By Jennifer Graff and Courtney Shimek on behalf of the Biography Clearinghouse
As shared in our initial Biography Clearinghouse post, we are committed to showcasing how biographies can help connect youths with each other and the world. Offering curricular possibilities that are easily adaptable to grade level, time, and other contexts and providing “behind-the-scenes” content from biography creators are central components of our commitment.
In the spirit of returning to school and the desire to amplify the historical achievements of Black people in the U.S., we showcase the story of someone committed to justice and equity her entire life. “A child of New York City’s striving class of Blacks in the mid-1800s" (p.5) whose ideals were to “Aim high! Stand tall! Be strong! -- and do!” (p.5); a girl whose mother was “an ace operator for the Underground Railroad” (p.21); and an educator who wrote, “I never forgot that I had to sue for a privilege which any but a colored girl could have without asking” (p.36). Thus, our first featured biography on the Biography Clearinghouse website is Tonya Bolden’s award-winning Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl.
Bolden felt compelled to write about Maritcha after coming across her memoir at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Bolden’s rich, descriptive language and use of primary and secondary sources illuminate the life and experiences of Maritcha Rémond Lyons and her family in New York City during the latter half of the 19th century. Readers discover what life for Blacks was like in New York City, witness the terror and violence of the Draft Riots in 1863, and experience the fight for education and equal treatment. Bolden’s discussion of her research and writing process in the front and back matter as well as Maritcha’s perseverance, determination, and legacy inspired us to interview Bolden and imagine how we could incorporate this powerful biography into our classrooms.
Operating within our Investigate, Explore, and Create model, we designed teaching ideas geared toward literacy and content area learning as well as opportunities for socio-emotional learning and strengthening community connections.
Getting to Know Your Community Leaders
Community networks were central to Maritcha’s story as well as her and her family’s accomplishments. The importance of community networks is still present today. But how often do we have opportunities to delve deeper into the community networks that help us survive, if not thrive?
By investigating biographers’ research and writing processes and connecting people and historical events to our modern lives, we hope to motivate change in how readers engage with biographies, each other, and the larger world. To see more classroom possibilities and helpful resources connected to Marticha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl, visit the Biography Clearinghouse. Additionally, we’d love to hear how the interview and these ideas inspired you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your connections, creations, questions, or comment below if you’re reading this on Twitter or Facebook.
Jennifer M. Graff is an associate professor at the University of Georgia, the current past-president of CLA, and a former committee member of NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.
Courtney Shimek is an assistant professor at West Virginia University and has been a member of CLA since 2015.
BY JEANNE GILLIAM FAIN
Reflecting on the 2020 NCBLA List, our seven-member committee believes in the influence of each individual book and the power of the books grouped together to offer another layer of meaning. After reviewing over 400 titles with 2019 copyright dates appropriate for readers in K-8th grade, the members of the 2020 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Committee met online to decide upon our final list of 30 titles. We read books multiple times and learned from each other as we carefully considered the craft of each book.
In this post, I am going to highlight two picture book biographies from the 2020 NCBLA List: Soldier for Equality: Jose´de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War (2019) and Feed your mind: A story of August Wilson (2019).
Tonatiuh, D. (2019). Soldier for Equality: Jose´de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War. New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers, unpaged.
Bryant, J. (2019). Feed your mind: A story of August Wilson. (C. Chapman, Illus.). New York, NY: Abrams Book for Young Readers, unpaged.
Golden Line Strategy & Flip Grid
Both picturebooks feature high-quality language and there are many golden lines, lines that really resonate with the reader, within these texts. The golden line strategy involves the reader choosing a specific line from the picture book biography that causes the reader to pause, ponder, reflect, and/or question the text.
The line should purposely connect with the reader. Readers can choose the golden line from the text and post responses on Flipgrid.
Using flipgrid, the reader can record the reading of the golden line. The teacher can post invitational questions on the flipgrid. Readers can create their own response or answer one of the invitational questions and post on flipgrid. Readers can listen to their peers' golden line responses and post a response back.
Meet the Notables Committee
Jeanne Gilliam Fain is s a professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee and Chair of the 2020 Notables Committee.
BY LAUREN AIMONETTE LIANG & XENIA HADJIOANNOU
As the days of August are marching on and the beginning of the 2020-21 school year is approaching, it is becoming increasingly clear that this will be another challenging year for students and educators of all levels. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is still looming large in our daily lives and our plans for working and learning with our students. In the absence of firm solutions for treatment and inoculation from the virus, and in the context of growing numbers of infections across the United States, schools are faced with complex and challenging decisions about how to pursue their mission in safe and academically robust ways.
Our hope and intention here at the CLA Blog is to offer resources and support to educators as they plan for what is sure to be an extraordinary year of teaching and learning. We aspire to offer helpful ideas for sharing children’s literature with students through various instructional modes, as well as continue to maintain a focus on amplifying diverse voices, highlighting literary works representing diverse perspectives, and supporting an antiracist social justice agenda.
We are grateful to various CLA groups and individual CLA members for volunteering to contribute posts to the CLA Blog over the coming weeks. New posts will be published every Tuesday. We are delighted to announce that in Fall 2020 the blog will feature:
Our thoughts are with you as you expertly handle the many new preparations, alongside frequent and often abrupt changes, to plans for this fall in your classrooms. We value the outstanding work that you do, and hope that you are able to stay safe during this challenging time.
Lauren Aimonette Liang is an associate professor at the University of Utah and the current president of CLA.
Xenia Hadjioannou is an associate professor at Penn State's Harrisburg campus and the webmaster of the CLA website.
BY SELENA E. VAN HORN
Some of the most beautiful stories will not come from books but from the voices of our families and communities. Oral storytelling and oral histories are passed from generation to generation, told during times of struggle and celebration. Many of our cultural, linguistic, religious, and community identities are shared through these stories. Below are a few picturebooks where authors have shared the crafts and values of oral storytelling.
Connecting with Picturebooks
Recording and Transcribing Oral Stories
After sharing the above mentor texts on oral storytelling/histories, teachers can invite young storytellers to engage in their own oral history/storytelling projects. Some examples might include:
Oral histories/stories can be recorded and transcribed for multiple listening/reading opportunities. They can be shared with their teacher/class and shared with family/community as a treasure. Students might also consider starting their own podcast and/or oral journaling. Below are a few tools that offer free recording and transcription.
Zoom is removing the 40 minute time limit on their Basic Free Account for K-12 schools affected by the COVID-19. This includes the ability to record and transcribe zoom sessions with lessons to allow students to learn how at their own pace.
The Basic, free account syncs with Zoom cloud recordings and allows up to 600 minutes (recording and transcription) for free (max. 40 min. sessions) each month.
This free app for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac allows you to record, edit, and share recordings; however, it does not offer transcription capabilities.
Recording oral stories can be a documentation of a moment in time and/or an on-going form of reflection and connection. For teachers and parents interested in oral stories, check out the StoryCorps Podcast.
Selena E. Van Horn is a CLA/IDE Committee Member.