Friday, February 21, 2014

Read Aloud Roundup: February 2014

Black History Month came again, with a new round of children's books! Some favorite authors and illustrators made their appearance -- Jacqueline Woodson, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Kadir Nelson are always excellent choices. My wife reminds me that I should seek out biographies of activists like Bayard Rustin (watched this documentary today) and Malcolm X (for kids? maybe middle school) for next year. I had an overflow of books about African-American women, so a couple will be featured in March for Women's History Month.

I had some trouble finding accurate and thoughtful books suitable for our youngest students, so both kindergarten classes were assigned poetry -- one short poem per book, which was closer to the usual picturebook experience than the anthologies I'd tried earlier this year. Still, the big ideas behind the little words means more work for the volunteer reader leading the discussion. If I'd had unlimited time and funds, I would have tried to find something better for kindergarten.

This one is a bit advanced for K -- start by describing the story before reading the poem. In the 1700s, when slavery was legal, both slaves and free people worked to build the home of the President (and what is it called? the White House!). The slave workers were allowed to keep only a small part of their pay; the rest went to their owners. But that small amount could be saved up and over time some slaves could buy their own freedom. So the building of the White House meant more than just more work to these people and their families.
What are some words you didn’t know? Could you tell from the pictures or from the rest of the story what they meant? [explain and define if there are unknown words]
Why does the story include lists of names?
What are examples of big things that are made up of many small things?

What does it feel like when things are unfair? [examples of personal and public injustices/inequity/discrimination suitable for 5-year-olds]
When the narrator says, “I am the darker brother,” who is the poet talking about? Does he just mean one person?
What are things we can work on to make it fair for everyone?

What does Booker hope for? Why is it important to him?
How does Booker achieve his goals?
What are some of the obstacles he may face as he gets older?

When you tell a story, how is it different from reading it aloud? How does the author show us storytelling in this book?
What does Honey’s Gran’pa mean by “ain’t nobody a stranger to me”? What are some good and bad things about strangers? When do people become not-strangers?
Why was it important to him to own land and plant apple trees?
How long does it take for a seed to grow into a tree? What does it look like as it changes? How do people change over time?

When you tell a story, how is it different from reading it aloud? How does the author show us storytelling in this book?
How do the illustrations tell more of the story?
When the people came to Mathis May “for the stories of brave people,” how did she help them?
What is the value of having/knowing pictures and stories from the past? If you wanted to know more about your family history, whom could you ask?

Why is it important to Ellen’s parents to have their marriage recognized?
Why does Ellen put flowers into the broom? Why does her mother cry?
What are some wedding traditions you know? Do you know where they come from? How could you find out?

What sorts of things get passed down from generation to generation? What else that aren’t “things”? [genes/looks, stories, beliefs]
What is the value of having/knowing pictures and stories from the past? If you wanted to know more about your family history, whom could you ask?
[maybe] What does the rope symbolize to the narrator’s family? What about when she trades it to her grandmother for a brand new one?

Some of this story isn’t told in the words. What can you learn and add to the story by looking at the illustrations? [motorcycle cop, “Snowy White” ad, protestors, city hall architecture]
What didn’t Lulu and Jelly understand about the fountain and what was happening in the city? Why not?
How would you answer Jelly’s last question?

Jackie Robinson is famous for being the first black baseball player to integrate the major leagues. How did he have to brave to do that? How was it like/not like his bravery in this story?
How much do we know about famous people’s family lives? [name some currently famous people] What do you know about historical figures and what they were like at home? [name some major figures of the civil rights movement -- MLK, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela] Do you think it’s useful or interesting to learn more about their non-public activity? Do you think it’s fair to them? Why/why not?

4 / 5
How do you think you would feel if you were given a new name when you started school, and not called by your family’s name for you anymore? Why do you think this was done by Mandela’s teacher? (students in this class explored this previously with Shin-Chi’s Canoe)
The elders taught about African history by telling the stories of the people around them. What ways can you think of to find out more about what happened years before you were born?
How does the history of apartheid in South Africa relate to American history?
What did Mandela mean by “the last mile to freedom”? Do you think we in America, or in the world, still have farther to walk?

How can books help people in everyday life? [Nonfiction, how-to, job skills, on top of entertainment value]
Why do you think the librarian helped Louis, even though they could have been discovered breaking the rules?
Why was it so important to Louis to “shake things up”? Who else was shaking things up at the same time?

Bonus book (too long for read-aloud): 

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