Korean American who overcame discrimination to realize both his father’s desire that he become a doctor and his own dream of becoming an Olympic champion diver. 

Strong to the Hoop

A boy finally gets to play basketball on the main court with the older boys, and has to prove he can hold his own. 

Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon

Ruth Forman offers a poetic testament to childhood, language, and play, bringing to life the streets of South Philadelphia. Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon is a celebration of city summer memories, and of African American culture and community.

Drummer Boy of John John

A joyous picture book set in the Caribbean  during Carnival, based on the childhood of one of the inventors of the steel drum. 

The Power of Learning and Education

Armando and the Blue Tarp School

The story of a young Mexican boy living in a colonia (trash dump community) who takes the first steps toward realizing his dream of getting an education. 

Chess Rumble

A story in free verse about a troubled boy who learns to use his mind instead of his fists through the guidance of an unconventional mentor and the game of chess. 

How We Are Smart

Readers will learn that being smart is about more than doing well in school. There are eight ways to be smart, and they are reflected in how a person uses his or her body, relates to the natural world, responds to music and art, and more.

Love to Langston

This inspiring biography on Langston Hughes celebrates his life through poetry. 

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace

A picture book biography of scientist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman–and first environmentalist–to win a Nobel Peace Prize (in 2004) for her work planting trees in her native Kenya.

Yasmin’s Hammer

A young Bangladeshi girl who helps support her family by working in a brickyard finds a way to make her dream of going to school and learning to read a reality. 


George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

An account of the life and career of George Crum, a biracial chef who is credited with the invention of the potato chip at a Saratoga Springs, New York, restaurant in 1853. Based on historical records. 

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji

Overflowing with family, food, and a tall stack of fun, this story is sure to warm the heart and tickle the tummy. A fun way for children to learn about the cultural traditions and foods of India. 

Jazz Baby

A celebration of music and movement, this story in verse is inspired by the riffs, rhythms, and freedom of jazz.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina

A mestiza Peruvian American of European, Jewish, and Amerindian heritage, renowned author Monica Brown wrote this lively story to bring her own experience of being mismatched to life.

Sunday Shopping

Every Sunday night a young girl and her grandmother go on an imaginary shopping trip in this delightful picture book.

The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen

A spunky African American girl has a hula-hooping competition with her friends in Harlem, and soon everyone in the neighborhood–young and old alike–joins in on the fun.

Where On Earth is My Bagel?

A young Korean boy gets a craving for a New York bagel and goes on a journey to fulfill his hunger. 

Believe in Yourself

Allie’s Basketball Dream

Basketball is Allie’s favorite sport–she’s loved it ever since her father took her to her first game at Madison Square Garden. 

Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol

An imaginary  tale of self-discovery told by a child who grows, learns about the natural world, embraces others, and is free to become who he or she is meant to be–a child as unique as a tree. Gender neutral.  

Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream

The spirited story of Marcenia Lyle, the African American girl who grew up to become “Toni Stone,” the first woman to play for an all-male professional baseball team.

Cora Cooks Pancit

Cora and Mama work together to cook up pancit for the family in this celebration of Filipino heritage and foods. 

Crazy Horse’s Vision

The true story of the great Sioux warrior who, as a young boy, defies tradition and seeks a vision on his own in hopes of saving his people. 

Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para soñar juntos

A bilingual collection of poetry by acclaimed Chicano poet Francisco X. Alarcon celebrating family, community, nature, and the positive power of dreams to shape our future.

The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story

Meena, a young Asian Indian American girl, grows in self-confidence when she learns to practice yoga and apply the underlying principles to her performance in the school play.

Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree

The true story of the famous writer, who as a young girl, learned about hope and strength from her mother.

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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20. The Books With No Limits: Exploring Child-Centered Storytelling

"...individual readers can make the experience more child-centered by engaging kids in a dialogue."

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21. “¿Qué es deportar?”: Teaching from Students’ Lives

Guest BloggerWe at LEE & LOW BOOKS believe that high-quality bilingual books help build a solid foundation to achieve literacy in any language while affirming and validating a child’s identity, culture, and home language. We are so excited and honored to share this one educator’s example of why books featuring characters like her students belong in her classroom and curriculum.

In this guest post, Sandra L. Osorio describes using books that captured her students’ bilingual and bicultural experiences. An elementary bilingual teacher for eight years, Osorio is now an assistant professor at Illinois State University. This article originally appeared in Rethinking Schools magazine, and is cross-posted here with permission. Article is also available in Spanish from Rethinking Schools.


I was sitting around a kidney-shaped table with Alejandra, Juliana, and Lucia, 2nd graders who had chosen to read Del Norte al Sur (From North to South) by René Colato Laínez. I read the book’s introduction out loud, which included the word deportado (deported). I asked my students: “¿Qué es deportar? ¿Ustedes saben qué significa?” (What is deported? Do you know what it means?) Lucia looked straight at me and said, “Como a mi tío lo deportaron”. (Like my uncle, they deported him.)

For an inclusive bilingual classroomOur class was part of a developmental bilingual program with all native Spanish speakers. I had introduced literature discussions the previous year when I had the same students in 1st grade, but now I was carefully choosing books with themes I thought would resonate with my students’ lives, including the complexities of being bilingual and bicultural. In Del Norte al Sur, José desperately misses his mother, who has been deported to Tijuana because she doesn’t have the right papers to be in the United States. I knew that some of my students were also missing members of their families. One student’s father had been deported back to Mexico and he had not seen him in years. Another student’s father had separated from her mother and moved to a city more than three hours away. I hoped these two students would connect with José’s problems and begin to talk about their feelings. I soon learned that many other students shared similar feelings and experiences.

Although immigration is passionately debated in the media, it is an issue often ignored in schools, even though it’s central to the lived experiences of Latina/o children—even those born in the United States. This was something I didn’t realize until I created space for students’ lives in the curriculum.

I originally decided to teach bilingual students because of the struggles I had faced as a bilingual child myself. I attended a bilingual (Spanish-English) preschool, but when my parents enrolled me in a private, English-only kindergarten, they were told to immediately stop speaking Spanish to me because it would “confuse me.” This was surprising to my parents—I had not even entered the classroom yet. My parents made the decision to continue to speak Spanish in our household; they wanted me to be able to communicate with our extended family in Colombia. I am grateful for this decision because it allowed me to grow up bilingual and maintain ties to my bicultural heritage.

At school, I don’t remember ever reading a story with a main character who was bilingual or bicultural. Because Latina/o culture and people were invisible in the curriculum, I felt I had to keep my Spanish language knowledge at home and hidden from my teachers and classmates.

I did not want another generation of students to feel like I did. I wanted to help students build and nurture their cultural and linguistic pride. I wanted to make sure that bilingual students were held to the same high expectations as other students. And I wanted them to understand that they did not have to give up their home language to be successful.

So I fulfilled my dream and became a teacher. All of my students were emergent bilinguals who spoke Spanish as their home language and were born in the United States, many in the same town where our school is located. Of my 20 students, 16 were of Mexican descent, three were Guatemalan, and one child had one Guatemalan parent and one Mexican parent.

Bilingual Isn’t Necessarily Bicultural

Our program was supposed to be one of academic enrichment, using both the students’ native language and English for academic instruction. The primary goal was development of biliteracy. In 2nd grade, 70 percent of the school day was to be in Spanish and 30 percent in English. But since 3rd graders in the program were not “making benchmark” on state tests, I was pressured to introduce more English in my 2nd-grade classroom.

For the first couple of years I was a rule follower. I implemented the exact curriculum passed down from the administration without question, including the required language arts curriculum. It was a scripted basal reader program—the exact same one used by the non-bilingual classrooms—only it had been translated into Spanish. Each week we read a story from an anthology and worked on the particular reading skill dictated by the manual.

Diversity Gap in Children's Books Infographic 2015
Diversity Gap in Children’s Books Infographic 2015 – click for larger image

This was convenient for me as a beginning teacher because it is challenging to find quality texts in Spanish. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, of an estimated 5,000 children’s books published in the United States in 2014, only 66 were about Latinas/os. At least, I told myself, my students were reading in their native language on a daily basis.

Yet I began noticing that my students were not seeing themselves in the stories we read. The basal reader had more than 20 different stories, but only one that included a Latina/o-looking individual, and nowhere in the story did it talk about any of the complexities of being a bilingual or bicultural child.

My students were learning to read in Spanish that had been translated from the English, with texts that were Latina/o-culture free. The basal reader conveyed a clear message: Diverse experiences don’t matter. Every student was treated the same, given the same story to read, and taught the same skills. There was no differentiation. There was no mirror. There was no joy.

I began to question whether what I was doing was in the best interests of my students. I realized that I had to be the one to advocate for them.

I decided to bring in more literature written by Latina/o authors about Latina/o children. I began to compile a list of books by award-winning authors on such lists as the Pura Belpré, the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, and the Américas Award. I also looked for additional books by authors I already knew: Alma Flor Ada, Gloria Anzaldúa, and René Colato Laínez. In addition to Del Norte al Sur, the books I chose included La superniña del cilantro, by Juan Felipe Herrera; Esperando a Papá, by René Colato Laínez; Prietita y la llorona, by Gloria Anzaldúa; and Pepita habla dos veces, by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman.

The greatest challenge I faced was getting multiple copies of the books I wanted my students to read in small groups. To clear this roadblock, I applied for and received a grant to purchase books. I also borrowed copies from colleagues and scoured the shelves of multiple public libraries around the area. One way or the other, I was able to get four to five copies of each book.

I centered the literature discussion groups around four themes: Family, Cultural Stories, Language, and English. For each theme, I gave students four or five titles to choose from. I started each unit by giving a book talk in which I shared a few passages from each of the book choices. Then I gave students time to browse through the books and fill out a ballot ranking their top choices. Each group of literature discussions was five days long, including two days of preparation and three days of group discussion that I facilitated. Students prepared for discussions by reading the story and marking the book with sticky notes. They used the sticky notes so they would remember what they wanted to say in the discussion group. To help with that process, I gave them a sheet with sentence starters.

When our classroom shifted from basal-based reading instruction to literature-based discussions, I noticed an immediate change in my students. They were more engaged in the stories. Through the personal connections they shared, I learned new things about them and their families. Our literature discussion groups became a place where we came together and shared our joys and the difficulties we were going through. It became a place where we learned that we were not alone, and that the curriculum could be a space for reflecting and holding our own experiences. Students who had been labeled with “low proficiency” in reading on the benchmark test at the beginning of the school year were often the ones talking the most during the discussions. Our conversations helped them feel more comfortable, see themselves in the curriculum, and explore their multiple identities. They were acquiring the tools and space to unpack complex issues in their lives.

Making Space for Students’ Fears

In Del Norte al Sur, one of the books in our Family theme, we read about José going with his father to Tijuana to visit his mother, who is staying in a women’s shelter while she tries to assemble the documents to return to the United States. José, who lives in San Diego, is able to go visit his mother on the weekends and help her with the garden at the shelter; his father pays for a lawyer to process the paperwork. Although the situation is challenging for José and his parents, it is far milder than the reality of most individuals who are deported. Most children are not able to see members of their families who have been deported for extended periods of time. Many who are deported are never able to return to the United States.

Even though the story wasn’t a perfect match to my students’ own experiences, they started making personal connections to the text. When Lucia shared that her uncle had been deported, I asked her to explain what that meant. “Es cuando la policía para a una persona y les toman los fingerprintes y después se fija en una máquina si los deportan o no, pero deportar significa que los van a mandar a México”. (It’s when the police stop someone, take their fingerprints, and look on a machine to see if they will deport them or not, but deporting means they send them to Mexico.)

Although I was excited that my students were discussing this topic and I asked questions to further the conversation, I wanted to make sure I didn’t push them into an uncomfortable or upsetting space. I paid close attention to everyone, looking for cues about how they were feeling. My ultimate goal in the introduction of these literature discussions was to get my students to develop their critical thinking skills, but first I had to make sure they felt safe enough to share their stories. Before we began the literature discussions, we had developed community norms. Two of our norms were “we feel safe” and “we respect and listen to others.” When we created and reviewed the norms, my students and I talked about not making fun of each other, not laughing at individuals who were sharing, and not interrupting.

When Lucia shared her uncle’s story, it opened up a group discussion. Alejandra told us about a time her father was stopped by the police while they were driving to a nearby city. She also told us about a time her family was driving and her mother spotted a police officer. Her mother said, “Bájense porque ahí está la policía y qué tal si nos detiene”. (Get down because the police are there and what if they stop us.) Alejandra demonstrated how she slouched down in her chair. Her mother told Alejandra and her sisters, “No escuchen lo que está diciendo el policía”. (Don’t listen to what the police officer says.) Alejandra said, “Entonces no escuchamos”. (So we didn’t listen.) As Alejandra talked, we just listened. I made sure not to ask questions because I wanted to allow Alejandra the opportunity to share just as much as she wanted to.

Staying silent took lots of practice. I was so accustomed to jumping in and guiding my students in a particular direction. The pressures I felt to cover the curriculum and raise test scores made me want to push my students along at a faster pace. I had to change that mentality. I wanted my students to do most of the talking because I wanted to open up space for their lives. I didn’t want them to feel judged. I wanted our discussions to be a place where they felt safe discussing any topic. Too often, I found my students waiting for me to speak so they could agree and repeat what I said. I wanted to move away from the idea that teachers were the only ones with answers. My students had important things to share. I wanted them to realize that their experiences could help us understand each other and the book.

Alejandra finished her story by saying that the police officer followed them home and talked again to her father when they arrived. She explained that she and her younger sister were born in the United States, so they are allowed to stay, but her parents and older sister don’t have this advantage. If they are stopped again by the police or ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), her family might be split apart. I had never seen her so vulnerable.

I turned to Juliana and asked if she had anything she wanted to share, or if she knew anyone who had been deported. She fidgeted with her hands, staring at the table, before looking up and saying “Sí, mi papá”. (Yes, my dad.) Lucia nodded. “Oh, sí, ella ya nos contó la historia”. (Oh, yes, she already told us the story.)

Taking Time to Listen

At one point in our discussions Lucia announced, “No me gustan los Estados Unidos para nada.” (I don’t like the United States at all.)

This caught me off guard. “¿Por qué?” (Why?)

Lucia said that here in the United Stated she felt enclosed, but in Mexico she was free to go outside every day.

Alejandra added, “Mi mamá dice que no le gusta aquí”. (My mom says she doesn’t like it here.) She told us about a lady who helped her mother fill out some paperwork and told her mom to call her if she ever got stopped by the police. The lady told Alejandra’s mom that the police had gotten harder and that they didn’t want people from Mexico. They wanted to deport everyone.

Lucia jumped in. “Sí, están mostrando mucho de eso en Primer Impacto, que tratan de sacar a los mexicanos”. (Yes, on First Impact, they are showing lots of that, that they are trying to get rid of the Mexicans.) Primer Impacto is a popular Spanish-language, daily news program. My students were watching the media alongside their parents. This is where they were getting a lot of their information about the current political context in the United States, including hostility toward immigrants, harsh deportation policies, and family separations.

Although I felt pressure to keep the students reading and to move things along so that they could answer specific questions about the text, I resisted the temptation and asked, “¿Cómo se sienten ustedes con eso, ustedes siendo mexicanos y americanos?” (How do you feel about this, being both Mexican and American?)

Alejandra answered: “Yo me siento mal ser mexicana y americana porque mi mamá dice que si la van a deportar que no sabe a quién llevarse, porque le toca llevarse a Perla pero puede dejar a mi hermana y a mí. Y dice mi mamá que si llegan a pararla, que puede que ya nunca la veamos”. (I feel bad being Mexican and American because my mom says that if they are going to deport her, she won’t know who to take because she’ll have to take Perla, but can leave my sister and me. And my mom says if they stop her, we might never see her again.)

Hearing Alejandra talk this way made me extremely sad. Why did a child this young have to deal with issues normally reserved for adults? When I was growing up, I didn’t realize my parents were undocumented. They had overstayed the tourist visas they used to enter the United States, but I only learned about it when I was 10 years old and my parents became U.S. citizens. Both of my parents were given amnesty under the Immigrant Reform and Control Act of 1986 signed by President Reagan. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to worry about my parents possibly not coming home.

My students’ narratives shed light on the complex lived experiences they navigate on a daily basis. On the one hand, they want to be in Mexico or Guatemala with their extended families; on the other hand, they know how hard their parents are working to stay here. As a child, I had many of the same contradictory feelings. My entire family, other than my parents and brother, were in Colombia. I felt like I didn’t belong here in the United States. At the end of one trip to Colombia, I cried and begged my father to leave me there to continue school. He said no, that there were more opportunities for me in the United States, but I’m not sure he realized the impact of the fact that none of my teachers or classmates acknowledged the difficulty of being in a learning environment that ignored and devalued my language and culture.

Embracing Complexity

While Lucia, Juliana, and Alejandra were reading Del Norte al Sur, the other literature groups were reading La superniña del cilantro and Esperando a Papá. (So many students wanted to read La superniña del cilantro, we ended up with two groups working with that book.) Both of these books also raised issues of family separation and the border.

1. Recognize that bilingual isn't necessarily biculturalStudents in the group reading Esperando a Papá told personal stories about family members crossing the border. One day, I explained that, according to the U.S. government, it’s against the law to cross the border without the right documents. I asked them what they thought about that—was it a fair law? Was it OK to break that law? Camila said, “Mi mamá y mi papá nomás cruzaron, porque querían a lo mejor ver lo que estaba aquí, pero si tú matas a alguien y te vas entonces eso es como no seguir la ley”. (My mom and dad only crossed because maybe they wanted to see what was over here, but if you kill someone and then you leave, then that’s not following the law.) Camila was talking back to the dominant discourse that says it is “wrong” to cross the border without papers and expressing a more complex view of the moral issues involved.

When I brought up the same question to the whole class, the children saw both positive and negative aspects to crossing the border illegally. In terms of positive aspects, they knew and retold stories about family members coming over to find a better life or get a better job. But many of them experienced the constant fear of family members being deported, and they had heard stories about hardships in crossing the border. For example, one child said her female cousin had to cut her hair like a boy for fear of being hurt as she tried to cross over. When Eduardo talked about how hard it was for his dad to climb over the fence, Carlos looked confused. I pulled out my iPad and showed the class pictures of the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Together, we read stories about immigrants to the United States from other parts of the world and the difficulties they faced, including In English, of Course, by Josephine Nobisso;I Hate English!, by Ellen Levine; and No English, by Jacqueline Jules. I wanted my students to understand that they shared experiences with people from other cultures, places, and times. I wanted them to see the injustices and prejudice they faced as part of a bigger pattern of power and marginalization. I tried to help them better understand these aspects by connecting them directly to the stories they shared.

For example, one day Camila told us about a conflict she and Lucia had during recess with English-speaking students from another class. Camila and Lucia were playing on top of the play structure when two girls started pushing them and calling them names. Camila said she told them “That’s not right,” but they continued. Then, Camila told us, “Yo le dije a Lucia en español que mejor nos vayamos de ahí y nos fuimos.” (I told Lucia, in Spanish, that it would be better if we left and we did.) After we gave Lucia and Camila support, we talked about the lack of integration between the bilingual students and non-bilingual students at the school. We discussed what they could do to make friends from other classrooms.

Soon these conversations influenced my planning across content areas. I realized I had to make space for students’ stories beyond literature discussions—in writing, math, and social studies. In social studies, for example, students and their parents became experts as we studied their home countries.

My students’ stories were different from my own. Lucia’s, Juliana’s, Alejandra’s, Eduardo’s, and Camila’s stories have similarities, but also differences. I realized the importance of not grouping all Latina/o narratives into one stereotypical box. Giving my students voice and exposing them to a range of multicultural literature gave us the opportunity to dig deeper and see broader vistas.


  • Get 30% Off Magazine Subscriptions Purchased on Rethinking Schools Magazine Website with Discount Code: LLJ15 (discount taken at checkout!)
  • Buy From North to South/Del Norte al Sur
  • Browse bilingual Spanish/English books on the web and in our catalog from LEE & LOW
  • Teacher’s Guide for From North to South/Del Norte al Sur by LEE & LOW

0 Comments on “¿Qué es deportar?”: Teaching from Students’ Lives as of 11/2/2015 8:23:00 AM
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22. Year of the Monkey: Books and Activities for Chinese New Year

2016 Chinese New Year is Monday, February 8th and it’s the year of the Monkey. How can you celebrate with students?

Cross-Curricular Activities

Here are some ideas to help you and your students get involved with reading and writing about the Chinese New Year.  Additional ideas can be found in individual book teacher guides and the LEE & LOW Chinese New Year Resource Guide for Teachers.


  1. Explain that the Chinese dragon represents strength and goodness. The dragon appears at the end of the New Year parade to wish everyone peace, wealth, and good luck. Have students draw a picture of a Chinese dragon and describe the dragon in a paragraph. Instruct students to draw the dragon so it has the features of several creatures. Chinese dragons often have the scales of a fish, the beard of a goat, the claws of an eagle, and the body of a snake. For an excellent and more detailed lesson on drawing a Chinese dragon, check out the Art Institute of Chicago.
  2. Provide students with construction paper, tissue paper, colored cotton balls, crayons, safety scissors, glue, and other art supplies to make their own lanterns, masks, flags, and other items for a Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Several students may even wish to work together to make a lion or a dragon. Let students carry their creations and hold their own parade. You may wish to download some Chinese music to play during the festivities.


  1. For the New Year, Chinese children are given red envelopes with brand-new money inside. Make a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup salt in a nonmetal bowl. Let students drop pennies into the solution, wait a few minutes, then remove and dry the coins with a paper towel. Students will have shiny “new” pennies to wrap in red paper and give as gifts to their friends and families.
  2. The Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar as opposed to the solar calendar. Have students investigate the two calendars and compare them using a Venn diagram. Why does the Chinese New Year fall on a different date each year?


  1. Encourage students to describe a New Year’s celebration that they spent with their families. What kind of activities took place? How did they celebrate?
  2. Have students write an original story about a holiday they celebrate.

Social Studies:

  1. Many video clips of Chinese Lunar New Year parades are available online. One example is from the History Channel. If possible, let students view one or more of these to see a real parade. Have students describe the excitement, preparation, and festivities of the parade.
  2. Teach students about the history of Chinese Americans. When did they first immigrate to the United States? What were the reasons they left their homeland? In which cities did they settle? What were the origins of Chinatowns? What challenges did Chinese people and Chinese Americans face in the United States? One place to learn more is the timeline of Chinese in America from the Museum of Chinese in America.
  3. Have students locate China on a map or globe and tell students that China is one of the largest countries in the world. Have students mark the capital of China, as well as their location in the United States. On what continent is China? Which countries border China? What are some major rivers in China? What seas and ocean border China?
  4. Explore the 12-year cycle of the Chinese lunar calendar with EDSITEment’s lesson on the Chinese Zodiac and video, “Why the Rat Comes First: A Lunar New Year Story,” from the Asian Art Museum.


  1. Students may enjoy learning how to write the Chinese characters for the numerals 1 through 10. Here are the characters for 1 through 10 from the BBC for students.
  2. Write the Mandarin numbers, their pronunciations, and their numerical equivalents on the whiteboard. Have students practice saying the number words until they are familiar with their pronunciations and meanings. Then give students simple math problems  to solve using these number words. For extra challenge, encourage students to write a simple math problem in Chinese and share with their peers to try.

Books for Chinese New Year

(Download the list as a PDF here).

SPOTLIGHT: The Magical Monkey King: Mischief in Heaven This is an adaption perfect for elementary schools of one of China’s favorite classics, Journey to the West. This Monkey is arrogant, bold, clever, and hilarious. Every child in China grows up listening to stories of the irrepressible Monkey King. Join Monkey as he wins his title as King of the Monkeys, studies with a great sage to learn the secrets of immortality, and even takes on the job as a royal gardener in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Chinatown Adventure A young Chinese American girl is spending the day in Chinatown with her mother. With so many interesting things to buy, how will she spend her money?



D is for Doufu: An Alphabet Book of Chinese Culture and I Love China: A Companion Book to D is for Doufu This book introduces readers to Chinese culture, beliefs, and legends in today’s context. It explores the meanings of 23 Chinese words and phrases while providing an interesting historical and cultural background.




Golden Dragon Parade Chinese New Year is here. Come along to the Golden Dragon Parade.




Sam and the Lucky Money Sam can hardly wait to go shopping with his mom. It’s Chinese New Year’s day and his grandparents have given him the traditional gift of lucky money. Yet, Sam discovers that sometimes the best gifts come from the heart.




The Day the Dragon Danced Sugar and her Grandma are going to the Chinese New Year’s Day parade, but Grandma is skeptical about New Year’s in February and scary dragons.




 The Dragon Lover and Other Chinese Proverbs These proverbs are used in everyday Chinese life to illustrate moments of humor or clarity in our actions. Each of the five stories collected here feature animals that help readers shed light on the truths of human nature.




The Monster in the Mudball When Jin’s little brother is kidnapped by the monster Zilombo, Jin teams up with Chief Inspector of Ancient Artifacts Mizz Z on the streets of England to find him and defeat the monster.




The Wishing Tree Every Lunar New Year, Ming and his grandmother visited the Wishing Tree. Grandmother warned him to wish carefully, and sure enough, Ming’s wishes always seemed to come true. But one year—when Ming made the most important wish of his life—the tree let him down. 

(Download the full book list and activities as a PDF here).

Chinese New Year

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA as a Teach for America corps member where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

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23. Interview: Why Culturally Responsive Literature Matters

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 4.21.07 PMGuest BloggerIn this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger R. Joseph Rodríguez, Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso, shares strategies on teaching Guadalupe García McCall’s novels in middle and high school English Language Arts, as well as discusses the impact of culturally responsive and relevant literature in the classroom.

What inspired you to write about Guadalupe García McCall, her literature, and classroom applications?

 Guadalupe García McCall’s writings create many connections and destinations in my life, crossing many geographies and memories across time—from my growing up to today. As I read her books, I travel in conversation with her characters.

In literature, we enact the elements of storytelling and literacy by becoming involved with all the facets that make a story readable, understandable, relatable, and enjoyable.

The worlds García McCall creates in her literary works mirror my childhood and journeys. Specifically, Piedras Negras, Coahuila, México, where García McCall was born, is the home of my maternal aunt Cristina, uncle Andrés, and cousins. While growing up, my parents, siblings, and I traveled from Houston to visit them.

Like in García McCall’s novels and poems, many families and cultures are before us—en vivo and in print—with storytellers and cuentos crossing the national grids of the U.S. and México borderlands.

For teachers interested in using Summer of the Mariposas and/or Under the Mesquite—what would you recommend they use the texts for? What part of curriculum? What could they pair this with—any literature or primary source documents? 

The novel in verse Under the Mesquite meets various standards in English language arts that include poetry and various literary elements as well as other disciplines. The book presents an adolescent female who creates poetry and dramatic performances, supports her siblings as a caring problem solver, and seeks ways to keep her mother’s memory alive. The text can be paired with other novels in verse that feature characters with dilemmas and choices that lead to trials and triumphs.

Several primary sources can be considered such as the literary works within the novel, diaries and ballads with historical and personal accounts, and excerpts from classics and contemporary classics that feature first-person point of view such as A Good Long Way, American Ace, Brown Girl Dreaming, CrashBoomLove, My Own True Name, Locomotion, and Republic, among others.

How do you think Under the Mesquite or Summer of the Mariposas could be used to support student writing? What student work or output could teachers have students create to demonstrate understanding? 

As teachers, we can welcome diverse voices in our classrooms and students’ lives by allowing characters to move from the page to other media: performing and visual arts. Reading García McCall’s novels and poetry remind us of the varied stories we carry with our families and in our interior—alive and in memory.

We carry these stories beyond our own biological families to the literary characters and families we meet through the mirrors, windows, and doors of their lives created by our author and medium García McCall and our very own lives. Student can write about these memories with an image that launches the conversation to a recording that can create a collage of storytelling with varied techniques and improvisation for the classroom stage.

Rodriguez pull quote 1There are no required texts for the Common Core State Standards, but we still see that schools and districts can be shy to branch out from more classic texts (“classics” as in texts that seem to appear in every high school year in year out as well as many that are Caucasian and European American literary canon). Why do you think that is? What can teachers do to include more contemporary and/or culturally responsive and relevant texts with limited time and flexibility in the year and curriculum?

Becoming aware of the civic communities that border our schools, the cultural resources and references that inform ideas and decisions, and students’ everyday resilience are key insights to create community through literature and even transport readers to other places in time, to the present, and toward the future.

As teachers, we can also plan literary experiences that create dialogue across borders, cultures, and migrations. Our lessons can reflect adventure, drama, choice, conflict, dilemma, and triumph experienced by characters through literature from diverse experiences, places, and realities. This requires deliberate planning with concepts and competencies for culturally responsive and sustaining instruction that places classics and contemporary classics in dialogue with deeper learning, thinking, and questioning.

Lastly, through the guidance of their teachers, many students are book borrowers who experience libraries in classrooms, schools, homes, and civic communities. As a result, students are permitted self-selection of both print books and e-books.

Is it enough to select a “culturally responsive” book for the curriculum? What does culturally responsive and relevant instruction look like? How can high school teachers make the whole process from book selection, introduction, instruction, and student work/output culturally responsive and relevant? 

When I found García McCall’s novels, which were recommended by Pat Mora, I heard the familiar voices come alive and the stories speak to me from the print and digital pages of our national and binational literary canons. Culture is really about imagination and knowledge and how these sustain us as communities. Thus, as teachers we must be in conversation with our teaching colleagues as well as readers who are among us: our students, their families, librarians, and critics.

There are several book awards that can inform our literary selection and introduction. For instruction and student work, we can rely on resources from the American Library Association, Edutopia, ReadWriteThink.org, and publications from ILA and NCTE. Moreover, the process for selecting a book can take into consideration teaching standards and student learning outcomes that promote growth with interdisciplinary thinking and learning.

Teachers interested in the inclusion of diverse literary traditions understand the role of reading, writing, authorship, and representation in the literacy classroom. The research informs us that students seek literary characters and favor reading and writing experiences that reflect their life choices and questions in both public and private spaces. These choices and questions can be explored through both classics and contemporary classics.

Rodriguez pull quote 2What is at stake if educators do not include culturally responsive and relevant works like García McCall in middle and high school classrooms?

What is at stake here is our democracy and shared efforts for global world understanding. Like García McCall and her characters reveal, we barter through world languages and literature. As a result, we have examples of human cultures meeting and sharing in the making of civilizations, languages, and stories. My earliest memories of family gatherings reflect bilingualism and biculturalism with biliteracies bringing us the warmth and energy to express ourselves so freely and with laughter and occasionally some of life’s sorrows.

Partly driven by fear and also by limited access to print and marketing, diverse voices were missing in textbooks and shelves across the country. This is changing as the U.S. mirrors more who its inhabitants have been: a country of diverse citizens with shared values about literacy and learning. We cannot succumb to fear with non-publication and non-participation if we are to keep our reading public alive for democracy to survive.

I remember the great importance placed on attendance in my schooling. In retrospect, many went uncounted and unaccounted for in my schooling: the literary characters who could forge new ways of seeing, reading, and interpreting adolescent life and thought, yet remained absent. That need not happen any longer as we rethink language arts and literacy education. Our teaching profession calls us to be committed to social change, reflection, and action by bringing more literacy opportunities into the lives of our students—of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, colors, and reading interests—and their diverse communities.

Joseph Rodríguez is Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso, located on the border across from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. His research interests include children’s and young adult literatures, socially responsible biliteracies, and academic writing. Catch him virtually @escribescribe or via email: rjrodriguez6@utep.edu.

For further reading by R. Joseph Rodríguez:

Why Culturally Responsive Literature MattersUnder the Mesquite:

Summer of the Mariposas:

Guadalupe García McCall:


3 Comments on Interview: Why Culturally Responsive Literature Matters, last added: 4/7/2016
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24. Celebrating Día at School

 El día de los niños / El día de los libros is turning 20!

Join Spanish Playground, MommyMaestra, American Immigration Council and LEE & LOW BOOKS for a dynamic discussion on how to create an effective and meaningful Día celebration at schools.

Sign up to learn how to:

  • start/magnify a Día celebration at your school
  • invest stakeholders
  • select culturally responsive and relevant books
  • engage English Language Learners and bilingual/multilingual families

Dia Day 2016

Panelists will offer examples and strategies they’ve used to promote multiculturalism and inclusion through books and storytelling techniques to celebrate Día any day.

Meet the Panelists

  • Claire Tesh, Senior Manager of the Community Education Program at American Immigration Council
  • Susan K. Coti, professional storyteller and educator
  • Monica Olivera, Founder and Lead Education Writer at MommyMaestra and Co-Founder of Latinas for Latino Lit
  • Carolyn Vidmar, Public Librarian and Summer Reading Program Coordinator at Spaish Playground

Meet the Moderator

At the end of the panel discussion, all attendees will receive a FREE, ready-to-go toolkit with tips and strategies from American Immigration Council, MommyMaestra, Spanish Playground, and LEE & LOW. Additionally, proof of attendance and participation is available for professional development credit.


Title: Celebrating Día at School

Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time: 04:00pm Eastern Daylight Time

Duration: 1 hour

Cost: FREE

Recommended for: Educators, Caregivers, and Community Coordinators teaching K-5 students in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings

Learn more: #TeachDia @SpanishPlaygrd @LatinMami @LEEandLOW @ThnkImmigration

Register here!

 together in a panel discussion-Sources with ideas for celebrating El día de los niños / El día de los libros

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

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25. Choosing the World Our Students Read

13089CT01.tifteaching toleranceEmily Chiariello is a Teaching and Learning Specialist with Teaching Tolerance. She has 15 years’ experience as a classroom teacher, professional development and curriculum designer in public, charter and alternative school settings, as well as with non-profit organizations. She holds a master’s degree in philosophy and social policy and is certified in secondary social studies.

Here she discusses Teaching Tolerance’s new curriculum tool, “Project Appendix D,” that empowers educators to identify texts that both meet the demands of the Common Core Standards and reflect the world in which our students live. This blog post was originally posted at the Teaching Tolerance blog.

Teaching Tolerance image (2)

by Emily Chiariello

Does the Common Core limit what texts teachers can use? While many people think so, we don’t. Teaching Tolerance believes it is possible—and important—to choose texts that are both rigorous and relevant. Read on to learn about a new approach to text selection: Appendix D: A Tool for Selecting Diverse Texts. This exciting project goes beyond the resources offered in Appendices A and B and offers a new world of possibilities within literacy instruction.

Appendices A and B

Teachers are expected—per the CCSS’s Appendix A—to select more complex texts, teach more nonfiction and ask more text-dependent questions. But do they feel less empowered to choose readings about social justice or to locate texts that reflect the identities and histories of their students and communities? We’re concerned the answer is yes. We know that teachers want texts that mirror their students’ lives. And to achieve equitable outcomes, the Common Core must be implemented in culturally responsive ways that address social emotional learning as well as academic goals. Yet, this kind of implementation is not happening in most districts.

At first glance, one might think that the “Reader and Task” portion of the text selection model in Appendix A makes room for culturally responsive instructional decisions. Instead, there’s only a brief and bland mention of “reader variables”—motivation, knowledge and experiences—ultimately eclipsed by the other two measures: hard Lexile scores (quantitative) and subjective interpretations of meaning and purpose (qualitative).

pull-quoteAnd then there’s the stark imprint of privilege found in the gaps and silences of Appendix B, a list of “text exemplars” that meet the aforementioned approach to text complexity, quality and range. Too many publishers—and districts, too—have interpreted the text exemplars listed in Appendix B as a required reading list.

Woefully few examples of cultural relevance can be found in “Common Core-aligned” materials and trainings, including Appendix B. Jane M. Gangi, professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College, has analyzed Appendix B and found that, of the 171 texts recommended for children in K-5, only 18 are by authors of color, and few reflect the lives of children of color and children in poverty.

Appendix D

We believe that educators—teachers, librarians and literacy specialists—who work in classrooms every day are in the best positions to identify texts that engage diverse students.

That’s why we’re excited to share our new project: Appendix D: A Tool for Selecting Diverse Texts. Traditionally, tools that support text selection have focused on quantitative and qualitative measures only. But Appendix D promotes a multi-dimensional approach to text selection that prioritizes complexity as well as critical literacy and cultural responsiveness.

Appendix D empowers educators to rely on their knowledge of their students, rather than a prepopulated lists of titles, when selecting texts. The tool walks users through four distinct—but interconnected—text-selection considerations: complexity, diversity and representation, critical literacy, and reader and task. And it’s an editable PDF, allowing folks to document, save and share their text-selection process. (Be sure to download to unlock the editing capabilities.)

So, why a tool and not a list? There are commendable lists out there. Gangi and the Collaborative for Equity Literacy Learning (CELL) assembled an alternative list of multicultural titles, but they are not leveled for teachers to assess text complexity. Others, like publishers LEE & LOW, work to bring more diversity and representation into classroom libraries, and to the task of text selection. However, none of the lists we’ve investigated encompass texts that are both culturally relevant and meet the Common Core’s requirements for complexity. And, unless it is dynamic, any list of diverse books is only as diverse as the person—or people—who made it.

We hope the TT community will use Appendix D to help us grow a dynamic and diverse list of texts based on the four considerations and on the diverse needs of our students. We’ve started with the titles currently found in Perspectives for a Diverse America, our new anti-bias curriculum. In the months to come, as you use the Appendix D tool in your own practice, think of which complex, culturally relevant titles you think your fellow social justice educators would want to know about—and be on the lookout for an invitation to submit your texts to the ever-growing, ever-changing TT community list!

Paulo Freire wrote that, when we read words, we read the world. Don’t we owe it to our students to consider them when choosing those words?Gracias

Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books, Guest Blogger Post, Race Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, multicultural books, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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