From the 2020 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts: Moving From Small to Large Through Play and Imagination
By Kathryn Will, Meghan Goodwin, and Sophie Hendrix
The Notable Children’s Books in Language Arts Committee (NCBLA), reads, reviews, and discusses over 400 books of various genres written for K-8 children each year. These works of poetry and prose are analyzed using the charge of the committee that asks in making the selection of the top thirty texts the seven committee members consider:
1. Appealing format,
2. Enduring quality,
3. Exemplary quality for their genre, and
4. Meeting one or more of the following:
a. Use of language: play on words, word origins, history of language
b. Uniqueness in use of language or style
c. Invitation of child response or engagement
This post focuses on two of the texts from the 2020 Notables List that might be seen through the lens of a progression from small to large. Although The Magic of Letters (2019) and Small World (2019) are very different books, they can be used to invite readers to imagine, play, and wonder.
The Magic of Letters
Written by Tony Johnston
Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Penguin Random House, unpaged, ISBN 978-0823441594
Written by Ishta Mercurio
Illustrated by Jen Corace
Abrams Books for Young Readers, unpaged, ISBN 978-1419734076
Both of these books invite readers to engage in exploration and discussion through multiple reads due to their rich vocabulary and use of language. Teachers can easily deepen and extend the texts through a variety of activities.
Using the illustrative style of The Magic of Letters, children could repurpose magazines and catalogues to cut out letters and words as sources for creating new words and sentences. As they pore over the texts, they could look for familiar and known letters and words, providing opportunities for practice in letter and word recognition before assembling them in a collage. Children could use crayon resist to create magic letters of their very own, or even play roll and write to create sentences from familiar and new words. These activities reflect the rich and playful nature of the text.
Small World is a text that envelopes the reader in the world of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). The rich vocabulary begs teachers to consider connections to geometry, snow science, and roller coasters. With consideration of Nanda’s career as an astronaut, students might watch this video about women astronauts, or think about materials they might need for a trip to the moon. This book also holds opportunities for rich discussion with questions such as:
Kathryn Will is an Assistant Professor of Literacy at the University of Maine Farmington (@KWsLitCrew). She is passionate about sharing the power of children's literature with her students, including the two listed below who assisted in the creation of the teaching tips shared. She is a member of the 2019 Notables Committee, and will be chairing the committee in the upcoming year.
Meghan Goodwin, Preservice teacher, University of Maine Farmington (@Ms_G_Teaches)
Sophie Hendrix, Preservice teacher, University of Maine Farmington
BY MEGAN VAN DEVENTER
As educators, we recognize the value in providing readers with reading experiences that act as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors (Bishop, 1990) to affirm readers’ identities, build empathy for others, and explore humanity. We understand the importance of curating bookshelves that offer a vast array of experiences that validate readers’ lives, feelings, and identities. At times, it can be challenging to select and teach books that do not ‘mirror’ our own lived experience, and it can feel vulnerable to step outside our own expertise. Fortunately, there are many of us committed to expanding our own readership and curating inclusive bookshelves and curricula that resonate with our students. This blog post champions and supports educators doing this vulnerable work to ensure all students are included and reflected and refracted on their bookshelves and in their curricula. This post shares books, tools, and resources to support educators building their expertise to ensure young readers have access to high quality, validating, and accurate children’s literature.
Tools and Resources for Curating an Inclusive Bookshelf and Curriculum
Educators committed to expanding our bookshelves beyond our own favorite reads must be intentional in selecting and teaching high quality children’s literature that is accurate, validating, and honest. There are several wonderful tools and resources to ensure our bookshelves are inclusive, relevant, and accessible for readers. The four tools and resources below support educators in curating inclusive bookshelves and reading curricula (and help us cull problematic books from our shelves as well).
Books for Curating Inclusive Bookshelves and Curricula
The tools and resources described above support educators in selecting and teaching high-quality, accurate, and honest children’s literature. Building our expertise through these tools and resources sustains our commitment to curating inclusive bookshelves. Here are four children’s literature books that support educators in holding space that honors young readers’ and teachers’ capacity to engage with complex and authentic picturebooks.
Bookshelves and curricula that honor young readers in helping them make sense of the world are a key aspect to orchestrating equitable and socially just classrooms. These books, tools, and resources support our work as educators in curating high-quality reading experiences that are inclusive, accurate, and honest.
Bishop, R.S. (1990). Windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives: Choosing and using books for the classroom, 6(3), 1-2.
Eland, E. (2019). When sadness is at your door. Random House.
Lindstrom, C. (2020). We are water protectors. Roaring Brook Press.
Muhammad, I., & Ali, S.K. (2019). The proudest blue: A story of hijab and family. Little, Brown and Company.
Sanna, F. (2016). The journey. Flying Eye Books.
By Courtney Shimek, on behalf of The Biography Clearinghouse
2020 has changed our world in indelible ways. From navigating a global pandemic to fighting social injustices embedded into our everyday lives, we find ourselves overwhelmed, exhausted, and uncertain of the future. In response to these crises and the emotions they produce, we have found solace in picturebook biographies that deliver some much-needed perspective. Reading biographies have become a part of our self-care; they provide archives of the past, context for the present, and hope for the future. At The Biography Clearinghouse, we recognize the potential of biographies to shape readers’ understanding of the world, inform their connection to history, and engender empathy. Through our teaching ideas, we suggest ideas and resources for incorporating biographies into curricula. We also recognize that sometimes picturebook biographies come to life most vividly when read-aloud with young readers.
As we maintain our "new normal" of vacillating between online, hybrid, and in-class instruction, reading aloud continues to be a constant beacon of inspiration and connection in our teaching. Our youth are navigating the same chaotic and ever-changing world; given that biographies model the complexities of this world, sharing these perspectives with youth is vital. As such, I share here 3 tips for reading biographies aloud and a few illustrative examples of high-quality biographies.
Tip #1: Discuss the Visual Features
Picturebooks are unique artifacts where readers gain information not only from words but also from images. The visual features of biographies provide insights into the emotional experiences of distinctive individuals and offer a deeper understanding of humanity. As you read biographies aloud, begin examining the artistic elements (e.g., design and composition, font styles, use of color, artistic mediums, etc.) and see what you discern about the featured individuals, their emotions, and their experiences. For example, from the beautiful mixed media artwork in Spotted Tail (Weiden et al., 2019), we see how the history of the Lakota people connects to present-day issues through striking photographs, art, textural elements from nature, and quotes. Though Spotted Tail has a text-heavy narrative, the design and combination of photographs and art from Jim Yellowtail and Pat Kinsella provide readers numerous points of discussion and a perspective worth including in your read-aloud rotation. Additionally, in It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way (Maclear & Morstad, 2019), Morstad’s illustrations show the reader the detail and sense of color Fujikawa used in her work, and real photographs of her family are included throughout the book. In addressing the visual features of books with readers, we learn about people’s beliefs, histories, cultures, and emotions, and learn more information than from the words, alone.
Tip #2: Back Matter Matters
Often, when we begin a read-aloud we skip to the beginning of the narrative and stop at the end, but creators of contemporary biographies share exceptional amounts of information in the peritextual elements, or everything in the book which is not the actual narrative. Instead of stopping your read-aloud at the end of the narrative, share some of the information included in the back matter such as authors’ and illustrators’ personal connections to the content, where they sourced research materials, and their creative processes. For example, in Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré (Denise & Escobar, 2019), Denise provides descriptions of books by Pura Belpré, as well as films, books, and collections about Pura Belpré for further study. Similarly, in A Place to Land: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation, Barry Wittenstein and Jerry Pinkney (2019) provide notes expanding upon their decisions, short biographies about other civil rights leaders, along with sources and a bibliography. Biography creators also include additional content through the book jacket, endpapers, and their dedications. Sometimes, the back matter or other peritextual features might be more text-heavy or smaller in size than the narrative. We suggest projecting these features or displaying them on an interactive whiteboard so that these peritextual features can be explored and discussed collectively. When we only read aloud the primary narrative, we miss out on information that contextualizes the biography, describes the creative process, and inspires readers to search out additional sources.
Tip #3: Revisit Writer’s Language
Biographers don’t just share events with readers, they share the essence of a person’s life. After you read a biography aloud, reread the book like a writer and examine how the authors’ word choices shape your understandings of a person, place, or event. In Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote (Rosenstock & Green, 2020), for example, Rosenstock structures her biography as a boxing match between Alice Paul and Woodrow Wilson. By portraying major events as rounds and including commentary from fight announcers (e.g., “This fight determines whether the women of the United States can vote, folks!”), readers experience how progress is often a battle of wills and experience what a fighter Alice Paul was. Additionally, Nelson’s use of western idioms (e.g., “plain as the ears on a mule” and “fit like made-to-measure boots”) in Let ‘er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion (Nelson & James, 2019), drops the reader into the cowboy language and culture of Pendleton, Oregon. Through similes and energetic descriptions of bull riding, we experience how Fletcher was discriminated against and, yet, became a hometown hero. Biographers’ language choices provide us with new ways of looking at historical events, embed us in particular moments of time, and supply inspiration for our own writing processes.
How do you read aloud biographies? We would love to hear your tips through our email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through comments on Facebook and Twitter #theBiographyClearinghouse. No matter what 2021 brings, we know we will navigate the uncertainty equipped with high-quality, multidimensional biographies and share the reassurances and possibilities they provide through read-alouds.
Denise, A. A., & Escobar, P. (2019). Planting stories: The life of librarian and storyteller Pura Belpré. HarperCollins.
Maclear, K., & Morstad, J. (2019). It began with a page: How Gyo Fujikawa drew the way. HarperCollins.
Nelson, V. M., & James, G. C. (2019). Let ‘er buck!: George Fletcher, the people’s champion. Carolrhoda Books.
Rosenstock, B., & Green, S. (2020). Fight of the century: Alice Paul battles Woodrow Wilson for the vote. Calkins Creek.
Weiden, D. H. W., Yellowtail, J., & Kinsella, P. (2019). Spotted tail. Reycraft Books.
Wittenstein, B. & Pinkney, J. (2019). A place to land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the speech that inspired a nation. Neal Porter Books
Courtney Shimek is an assistant professor at West Virginia University and has been a member of CLA since 2015.
From the 2020 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Using Poetic Picturebooks as Mentor Texts
BY ELIZABETH M. BEMISS
Each year, the Notable Children’s Books in Language Arts Committee (NCBLA) reads and discusses works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry written for K-8 readers. Committee members, seven dedicated children’s literature enthusiasts, with experience ranging from elementary school teaching, to school librarians, and finally, university faculty with expertise in children’s and young adult literature, consider the requisite qualities for narrowing down the winners to a list of 30 titles.
In this post, I will feature two poetic picture books included in the 2020 Notables list, Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons (2019), and Room on Our Rock (2019).
Teaching Tips for Using the Books as Mentor Texts
Utilized as mentor texts, these poetic picture books provide readers with delightful opportunities to craft their own written responses inspired from the texts.
The whimsical collection of “riddle-ku” poems in Lion of the Sky invites readers to enjoy a play on language and is an inspiring way to help young writers craft unique poetry of their own. Students can create their own “riddle-ku” poems and invite peers and family members to guess the answer to their “riddle-kus.” To scaffold young writers, teachers can draw from this brainstorming resource from Millbrook Press where students can craft a “Zoo-ku,” or a “riddle-ku” about an animal. Additionally, students can publish their “riddle-ku” on a Padlet Page created by the author, Laura Purdie Salas. Another way students can craft their poems is through Read Write Think’s Interactive Haiku Generator, which guides students through brainstorming, drafting, and publishing, where individual background images can be added to the published “riddle-ku.”
The poetic forward and backward reading of Room on Our Rock can foster rich conversations between readers about the varying messages from the book when read forward versus backward as well as discussions surrounding point of view. Teachers can guide students to reflect on the kind of tone and voice needed to read the book forward and how it changed to read the book backward. Teachers could also have students think about how the artwork on each page was used to create the tone of the book from two perspectives. After engaging in deep conversation around the book, students can partner up to write a review of the book and then share their reviews via free audio or video sharing applications. Students can post links to the reviews on a class page such as note.ly or Padlet.
Elizabeth M. Bemiss, an Assistant Professor at the University of West Florida, teaches courses in children’s and young adult literature and literacy methods. Elizabeth is a member of the 2019-2021 Notables Committee.
By Katie Caprino, Elizabethtown College
One of the reasons I became a teacher was because it was a profession in which I thought I could be creative. A writer, I wanted a position in which I could carry on my passion of writing and inspire student writers.
Reflecting back on my work as a middle and high school English teacher, I lament the limitations I feel were put on my work as a creative person. Even my current role as a literacy teacher educator seems overwhelmed at times by elements which I feel are the absolute antithesis to creativity.
My opportunity to teach the creative methods course at my institution gave me a space to engage with creativity and to help future teachers think critically about what creativity looks like in the classroom and inspire them to be creative teachers. Inspired by Brandt’s (1998) work on literacy sponsors, I believe that teachers, students’ peers, and even students themselves play an important role in being creativity sponsors.
In this blog post, I share a few contemporary books that provide portrayals of creativity sponsors, framing my work in the context of research on creativity. I then provide teachers with some ideas on how to use contemporary children’s literature texts as inspiration to facilitate a creative classroom.
In this video, Resnick discusses how to help kids become creative thinkers.
Certainly, adding the titles shared above to your classroom library is a good start. Sharing these books with students in a way that invites them to discuss what they think creativity is, whether they are creative, and how their schooling experiences have encouraged or restricted creativity could be the next step.
And then I call for a little self-reflection. Are you, as a teacher, more like Leon or Marisol in Ish? How might you be more of a Miss Lightstone from One Time? When you think about your students, do they take risks like the little girl in What If? Or do they ask so many questions about how assignments will be graded and what you want like Gina’s classmates in One Time? Do your students know what to do with some free time like the little child in On A Magical Do-Nothing Day?
These reflections might prompt you to think about how you might use one of the books shared in this post as a mentor text for a lesson idea. Here are some ideas!
● Let your students freewrite, working up to longer periods of time, and share their work. (One Time)
● Provide students with an object and ask them what they would do if that object broke in order to complete an intended
task. (What If)
● Offer spaces in your classroom where your students can explore and play. (On a Magical Do-Nothing Day)
● Invite your students to draw a picture, and post everyone’s picture in a gallery. (Ish)
It is important to think about how important creativity sponsors are in a child’s life. Teachers can be creativity sponsors, but so, too, can peers and children themselves – if we let them! It is my hope that these book recommendations, along with the reflective prompts and lesson ideas, may inspire creativity in you and your students!
Alemagna, B. (2016). On a magical do-nothing day. New York: HarperCollins.
Berger, S. (2018). What if. New York: Hachette Book Group.
Brandt, D. (1998). Sponsors of literacy. College Composition and Communication, 49(2), 165- 185.
Creech, S. (2020). One time. New York: HarperCollins.
Creech, S. (2001). Love that dog. New York: HarperCollins.
Resnick, M. (2018). Lifelong kindergarten: Cultivating creativity through projects, passion, peers, and play. Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.
Reynolds, P. (2004). Ish. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Kathryn Caprino is a CLA member and is an Assistant Professor of PK-12 New Literacies at Elizabethtown College. You can follow her on Twitter @KcapLiteracy. She blogs frequently at Katie Reviews Books.
BY JENNIFER SUMMERLIN
The Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Committee (NCBLA) read and reflected on over 400 of the newest books (published in 2019) for readers in grades K-8. Committee members considered the following qualities for choosing the final 30 titles to make the NCBLA Notables 2020 list:
I will start by providing a brief summary, followed by corresponding primary source images and instructional strategies for maximizing text and supporting visual literacy. Coupling quality historical fiction texts with visual primary sources like infographics, charts, graphs, photographs, illustrations, or political cartoons affords opportunities to critically explore and unpack images, while building background knowledge and making connections to the text (Lent, 2016; Harris, 2010).
This beautiful picture book features one strong-willed young girl, Louisa Belinda Bellflower, determined to learn to ride a bicycle. This story, set in Rochester, New York in 1896, tells of a brother and sister (Louisa and Joe) who, like other siblings, play and disagree. Although typical siblings, the difference is the topics of their disagreements, which tend to focus on the things boys can do that girls cannot. Louisa is discouraged from wearing anything other than a dress, limiting her ability to do cartwheels or learning to ride a bicycle (also off limits for girls). Louisa is determined to ride a bike, even if it means contracting “bicycle face,” a permanent result of scrunching your face and bulging your eyes while trying to balance the bike. Louisa Belinda Bellflower will not be stopped as she works to prove to her brother and boys everywhere that girls can and should ride a bicycle.
Primary Visual Source
The Library of Congress website features a variety of visual primary sources depicting women as a collective part of the late 19th century bicycle frenzy. The bicycle, commonly referred to as the wheel, was an instrumental vehicle of progress for the women’s movement and their fight for voting rights. Globally, women began riding bicycles, finding new freedom in their mobility. With this increased transportation came a greater public presence of women, allowing increased likelihood of their voices to be heard.
Two primary visual sources are: The “new” woman and her bicycle by Frederick Burr Opper and Woman in a room with a bicycle saying to a man and child, “Sew on your own buttons, I’m going for a ride” photographer unknown.
Primary Visual Source: The “new” woman and her bicycle
Primary Visual Source: Woman in a room with a bicycle saying to a man and child, “Sew on your own buttons, I’m going for a ride”
Title: Woman in a room with a bicycle saying to a man and child, “Sew on your own buttons, I’m going for a ride.”
Date Created/Published: 1899, Stereo Copyrighted B. L. Singley
Summary: This printed photograph was doubled and placed on cardboard to create a stereo card for a stereograph machine. A stereograph machine was used to make pictures look three dimensional, similar to an old-fashioned view-master. To learn more about the stereograph, view the video at the What is a Stereograph? webpage of Middlebury College's Museum of Art.
The image on the photograph is of a woman standing in her home with her bicycle beside her. Looking closely, you see she is gesturing for a little boy to take a piece of fabric or clothing from her. Art critics suggest the picture seems staged because the bicycle being held by the woman is very large and does not have the lower crossbar that is typical of a woman’s bicycle. Notice that the woman’s attire in the picture does not support riding a bicycle. However, as more women began using bicycles for transportation, changes in clothing, such as bloomers, allowed them to ride comfortably. Prior to these changes in clothing styles, women were pictured seated sideways to accommodate their long dresses.
Questions for Analysis:
Revisit Born to Ride: A Story About Bicycle Face with students. Before rereading, ask the students to pay close attention to what the women are doing throughout the book. After reading, discuss all of the things the women are doing from the beginning to the end of the text. Begin a conversation about why there might be concern and discouragement from others (men and women) when it comes to women riding bicycles. Ask the students what connections they can make between the photograph and the text. To wrap up the conversation, ask students about potential origins of the “Bicycle Face” affliction. Share the author’s note, “About Bicycle Face” and “From Bicycles to Votes.” To conclude the session, have students work in pairs to complete T-Charts, transcribing their learnings with specific, supporting evidences.
(ca. 1899) Woman in a room with a bicycle saying to a man and child, "Sew on your own buttons, I'm going for a ride"., ca. 1899. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2006683468/.
Harris, B.R. (2010). Blurring borders, visualizing connections: Aligning information and visual literacy learning outcomes. Reference Services Review, 38(4), 523-535. doi: 10.1108/00907321011090700
Lent, R. C. (2016). This is disciplinary literacy: Reading, writing, thinking and doing…Content Area by Content Area. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin SAGE Publications.
Opper, F. B. (1895) The "new woman" and her bicycle - there will be several varieties of her / F. Opper. , 1895. N.Y.: Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012648801/.
Theule, L. (2019). Born to ride: A story about bicycle face. New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Jennifer Summerlin is an Assistant Professor of Reading at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research examines construction of knowledge among preservice teacher candidates, supporting literacy best practices within the P-12 classroom, and reading intervention. Jennifer is a member of the 2019 Notables Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 LIZ THACKERAY NELSON & MARGARET OSGOOD OPATZ
As former teachers, we are familiar with our students’ common refrain: “What does this book have to do with me?” Helping our students connect to what we teach in meaningful ways increases motivation, engagement, and overall learning (Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000). In this blog post we want to explore how creating and sequencing text sets to foster student background knowledge helps students make meaningful connections and increases reading engagement.
The importance of readers’ background knowledge has been acknowledged for decades (Anderson, Reynolds, Schallert, & Goetz, 1977; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Reynolds, Taylor, Steffensen, Shirley, & Anderson, 1982), yet in schools throughout our country readers are placed in texts that are decontextualized and reflect a lived experience very different from their own, making it challenging to construct meaning from the text and ultimately learn from it (Fleming, Catapano, Thompson, & Ruvalcaba Carrillo, 2015). This is particularly true when it comes to the informational content presented in science. To support readers in comprehending and learning from texts, teachers can reshape the curriculum by beginning with students’ lived experiences in mind. Reshaping the curriculum includes the use of high-quality literature sequenced in a way that begins with familiar content and contexts and then moves further from students’ lived experiences to the expected or mainstream curriculum.
Learning about Animal Adaptations in an Urban Setting
For example, when addressing science standards to teach about how animals adapt to their environment, many units of study focus on exotic animals such as those found in the Amazon Rainforest, the Serengeti, or Australian Outback--using texts such as I See a Kookaburra! (Jenkins & Page, 2005) , Biggest, Strongest, Fastest (Jenkins, 1997), or What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? (Jenkins & Page, 2008). While it certainly isn’t bad to teach about exotic animals and their unique ecosystems, to help students first understand how animals function in their unique habitat, it can be beneficial to begin with animals that are closer to students’ lived experiences. Therefore, before moving to texts that showcase exotic animals, we suggest using texts such as Please, Puppy, Please (Lee & Lee, 2005), Animal Babies in Towns and Cities (Kingfisher, 2005), City Critters: Wildlife in the Urban Jungle (Read, 2012), or Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City (Bash, 1992). These texts allow you to focus on animals that students who live in urban settings can observe in their own environment.
Imagine students reading Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City (Bash, 1992), a book which illustrates several urban locations where birds live and nest (e.g., in a storefront light, under the awning of a building, on a statue that stands on a street corner, in a stoplight). Then, as students walk outside of their school building (or their homes if they are learning online right now), they start to notice the birds that roost on the building’s exterior doorways, creating firsthand experiences of animals adapting to their environments, and opportunities to talk about scientific content beyond the school texts and science class. When meeting as a class again, students discuss how the birds have adapted to and thrive in the urban environment. By situating school texts in familiar contexts, students are able to build background knowledge before being expected to grasp concepts in faraway, unfamiliar places. Because we live in an urban area, we would sequence our animal adaptation text set like this:
Based on the area where you live, you may want to change the order of the texts. For example, salamanders are very common in some parts of the United States, so teachers in that area may want to move Salamanders by Molly Kolpin closer to the beginning of the text set.
Explanation of Text Sequence
Creating & Sequencing Your Own Text Set
To create and sequence text sets that begin with students' lived experiences and progress outward, we propose 5 steps:
Anderson, R. C., Reynolds, R. E., Schallert, D. L., & Goetz, E. T. (1977). Frameworks for comprehending discourse. American Educational Research Journal, 14(4), 367-381.
Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1998). What reading does for the mind. American Educator, 22, 8-17.
Fleming, J., Catapano, S., Thompson, C. M., & Ruvalcaba Carrillo, S. (2015). More mirrors in the classroom: Using urban children’s literature to increase literacy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Guthrie, J.T., & Wigfield, A. (2000). Engagement and motivation in reading. In M.L. Kamil, P.B. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research: Volume III (pp. 403-422). New York: Erlbaum.
Reynolds, R.E., Taylor, M.A., Steffensen, M.S., Shirey, L.L., & Anderson, R.C. (1982). Cultural schemata and reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 353-366.
Liz Thackeray Nelson is a doctoral student at the University of Utah in Educational Psychology. Her research interests include writing, multiliteracies, and children's literature. She is currently serving as the chair for the CLA Membership Committee.
Margaret Osgood Opatz is a doctoral student at the University of Utah in Educational Psychology. Her studies include reading, literacy, and linguistics. She is a past recipient of the CLA Bonnie Campbell Hill National Literacy Leader Award.
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 email@example.com 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.