Happy February! This month, the students and I are learning so many things—and having such fun! With the younger students, we've been looking at books from acclaimed African American authors and illustrators, such as Jerry Pinkney and Jacqueline Woodson. Ask your child about Pinkney's wordless book, The Lion and the Mouse. Despite the fact that the book is exclusively illustrations, there are endless opportunities for conversation, exploration, and imagination.
With the older students, we’ve been reading about important, but sometimes overlooked, figures from history. Last week we read about the Loving family, whose challenge to Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage changed the course of American history. What’s more, they lived just a short distance away from our school on Neal Street NE.
In honor of our country’s first citizens, the students and I have been learning and reading about the Lummi, Crow, and Passamaquody tribes. The students really respond to the folktales from these different cultures, and it also provides an excellent opportunity to talk about the different geographical regions of our country. Also, we’ve heard snippets of each tribe’s language.
Our reading list: Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott, Brave Wolf and Thunderbird by Joe Medicine Crow, and Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin.
Interested in reading more Native American folktales and stories? I highly recommend Gerald McDermott’s other books, which are a wonderful blend of text and images. Sherman Alexie, winner of the National Book Award, recently published a picture book called Thunder Boy Jr. It’s a great book about a young Indian boy proclaiming his own identity.
The library space has been reconfigured somewhat to allow for easier flow between group lessons and individual/group work at tables. In addition, I created an early childhood area that features books grouped in bins with text AND picture labels (e.g. the dinosaur bin says “Dinosaurs” and has a picture of a stegosaurus) so that pre-readers can locate books on their own. Additionally, text- and picture-based signage is being added throughout the library so that children can find most materials with minimal assistance.
Our younger students have been thoroughly enjoying reading the “Froggy” series by Jonathan London. Please ask your children about it! This is a great introduction to the concept of “series,” and the books allow for plenty of reader interaction. From the sounds Froggy makes as he gets dressed to the funny way he learns to swim, the children have many opportunities to join in the reading both verbally and physically. This is a wonderful way for young kids to connect to books!
Grades 1-4 have been learning about graphic novels and the various attributes of this incredibly popular genre. We have read a few of these together, and students have also had a chance to create graphic novels of their own using a set of templates and word balloons. It is great fun to see their imaginations at work.
The 5th graders have been diving deep into a real-life mystery from history—the mystery of the Mary Celeste. After reading a book about this real “ghost ship,” the students have been thrilling me with their theories and doing a wonderful job supporting their claims with evidence from the text. They each got detective notebooks to record their notes and jot down their thoughts. What a smart bunch!
From the moment I learned to read, I was hooked. Books are magical, wondrous, and available to us all. They are the great equalizer, enlightener, and illuminator, and it’s my goal to spark that same love in all of my students.