Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez"

TITLE: Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez
AUTHOR: Kathleen Krull

This book chronicles the true life of Cesar Chavez, a prominent civil rights leader who used peaceful non-violent ways to unite migrant farmworkers in California. The book follows Cesar throughout his life, and with beautifully vibrant illustrations and excellent descriptive language gives readers a heartwarming and honest biography. Much of the book tells of Cesar's life as a child, when his family owned acres of land and had large, lush gardens and farms. Readers quickly discover the harsh experiences that Chavez underwent, including being teased at school. Throughout the book, family is emphasized as an important influence, and the one that taught him to use "minds and mouths, not violence, to work out conflicts." When Cesar's family had to give up their property and move to California because of a drought, they become migrant workers, working on other people's farms to pick crops. They were treated poorly, and had less than proper living conditions. Cesar was looked upon negatively because he spoke Spanish instead of English. In his twenties, Cesar realized that this would continue going on unless someone stood up and fought against this form of slavery. Chavez went on to form one of the largest non-violent protests and led strikes, all with the positive slogan, "Si se puede!" or "yes, it can be done!"

REFLECTION: This book approaches both Chavez, and the topic of social justice with a positive, encouraging tone. The beautiful illustrations and simple, yet descriptive language make this a wonderful read-aloud, even with older grades, all while promoting social justice and fighting for a cause. There is a wonderful section at the end of the book which incorporates the idea that Chavez's ideas weren't always applauded and he was very controversial. This encourages readers to research other aspects of Chavez's life and understand that all historical events are perceived differently, as we read in Loewen. I love this book and it is definitely going to be a part of my classroom library!

Obviously, this book has a ton of Multicultural and Social Justice applications. Also, it would be possible to use it for a character study, especially in younger grades. For the older grades, the book could be used in conjunction with outside research about other aspects of Chavez's life. Continuing with Social Studies, a unit could be launched on human rights, with the book as a springboard, especially into similar situations in other countries. Of course, the book's positive message about non-violent "fighting" for a cause could be included in a unit about advocating for change, as well.

1.) Self-Love and Acceptance: Though the book only focuses on Chavez's own culture, student will recognize that Chavez stood up for himself and his culture, even when others didn't. The book discusses Chavez's strong pride that he has for himself, something that his family helped him to establish.
2.) Respect for Others: Chavez found a non-violent way to encourage those who held no respect for the workers that they have rights like every other person, and should be treated and respected as such.
3.) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Much of the book focuses on the treatment of these workers and the pain and suffering that they endured. Issues tackled here include racism and classism, and students ( as unfortunate as it may be) might connect to these issues or other forms of oppression.
4.) Social Movements and Social Change: Of course, the big goal here is about struggling for social change, and how Cesar worked towards it. This is a good opening to explore other forms of social movements and change.
5.) Taking Social Action:
This book leaves readers so empowered, incorporating an easy opening for students to find their own cause and create their own plan for social justice.

ALL IN ALL: Great Book! :)

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
By: Deborah Hopkinson
paintings by James Ransome

Synopsis: Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt is about a girl who is taken away from her mother at a young age to become a field hand. She then meets a woman who becomes her "aunt," who gives her the opportunity to work inside the house as a seamstress instead of out in the field. After becoming a seamstress, Clara decides she wants to run away from the life she has, and weaves a map into a quilt she creates to help her escape. The character in this book is independent and courageous, as she plans for her own escape without the help of others.

Possible Activities: This book can be used to introduce concepts of freedom and bondage. Students can compare and contrast ideas surrounding what it means to be free. Also in the realms of freedom and bondage are the different kinds of lifestyles individuals may have. Students can talk about different lifestyles based on time periods, locations, etc. This book can also be used to explore the beginnings of social movements, when individuals first began to go against the structures of society (i.e. running away from their "masters"). The book can also be used to introduce geography and maps.

Social Justice Education: 1) Self-Love and Acceptance: Students can learn about the courageousness of their people and learn about their histories. 3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students can begin to explore issues of racism that lead to slavery. They can also begin to understand how racism in history has had an impact on present-day racism. 4) Social movements and social change: Students can see how individuals struggled for freedom, going against the conventions of society. Individuals that helped fight for freedom were both black and white - an issue that is mentioned briefly in the book. 5) Taking Social Action: Students can see that individuals who did not agree with the slavery went against society to do what they believed was right. Many individuals risked their own lives to help slaves to freedom.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Nettie's Trip South

Nettie’s Trip South
Author: Ann Turner
Illustrated by: Ronald Himler

Summary: This story is about a girl named Nettie. The story is in the format of a letter. Nettie writes to her friend Addie and talks about her first experience visiting the south, everything from the train ride there to the many different things that she saw. She talks about what it was like seeing slaves but more importantly she expresses her opinion on everything. She sees the way they lived and the work that they needed to do. She also sees a slave auction. Seeing all these things disturbs her and makes her sick. She becomes very compassionate, sympathetic towards blacks and becomes very grateful for what she can do.

Reflections: I was very touched by this book. I believe that Nettie’s reaction to her first experience with slaves is very meaningful and speaks loudly. Her reactions really showed me that she looked pass their appearance and was able to look beyond that. I believe that this book will help the students learn about what it was like in the past and can also be a lesson to the students.

How would I use the book/curriculum units: This book could be used during a historical fiction reading unit. The students can learn about what was happening during the time of slavery. This book could also be used to start letter writing. This book can also be used for community building and teaching students to look beyond what their appearances are but to look deeper like Nettie did.

Domains of Social Justice:
1. Self-love and acceptance: This book addresses the issue of this domain, because through this book we could talk about different race and cultures and you can talk about how each person no matter what race or culture is accepted.
2. Respect for Others – This book really addresses this domain. We can see with Nettie’s reaction that she was able to respect other and look beyond their skin color.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice – The issue of racism is definitely confronted. There can be a lot of discussion around this issue. As you read the story, the students will learn about the way that the blacks lived and the way that they were treated. The students will hopefully understand the oppression that took place during this time.
4. Social movements and Social Change – I believe that from reading this book the students will be able to start looking at what happened after slavery and how equality was trying to be achieved.
5. Taking Social action – After reading this book and talking about Nettie’s reaction and their own reaction you can discuss what she should do next and what we can do to continue to make a difference. From this discussion, we can try to start taking action.

I believe that this book is a good beginning book for students to see what the south was like and what slavery really was. The students can see Nettie’s reaction and from that point, further their thinking and discussion explore in the other domains.

Courage of the Blue Boy

Summary: Courage of the Blue Boy is about a boy who lives in a blue land. He starts to think that there must be more than blue, and goes on an adventure seeking out other colors. One day, he finds a city that is filled with many colors, but blue is missing. The blue boy is frightened and retreats to his room. However, he collects the courage to push out blue ideas out of his door. The next time he goes out to the city, he sees that there are little bits of blue everywhere, and starts to appreciate the diversity of the many colors, while embracing his unique identity.

Reflections: I chose this book because it places real social issues in a context that is easy to understand for younger children. The use of bright colors helps to carry the storyline and is appealing to the eye. I think that young children will be able to relate to the Blue Boy through some aspect of their lives, when they felt different and scared. The courage of the Blue Boy is something that I would like all of my students to model because I believe that every child has something unique to offer.

How would I use the book/curriculum units: This book can be used in the sense of multicultural education, as an introductory book to open discussions about social issues that exist in our society. It can be used to demonstrate the significance of personally identity through a character study. In addition, this book can be used in the beginning of the year while initially building a classroom community. It reinforces the fact that even though individuals can be different, they have special things to offer to the community.

Domains of Social Justice: This is a great book that demonstrates self-love and acceptance (1). The main character’s development shows how individuals can make a contribution to society while keeping in touch with their identity. In addition, this book can be used symbolically to explore issues of social justice (2) by discussing how similar issues relate in our society. The courage of the Blue Boy also demonstrates social change (3) and can be used to empower students to create change.

Halmoni and the picnic

Halmoni and the Picnic
Author: Sook Nyul Choi
Illustrated by: Karen Dugan
Age Range: 5-8 years
Grade Range- Grades K-3

Summary: In this story, Halmoni and the Picnic, Halmoni (Korean word for 'grandma') is a Korean immigrant grandmother who goes on a trip with her granddaughter's class for the first time. Yunmi is afraid her Korean grandmother will never feel comfortable in the United States. She is too embarrassed to speak English and she finds the customs confusing. Even Yunmi's good-natured friends want to help Halmoni adjust. So when their teacher asks for a chaperone for a class picnic, Yunmi's friends volunteer Halmoni. Halmoni is thrilled and honored that the children asked for her. She even prepares a special picnic snack - kimbop (Korean sushi?? it's really tasty!!) and cold barley tea. But suddenly Yunmi feels apprehensive. Perhaps the other kids will think Halmoni is foreign and strange. They may not want to eat the unfamiliar kimbop. But Yunmi's worries prove to be unwarranted. Everyone enjoys Halmoni's delicious snack, and they even learn some Korean words. In turn, Halmoni says a few words in English. It is a realistic and charming immigrant story.

Reflections: I mainly chose this book because it shows the life of a Korean immigrant who moved to the United States. It's rare to find books on Korean-Americans, and it was something I could relate to on a personal level since both my parents are immigrants from Korea. I was able to empathize with the characters in this book and relate to the fears the little girl had. It was a really great book that teaches all readers about the traditions and culture of a different country. The illustrations were done in pencil and watercolor and they were accurate in their detail; such as the drawings of Halmoni's tradition Korean dress (known as a 'hanbok').

How would I use the book/curriculum units: This book can help introduce the student's own culture or traditions with other children in the class. There can be a unit study on different cultures where children can share where they're coming from. Having students bring in a special dish from their culture or family to share with the class or school. Sharing food is another way of actually experiencing the specific culture. This can be a great way of community building and appreciating the different cultures out there. Children can write storybooks about their own family. This can be another way of opening up discussion about different families, and how no one is the same.

Domains of Social Justice: 1) Domains of self-love and acceptance: Yunmi learns to appreciate and be proud of her Halmoni. She is no longer embarrassed about her Korean culture and traditions. Halmoni also feels grateful that she is appreciated amongst Yunmi's peers. She feels more at ease and is happy being in this new country. 2) Respect for Others: Yunmi, students, and Halmoni learn to appreciate and learn more about the culture and traditions of others. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: Students learn about the different food, clothing, and language that Halmoni grew up with. The students encouraged Halmoni to come to the picnic trip so they could get her to feel more comfortable. 5) Taking Social Action: Students actually try out new things and learn a little Korean and find out they actually like it. They are helping Halmoni adjust to life in the U.S., and at the same time they are learning about Halmoni's Korean culture.


Book: Seedfolks

Author: Paul Fleischman

Summary: This story is about a vacant lot that is turned into a garden. In this neighborhood there is a vacant lot that is rat infested and filled with garbage, but one day a young Vietnamese girl named Kim decides to plant lima beans in the vacant lot. As the neighbors watch her as she plants her lima beans they become curious about what she is doing and decide to make use of the garden as well. The story is not told from the perspective of a single character, but in a series of vignettes written from a first-person perspective of a very diverse group of characters. Some of the characters are young, some are old; some are new to America, some were born there. They all have their own reasons for coming to the garden and the significance it takes on for each of them is very different. Despite prejudices, hesitancies, and language differences, the estranged neighbors begin to find ways of overlooking these barriers to develop new relationships with each other. Before long the multiethnic seedfolks have developed a sense of pride and fellowship. The distinct voices of each character show the reader the vast differences and similarities that can exist simultaneously among diverse people, and how these differences can actually help those people form a community as vibrant and rich as the garden they have created.

Reflections: I really enjoyed this book because it truly takes on multi-perspectives of how different people perceive and make use of the same shared space. I would definitely use it in my classroom because there is so much you can do with it. It can also be easily integrated into the various subjects. I love how the story is told from so many different peoples perspective, instead of just one character’s perspective. I think telling the story from different perspectives sends a much more powerful message about how although people are different we all innately share a common thing which is are humanity. The story authentically gives multi perspectives by telling the story in vignettes of thirteen different characters. I love how each of the characters are very different and represent people all over the spectrum.

I would be very careful about the age group I would use this with. It does touch on some heavy topics like, teen pregnancy and marijuana, but this shouldn’t be a reason to not use it, just be prepared and think about how you are going to talk about such topics in your classroom.

How would I use the book/ curriculum units: This book is great because you can easily integrate it into so many subjects. I would probably use in many ways one way would be a character study because the story is broken up into different characters. The character study then leads it self to a social studies lesson/unit. I would then probably have the student’s research each characters cultural back round and teach the class about each as a social studies unit. You could also have them really develop their characters by doing art projects like the ones we have been doing in class. I would probably also incorporate drama by having students become the characters in the story and acting it out. I would then incorporate Science by having the students learn about the different seeds and plants. I would have the students create our own classroom garden based on our own Seedfolk story. Therefore I would have the kids write their own vignette and what seeds they would bring to our garden and why. I would then have them physical plant a class garden. I would also encourage them to think about a place that like a park that isn’t so pretty and to think about how we can do something about it.

Domains of Social Justice: 1) Domains of self-love and acceptance: Students learn to love themselves for who they are. In this story many different cultures are embraced and talked about. While some characters in the story have a lot more pride about who they are and their cultural back round. You can have your students identify with their culture and discuss one thing they are proud of that belongs to their culture and is strongly a apart of who they are. They learn that their culture is one of the many seeds and foundations for who they are today.

2) Respect for Others: Students will understand that just because people share the same space doesn’t mean they see it the same and even though people don’t see it exactly the same it doesn’t make their perspective less valuable or less important. As we see in the story each character initially uses the garden for their own purposes they soon find that the garden is much more than just their own and they respect the others in the community for being part of the garden. They are able to understand that despite our differences it is still a space we must share therefore we should learn to respect one another so our space can be a garden not a vacant lot.

3.) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: This story allows students to explore many topics such as racism, classism, and sexism because the characters in the story hold stereotypes and prejudices towards the other characters. These stereotypes and prejudices toward one another are expressed by many of the characters in the story. For example the character Anna, whom is an older white women, believes that Gonzalo who is Guatemala is using the garden to plant marijuana so he can sell drugs because according to Anna that is what those people do.

4.) Social Movements and Social Change: Students learn to appreciate other people and have a better understanding for why people act or see things differently. Students will understand that there are multi perspectives to looking at something.

5) Taking Social Action: Students will take action by thinking about a place in their community that isn’t so pretty or that maybe is vacant and what they can do to change that.