BY MARY ANN CAPPIELLO on behalf of The Biography Clearinghouse
As we approach the final quarter of 2020, fires rage along the West Coast. Many regions of the United States face drought conditions. Gulf communities are inundated by Hurricane Sally while a string of storms line up in the Atlantic, waiting their turn. The impact of climate change is evident.
COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our lives, our health. We bear witness to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minoritized groups, including Black and Latinx communities, Native Americans, and the elderly.
Across America, Black Lives Matter protests carry on, demanding that our nation invest in the essential work necessary to achieve a more perfect union through racial justice.
In 2020, we remember moments of historic change, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
The intensity of this moment can’t be denied. It’s demanding. It’s exhausting. Whether you are a teacher, librarian, or university faculty member, you are likely teaching in multiple new formats and modalities, facing daily logistical challenges. Caregivers also face new hurdles in supporting young people’s learning.
How do you meet the needs of students and the needs of this moment in history? How do you find hope in literature?
Perhaps one way is to turn to the people of the past and the present who are working on the edges of scientific knowledge. Or, to turn to the people of the past and the present who have acted as champions of social justice. Their life stories offer young people models of agency and action, blueprints for change.
To that end, The Biography Clearinghouse shares 20 biographies for 2020, a list of recent picturebook and collected biographies to connect with the challenges of the moment. This list is not comprehensive. It is simply a starting place. We hope these recently published biographies of diverse changemakers can become part of your curriculum or part of your read aloud calendar, in-person or over video conferencing software.
Biographies About Scientists
Biographies About Champions for Change
If you have any picture book or chapter-length biographies or collected biographies for young people that you would like to recommend, please email us at email@example.com. We’re also interested in hearing more about how you’re using life stories in the classroom this year.
Mary Ann Cappiello teaches courses in children’s literature and literacy methods at Lesley University, blogs about teaching with children’s literature at The Classroom Bookshelf, a School Library Journal blog, and is a former chair of NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction K-8.
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.
Electronic Resources to Complement Contemporary Children’s Picture Books that Feature Mindfulness Elements
BY KATHRYN CAPRINO
Teachers have been thinking about how to incorporate mindfulness into the elementary school classroom for a bit now. During the fall semester, I completed a study about how children’s picture books that featured mindfulness affected preservice teachers’ mindfulness and how they were thinking about incorporating mindfulness into their classrooms.
And the recent global pandemic has only underscored the importance of having children’s picture books that feature mindfulness. We, as parents, teachers, and teacher educators, need them for ourselves. And we need them for our students.
In this post, I share a few contemporary picture books that feature mindfulness elements, and include electronic resources that complement each book - perfect during this time of remote learning. It is my hope that these titles might help us all get through these trying times and propel us into a more mindful approach to what normal looks like on the other side of all this.
Quick side note: I had the opportunity of seeing a traveling Carle exhibit in Norfolk, Virginia, last summer. With pieces from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art , the exhibit provided visitors with an opportunity to learn more about Carle’s artistic process and to see some of the most iconic images from his books. One of my favorites was one of his owls! I encourage all of you to visit the museum once things return to normal. You can ask your students to take a virtual tour of the museum.
Tomie dePaola's Quiet
Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds' I am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness
Mariam Gates' Good Morning Yoga
Kira Willey and Anni Betts' Breathe Like a Bear
- Intention relates to having a personal vision.
- Attention relates to focusing on moments in our lives.
- And attitude relates to the approach one takes to attention.
Shapiro, S. L. Carlson, L. E., Astin, J.A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness.
Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373-388.
BY ASHLEY A. ATKINSON
One silver lining that has stemmed from COVID19 is the influx of resources provided by authors and illustrators to assist parents and teachers in engaging with literacy learning at home. I have seen several blog posts, including Lora M. Dewalt's Post on this blog @Instagram’s #KidLit Community, that highlight amazing opportunities to engage with authors. In today’s post, I am going to focus on the illustrators.
Visual images are an important aspect of meaning making for young children. Often in the classroom, we focus on the words authors pen and less on ways in which the illustrator is a crucial part of the story. Larry Sipe in his book, Storytime: Young Children's Literary Understanding in the Classroom, highlighted the interplay and interconnectedness between images and text, what he called synergy. The synergistic relationship of illustrations and text makes clear the greater impact when viewed together. Giving students a chance to engage and create both text and illustrations honors this relationship and expands the possibilities for how children make meaning.
A perfect example of this powerful union is Drawn Together, written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat. This picturebook starts with panels where images begin the story. Throughout the story as the words and images collide, they both become more impactful and moving, highlighting their synergistic relationship. Watch the video to the right as Dan Santat shares his process for creating the art in this text.
Resources for Creation
Mo Lunch Doodles
You may be familiar with Mo Willems as the well-known author and illustrator of the Elephant and Piggie book series, but did you know he is also the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence at Home? In partnership with the Kennedy Center, he has created 15 episodes of Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. In his own words, Mo Willems says, “You might be isolated, but you’re not alone. You are an art maker. Let’s make some together.” The series offers downloadable activities that focus on his creative process as well as some “how to draw” activities. In an effort to isolate together, students can tag their artwork on social media with #MoLunchDoodles. What a great way for students to see how a single image can be the seed that grows into a whole picturebook!
Dav Pilkey at Home
Another great resource comes from Dav Pilkey, author and illustrator of Captain Underpants and Dog Man. He is working in conjunction with Scholastic and the Library of Congress to offer weekly video lessons that focus on a chance to read, to draw, to create, and to engage with other multimodal fun. What is great about this resource is that it offers a chance for families to have conversations around books and create art together.
Lastly, Debbie Ridpath Ohi offers daily creation challenges via her twitter that allows another way for students to work together while apart. Each day offers an art creation project that can be down with things around the house. Some recent challenges... broken crayon story/art, creating a dog character, and laundry art! Check out other children’s responses by searching for her tag #KidsDailyDebbieOhi.
These resources can offer entry into discussions of the images within picturebooks or a great springboard into students creating their own stories. They also create opportunities for students and families to engage with literacy in a new way. I hope you enjoy using these resources to help your students and families have a little fun as they imagine and create together.
BY ALLY HAUPTMAN
One of my greatest joys as a teacher is to see students’ creativity in action. As an elementary teacher, I was amazed at the creative minds of my students, and now as a professor I continue to delight in seeing teacher candidates create lesson plans and ideas to engage their students. As I reflect on my career as an elementary writing teacher, my best lessons were the ones that involved excellent children’s literature and allowed for student writing choice. This is where the creative magic happens! If I am honest with myself, my students were their most creative as writers when I offered a great mentor text and just got out of their way.
So, I offer you a lesson complex in ideas, but simple in delivery that can be presented in person or on-line, really in any context. I have used this lesson in university classrooms, with PreK-12 students, and my own children.
2. Share the text with your students and model what writing ideas you have based on this text.
3. After reading, ask the questions, “What writing ideas do you get from this text? What are the possibilities you see as a writer?”
4. Get out of the way and let kids write and create!
5. Give students time to share and learn from each other.
That’s it...five steps that lead to important discussion and writing possibilities.
The following is an example of this writing lesson in action with two of my own children. I started by reading Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai. The book begins with Malala talking about a television program she used to watch. The show’s main character was a boy with a magic pencil who Malala saw as a hero, always helping others. She dreamed of having her own magic pencil. She goes on to tell her story of fighting for girls’ education, realizing that she really did have a magic pencil all along. She was able to change the world with her pencil as she fought for educational equality. The last line in the book reads, “One pen, one teacher, one student can change the world.”
Here is the key to this lesson, and this is how I get out of the way of their creativity. I asked my children to write for ten minutes about what ideas they got from Malala’s Magic Pencil. It is as simple as that. I did not give them my prompt that might be presented from this book such as, “What would you do with a magic pencil?” I let them figure out how this book would be a mentor text for their own writing. The beauty of presenting a text and then letting students figure out their own writing possibilities is that they bring their background knowledge, voice, and writing style and combine it with the author’s ideas from the text presented. When you present a mentor text and ask the students to see the writing possibilities, the variety is astounding.
Just with my own daughters, my fifth grader, who is the youngest and always trying to prove herself to her sisters, wrote about a magic tree. In her story, no one believes her that this tree is magic and she hatches a plan to show everyone that she is right. She brought in her ideas and showed strong voice. My eighth grade daughter decided to write about the Infiniti Pen. It is worth mentioning that all of my daughters are obsessed with Marvel movies. So, the Infiniti Pen was inspired by Thor’s hammer in that only the worthiest person in the village could pick up the pen because of its persuasive powers. In this piece, my daughter chose to bring in her own voice and combine Marvel with Malala’s ideas. These writers were able to choose their ideas and use their voices. When we present possibilities through mentor texts, readers also begin to read like writers.
The following list includes texts I have used to spark writing ideas over the past few years with teacher candidates, K-12 students, and my own children.
25 books with endless possibilities…
Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins
Bookjoy, Wordjoy by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raúl Colón
Camela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Claymates by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge
Coco: Miguel and the Grand Harmony by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Ana Ramírez
Cute as an Axolotl by Jess Keating, illustrated by David DeGrand
Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat
Dude! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat
Dreamers/Sonadores by Yuyi Morales
Friends and Foes: Poems About Us All by Douglas Florian
Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Love by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Loren Long
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoёt
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López
Nope! by Drew Sheneman
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Water Land by Christy Hale
What Makes a Monster? by Jess Keating, illustrated by David DeGrand
Wild World by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Hvass & Hannibal
Ally Hauptman is a CLA Board Member and is the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. She is an associate professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.
BY ADAM CRAWLEY
For those unfamiliar with Epic, it provides a vast collection of children’s literature including picturebooks, chapter books, and graphic novels. As stated on the site’s homepage, users can “instantly access 35,000 eBooks, learning videos, quizzes and more for K-5.” Many of the books available are recent publications and award/honor recipients. The site includes books diverse in representation (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, social class, language, etc.) and genre. Just a few of the many books available include El Deafo (Bell, 2014), When Aidan Became a Brother (Lukoff, 2019), and The Princess and the Warrior (Tonatiuh, 2016). One of my particular favorites is the bilingual picturebook Sora and the Cloud (Hoshino, 2011), exquisite with its soft mixed media illustrations and Japanese translation.
In addition to digital versions of printed books, the site includes audiobooks and “read-to-me” books with the option to add text highlighting. I emphasize to the pre-service teachers the importance of such features for emergent readers.
There are numerous ways to explore what’s available in Epic. Users can type a title, author, illustrator, or topic into the search bar; hover over “Explore” in the menu to see options for various subject areas (such as “narrative nonfiction” in English Language Arts or “geometry” in Math); or browse curated collections by other users. Educators can also add their students – whether K-12 or beyond – and assign books to them within the site.
As I want the pre-service teachers to have access to and use this resource beyond our semester together, I encourage them to create their own free account as an educator. Educators can create an Epic! for Educators account.
Supporting PreK-12 and university teachers as they share children’s literature with their students in all classroom contexts.
The opinions and ideas posted in the individual entries are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of CLA or the Blog Editors.
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