And then I saw this tweet.
So I re-visited the idea of using picture books in my teaching. I love the layers of meaning that emerge from the illustrations by themselves and in combination with the text. I delight in the author's dexterous use of language. Often so simple, yet it can pack a whopping punch. I welcome the opportunity of multiple rereads that picture books offer.
I am planning the first unit for my courses even as I write this post. Most of my students will spend the first six weeks of the school year immersed in ideas in and around global dignity (which will culminate with Global Dignity Day on October 16th). As I considered the content for this unit and the potential gaps in my students' prior knowledge, I realized that picture books are perfectly suited for our needs.
Here then, I present to you ten titles around the general concepts behind global dignity. Some are non-fiction, some are fiction. Some titles I own and know well, others are new to my library. And one isn't a book at all.
In this village:
22 people speak a Chinese dialect
20 earn less than a dollar a day
60 are always hungry
24 have televisions in their home
When statistics are translated into numbers that are meaningful and can be worked with, students become engaged in what the data tells them. Thinking and questioning are at the heart of inquiry, and this book is sure to surprise and motivate many of my students.
Here is the Amazon.com entry.
“I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side—the Communist side—of the Iron Curtain.” Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ’n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities—creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.
By joining memory and history, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art.
The Wall is a 2007 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a 2008 Caldecott Honor Book, a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year, the winner of the 2008 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, and a nominee for the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids.
If you have not yet come across Boston Big Picture, then you are in for a real treat. Boston Big Picture is news stories in photographs...gorgeous photographs, even when the content is gruesome. Features include the ability to comment, share, and search. There is an abundance of visual text here that relates to current events, seasonal events, and/or history, traditions, and celebrations from around the world.
This photo essay is on World Refuge Day 2013, which is June 20th.
Beyond the need for prior knowledge about human rights, and the elements of human dignity, I need students to appreciate other perspectives. Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne is a perfect book to initiate conversation around our different views and how, hopefully, we can find the commonalities beyond them.
The four seasons in a city park are represented by apes in human clothing: a rich, uptight woman in the fall; a sad, unemployed man in the winter; the woman's lonely boy in the spring; the man's joyful daughter in the summer. Each one sees the place and the others differently, yet together the voices tell a story.
A great addition to writer's workshop and lessons on voice, I think Voices in the Park is suitable for grade two and up. Here is an interactive version of the story.
Rose Blanche by author Christophe Gallaz and illustrator Roberto Innocenti is a stunning tale with powerful and realistic paintings. It is the story of courage, prejudice and tolerance, and compassion. It is about the horror of war, but it is also about our response to horror. For young readers, this story may be a difficult read. For all readers, it is unforgettable. For my students and I, it is a story that will ask us about the role of compassion in human dignity and our own ability to be a Rose Blanche. [The Rose Blanche was a group of young Germans that protested the war. Like the heroine of this tale, they were unduly executed for the crime of thinking differently.]
For young readers, The Butterfly is a good introduction to war and racism. For older students more challenging conversations will emerge. The main character's mother hides a Jewish family in her basement, which puts both families at risk. What motivates individuals to take such risks? Whose dignity is being protected in the story?
Shi-shi-etko just has four days until she will have to leave her family and everything she knows to attend residential school. She spends her last precious days at home treasuring and appreciating the beauty of her world — the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather’s paddle song. Her mother, father, and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.
LaFave’s richly hued illustrations complement Campbell’s gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss — a loss that native people have endured for generations because of Canada’s residential schools system.
As many of you know, I teach for a First Nations Board of Education. My students are Anishnabe and this story comes from the Coast Salish (British Columbia area), but all First Nations and Inuit peoples were affected by the residential school system. It would be remiss not to include the reality of residential schools and the subsequent consequences of that program on my students' families and culture in our discussion on dignity.