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! :)

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