How many times have you read To Kill A Mockingbird? At least once, right? It’s amazing to consider how one book continues to touch so many lives. What does it take to write the great American novel? In Alabama Spitfire, readers get an idea of what makes an author noteworthy. Young Nelle Harper Lee was a reader, a writer and an observer. She watched her father, a lawyer, fight cases in the courthouse. She wondered about her reclusive neighbors and wrote stories about them. These childhood experiences prepared Lee to write a book we all know and love. Children will appreciate the illustrations that have a cinematic feel to them. The interesting storyline will compel readers to make observations and write. Who knows, maybe one day they will write the next great American novel!
AASL Standards Framework For Learners: Curate: IV.A.2 Learners act on an information need by identifying possible sources of information.
When you cut yourself, what’s the first thing you do? Reach for a Band-Aid, right? Before the 1920s, Band-Aids did not exist. Josephine Knight was accident prone and needed to save her cuts from infection. Her husband, Earle Dickson, wanted to help. He applied his background knowledge with cotton to solve the problem. The Boo-Boos That Changed the World delivers an interesting narrative about Band-Aids. Children will enjoy the comical way the author pretends to end the story when there is more to tell. The cartoonish illustrations add to the story of this great invention known worldwide.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Curate: IV.A.2 Learners act on an information need by identifying possible sources of information.
How do we keep our family history alive? In this insightful and poignant book, Junot Diaz examines just how we keep our stories alive. In an age when immigration is a debate in our nation and tops the headlines each day, we consider the story of Lola, who immigrated as a baby. She cannot remember “The Island” that she came from, since she left when she was a baby.
To bridge the past with the present, Lola’s family brings the “The Island” to her, by sharing all kinds of memories – from the wonderful to the heartbreaking. It is a story of sharing, imagination and the importance of our stories.
Throughout this story, Lola starts to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”
Note: This book is also available in Spanish under the title “Lola”.
Response to Literature
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: V.A.3 Engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth.
How much do we really know about our family history? How far back in history can we imagine? How is the story of your family history conveyed over time?
Are you teaching learners how to code? If so, you must add How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk to your lesson plans. A young girl, by the name of Pearl, narrates the thought process behind coding. She begins by introducing her robot friend, Pascal. Readers will see how Pearl directs the robot to build the perfect sandcastle. Terms like “loop” and “sequence” are defined with appealing illustrations. A “Guide to Coding” at the end of the book further defines coding terms.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: EXPLORE V.B.1: Discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection by problem solving through cycles of design, implementation, and reflection.
Check out girlswhocode.com, and consider starting a club in your library!
I Walk With Vanessa is wordless book that provokes a conversation about bullying. All readers will relate to the concern of finding a way to stop aggressive behavior. When a new girl at school feels alone, a bully decides to make her feel worse by yelling at her. Another young girl witnesses this and is shocked and saddened by what she saw. After pondering for some time, she comes up with a brilliant plan that is sure to make Vanessa feel better. Learners will immediately connect with stories of their own. The wordless platform encourages readers to voice their experiences around bullying.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include: II.B.1 Learners adjust their awareness of the global learning community by interacting with learners who reflect a range of perspectives.
Extension Idea: Pair this book with “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson. Ask learners to think about how they would make a new student feel welcome in their classroom.
How can we introduce the concept of mindfulness with our students? Self regulation and focus are key to learning in all settings, yet often we struggle with just how to begin the conversation. Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, is an engaging book, told through the eyes of a little boy and girl as well as Stillwater, their panda friend. Stillwater seems to have just the right story to share that matches an emotional challenge. This book serves as a wonderful platform from which mindfulness can be explored.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: A.5.3 EXPLORE Discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection.
Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth
Have students work with you to identify and list a wide variety of different emotions. Consider having them research mindfulness techniques that would help a friend with a strong feeling. They could also write or find a story that would support a friend with handling an emotion. Students can consider their own authentic audience – who could they teach mindfulness practices to?
Some ideas include:
There are so many opportunities, whether you intend to follow a single lesson , or build it out to become a mindfulness unit. We would love to hear your ideas!
Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, March 1st 2005 by Scholastic Press
What would you do if you had to get rid of 3,186 tons of trash? This was a problem that Lowell Harrelson thought he could handle. He rented a barge, loaded it with trash from New York City and Long Island, and shipped it to North Carolina. He had an innovative plan for the trash once it reached land, but NC refused the delivery. What was Harrelson to do?
In All That Trash by Meghan McCarthy, we learn about the true story of trash that traveled for two months. McCarthy does an exceptional job making this piece of history fascinating. Readers will enjoy the illustrations that enrich the engaging storyline. Information and pictures at the end of the book answer questions readers may have about the news event.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: IV.B.1 Learners gather information appropriate to the task by seeking a variety of sources.
Think of a time when your whole being fully appreciated nature. What did you see? What did you hear? In Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter To Our Planet, we see incredible images of our beautiful home. Gorgeous photos of plants, animals and landscapes support the story told in poetic form. The message of appreciating Earth will inspire readers. Resources and ideas to make a difference are included at the end of the book.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: V.A.3 Engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth.
Did you know there was a time when girls were not allowed to speak in front of an audience at school? During the mid 1800’s, Belva Lockwood saw this happening and knew it was wrong. She decided to end this oppression by teaching public speaking courses to girls.
There were other injustices, too, and Belva was not going to stand by and let them happen. When someone told her “no” because she was a woman, she kept persisting until she heard “yes”. When she was not allowed to vote, Belva campaigned and ran for president.
This fascinating story will appeal to all readers as they learn a lesson in speaking up for what’s right. Belva Lockwood’s example in determination inspires readers to persevere when faced with opposition.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: II.A.2 Learners contribute a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by adopting a discerning stance toward points of view and opinions expressed in information resources and learning products.
Where does creativity come from? Steve Jobs once said it evolves from “connecting things.” The story of Ada Lovelace supports this idea. Energized by a curious imagination as a child, Ada designed fantastic creations. Her mother worried about Ada’s wild notions and sent her to school to study science. Ada thrived at the school. She was especially interested in learning about machines. One machine in particular caught her eye; the loom. Punch cards full of holes told the machine what to do, and this fascinated Ada. She wanted to apply this technology to create something new. One day, she did. She wrote the first computer program.
This is the perfect book to introduce computer programming. The fanciful illustrations work well with the enjoyable narrative to describe the technology. Readers will appreciate this story and remember Ada Lovelace’s contribution to programming.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners:V.C.1 Learners engage with the learning community by expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.
How to Read Your Website Source Code and Why It’s Important for SEO
Steve Jobs: The Next Insanely Great Thing (https://www.wired.com/1996/02/jobs-2/)
What Most Schools Don’t Teach (https://youtu.be/nKIu9yen5nc)
When was the last time you paid attention to the activities in your town? What did you notice? What did you appreciate? Jane Jacobs, an author and an activist, was fascinated by the intricacies of city life. As a child, she wondered how cities sustained daily activity. She had questions about man holes, sewer systems and street design. Jacobs loved her neighborhood, and when city planners threatened to tear down her community to build a highway, she protested. She wrote letters and involved neighbors to challenge the plan. She made a difference. The highway was never built.
Jane Jacob’s story will compel readers to take a new interest in their neighborhoods. What do they appreciate about their town? How can they stay informed about proposals? Prepare learners to get involved by trying the lesson below.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: II.C.1 Learners exhibit empathy with and tolerance for diverse ideas by engaging in informed conversation and active debate.
It’s eerie to think that Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson was published two months before the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. The stories are the same; courageous children taking monumental risks to draw attention to atrocities.
This powerful story, illustrated with remarkable images, will inspire readers to make a difference. The Afterword provides ideas to encourage children to volunteer and learn more about important topics.
Illustrator Frank Morrison is extremely talented at illuminating the feelings of each character in the story. We clearly see worry, pain, fear, satisfaction, courage and pride in the facial expressions of the characters.
The back matter includes images of children being arrested and sprayed by a powerful hose.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: III.C.2 Learners work productively with others to solve problems by involving diverse perspectives in their own inquiry processes.
March for Our Lives (https://marchforourlives.com/home/)
Straw No More | Molly Steer | TEDxJCUCairns. (https://youtu.be/Rr5Py1r9xjw)
Youth Service America. (https://leadasap.ysa.org/ideas/)