Saturday, April 8, 2017

Barbara Bendix reads "Honoring Our Ancestors"

In a Northfield second grade class, Barbara Bendix read the book Honoring Our Ancestors: Stories and Pictures by Fourteen Artists, edited by Harriet Rohmer.

This book brings together fourteen outstanding and diverse artists to honor the ancestors who most touched their lives and to pay playful tribute to the influential and loving people who came before them. Caryl Henry honors her grandmother and Madame C. J. Walker, America's first Black woman millionaire. 

Nancy Hom honors her father who worked in a Chinese restaurant but possessed the strength of a mighty warrior. George Crespo honors his Puerto Rican grandfather and his Taino ancestors. Mira Reisberg honors her Jewish grandparents who were killed in the Holocaust and the ancestors in spirit who shaped her life. 

The book is a compilation of one page stories from 14 visual artists of various ethnic backgrounds.  Each brief story had wonderful, kid-beguiling illustrations.

Activity:   I brought an enormous world map, and we found the places some of the stories had begun, engaging children with the largeness and diversity of the world, and the reality of places outside our own country where they have a different language and culture. 

We also talked about bullying as the beginning of racism, as this discussion was with seven year olds, and this seemed an age-appropriate introduction to the topic.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Rachel Walker Cogbill reads "Jackie's Bat"

Jackie's Bat by Marybeth Lorbiecki, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Rachel Walker Cogbill, a retired teacher, was attracted to Reading to End Racism as an organization because it combines a topic she finds immensely important and continuing her time with children in the classroom. 

She read the book Jackie’s Bat in Berlin, Cabot, and Union Elementary schools to third and fourth graders. The book  is the story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, as seen through the eyes of his bat boy.  The students discover how the characters’ prejudice is changed to acceptance and admiration in the story as the characters get to know Jackie Robinson.

Activity: Rachel, who brought her Louisville Slugger bat with her, began her activity by acting out some examples of racism in Vermont, and she asks the children what they have studied about racism, and then has them try to imagine what it would be like to have some of their examples (like not being able to use the same drinking fountains) happen in their school. They learn how hard it is to break the color barrier, and the link is made to President Obama’s being the first African-American president. Many of these points are brought out by the students themselves as they write down a few thoughts and then share them in a group discussion. Students take home their paper to share with their families. Rachel takes home her Louisville Slugger bat.

Karen Taylor reads "Skin Again"

Skin Again by bell hooks (she spells without capitals!), illustrated by Chris Raschka  
The story, actually a poem, is about how we cannot know each others' stories by what we see on the outside.  The good stuff is all inside of us and getting to know someone who looks different is not hard to do if we take a little time. This story appealed to me because I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. There my husband and I were almost the only white people in our remote village. I wanted to share with the children the wonderful kindness we were shown, some of the rich culture we experienced, and the good friends we made while we were in a small town, far out of our comfort level.  
 I shared that there was great curiosity about my freckles and red hair... It was explained to me that many students thought my skin was somehow diseased, as freckles were unknown and mottled skin often meant illness. So getting past that was important.  I loved our time in Africa and loved the people we met and worked with, some of whom we have met with in America.   

Activity: As examples of how the outside is less a measure of us than the inside, I brought eggs from our chickens, all different colors, while the insides were all the same and the most important part. I also brought a pillow, unstuffed, and while they admired the design of the pillow, we agreed that the important part of the pillow was inside, to make us comfortable and happy.  We sampled, actually gobbld up, an Ethiopian bread, called Milk and Honey bread, we examined the colors of a basket from Ethiopia, and we tried on clothing worn by the women and men of Ethiopia, long white cloths, some with beautiful borders, to see how it felt to dress like an Ethiopian. The kids were great, so smart and willing to share their experiences. The world is so interesting and diverse, and we must not be afraid to go beyond our personal boundaries or we miss so much.

Mary Corrigan reads "All the Colors of the Earth"

All the Colors of the Earth, written and illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka

"How better to celebrate ethnic diversity than to look to children, the hope of the future? This glorious picture book does just that."--Booklist

The teacher said: "This colorful book had one sentence on each page and the volunteer brought in objects that match the colors on each page. She wrote a song and played it on the piano. She comes in every Thursday to sing, so we will revisit the song again and again."