Friday, February 03, 2006

Selecting and Evaluating Children’s Literature

This article brought forth some very interesting points. The author discusses the fact that books are a commercial commodity. Authors and publishers know that in order for books to bring in mass amounts of sales they must depict white middle class families. That is, books must portray the norm. It is well known that white middle and upper class families are the main consumers with the buying power. I think this is a big reason why there is a lack of representation of cultural literature.

In terms of gender, girls are highly outnumbered. The author mentions that when girls are portrayed in books they are usually depicted as fragile, sweet and beautiful. The boys are depicted as being strong and aggressive. I never considered what effect these gender stereotypes could potentially have on children. Reading children books that depict boys and girls in these types of roles could lead children to strive to be something they may not be able to attain. In one of my undergraduate courses we had a discussion on the lack of women represented in the Sciences and in Math. One of the reasons it was suspected that this was the case was because of the lack of female role models portrayed in the media and in books. There are very few books that depict women as scientist, doctors or mathematicians. As teachers I think we need to carefully select books that do not represent boys and girls in a stereotypical manner. I thought the author did an excellent job looking at both sides of this issue. The author was able to provide examples of books that did do an effective job of portraying boys and girls in different roles (i.e. Mem Fox depicts a pirate cry over the death of his parrot, showing children that boys are allowed to be emotional too).

The last point that I thought was interesting was the lack of representation of children with disabilities in books. The author makes the point that this is slowly changing, but there needs to be more written on this topic. Today, in any given classroom a teacher can expect to have at least two children with disabilities. I realize that there is limited literature on this topic. However, having said this I still think teachers should make the effort in tracking down these books and reading them to their students. I think this is such a powerful way of creating acceptance.

The questions used for establishing the criteria for selecting multicultural books will be very useful and helpful to me as a future teacher. They are excellent questions to think about when choosing appropriate books for the classroom.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Connecting Children’s Stories to Children’s Literature: Meeting Diversity Needs
By: Melissa J. St. Amour

I agree with the author that children need to be exposed to a wide variety of literature; more specifically multicultural literature. The power of a story should never be underestimated.

We live in a society made up of a rich diversity of people who come from different ethnicities, religions and races. It would only make sense to expose children to these cultural groups. As the old saying goes, “knowledge is power”. The more students are educated on cultural issues the more likely they will have an appreciation for the diversity of people in today’s society. Students will learn to be tolerant and accepting of others. I believe that acceptance and tolerance of others starts in the classroom. What students learn in the classroom will shape their ideas and beliefs. These ideas and beliefs will be carried with them as they get older. The author reiterates this point. She argues that “all children should have a multicultural education in order to learn to challenge and reject racism and other forms of discrimination” (p.48).

When choosing cultural literature for the classroom it is important to pick books which do not stereotype groups or favor one group over another. I liked how the stereotype was picked out of the book, “The Indian In the Cupboard”. I read this book when I was a child, but I never stopped to think about how the main character was being depicted in a stereotypical role. As mentioned in the class discussion teachers should choose books which are authentic. That is, cultural books should realistically and accurately depict a cultural group. Otherwise this will lead to student’s being confused.

Multicultural Book
We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo
By: Linda Girard and Linda Shute
Grades K-3

Grade K to 1- Personal Development (Family Life Education)
Identify a variety of family groupings

Language Arts
Grades 2 to 3 - Self and Society (Working Together)
Demonstrate a willingness to communicate a range of feelings and ideas

If you're adopted, ask all the questions you want to. Your parents will tell you what they know, even if part of your story is sad. If you ended up safe and taken care of, it probably means your birthmother did the best she could for you, and so did some other people you'll never meet. But that's in the past. Right now, your name is your name, and your family is your family. You might have been born somewhere else or look different from your parents, but that has nothing to do with love. Take it from me. I'm Benjamin Koo Andrews. I'm nine, and I know.
-Excerpt from We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo

This story is about a young Korean boy, Benjamin Koo, who describes his experience of being adopted into an American family. The story is told through his eyes. He discusses his school experiences, home life and extended family. Benjamin describes his adopted family as being warm, kind and accepting. However, throughout the book he questions why his biological mother left him and why he is different from his adopted family. By the end of the story he realizes that his family loves him very much and nothing else matters. This is exemplified in the quote above.

This book is a great teaching tool. Students learn about adoption and non-traditional families. After reading this book, you could take the opportunity to have a discussion about the varieties in families. For an assignment the students could design a family tree in their journals.

The Very Silly Shark
By: Jack Tickle

I used this picture book as my read aloud. It is a fun rhyming pop-up book about a silly fish who loves to play games with the other sea creatures. This book is aimed at students in grades k/1. I chose this book because when I was a child I loved reading pop-up books. Pop-up books are very visual and eye catching making them very appealing to younger students. The illustrations in this book are very bright, colorful and animated. The students will enjoy listening to the humorous rhymes in this book. As a classroom teacher, I would read this book to my students and then teach them a very basic introductory lesson on rhyming.

Oliver Button is a Sissy
by Tomie dePaola
Grades K-3

Grade 2/3
Personal Development (Mental Well-Being)
demonstrate behaviours that contribute to a safe and healthy school

Grade K to 1
Personal Development (Mental Well-Being)
identify components of a safe and healthy school

Visual Arts K to 1
Image-Development and Design Strategies
using a variety of design strategies

Grades K to 1 - Comprehend and Respond (Engagement and Personal Response)
identify connections between their thoughts and feelings and their reading, viewing, or listening experiences

This story deals successfully with the issue of bullying. The story centers around a young boy, Oliver, who is constantly teased by his peers for having an interest in such things as: dancing and reading. His peers call him a “sissy”. Despite the constant teasing by his peers Oliver decides to join tap dancing lessons. His way of rebelling is sticking to what he believes in no matter what. Oliver is determined to win first prize in the dance competition. He ends up losing the competition. The next day he dreads going to school for fear of being teased by his peers. Instead, written on the wall are the words, “Oliver Button is a star”.

I felt this book effectively addressed the issue of bullying. Students learn that bullying is not right because it hurts others. The book also sends the message that everyone should be accepted regardless of their differences. After reading this book a teacher could have an excellent conversation about bullying and safe schools. The students could relate this story with their own personal experiences. They could discuss or write how the book made them feel and why it is important not to bully. They could also create an anti-bullying poster.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Dollhouse Murders
By: Betty Ren Wright

Grade 7

Comprehend and Respond

Describe and locate examples of literary elements, including plot, climax, conflict, tone, theme, setting, and pace
Demonstrate understanding of the main ideas or events in novels

Comprehend and Respond (Engagement and Personal Response)
Develop personal responses and offer reasons for and examples of their judgments, feelings, or opinions

Personal Development (Mental Well-Being)
Describe the responsibilities that accompany friendships

The Dollhouse Murders

This mystery novel is centered around a twelve year old girl, Amy who stumbles upon a dollhouse while visiting her Aunt Clare. Amy realizes that the dolls moves and is sure that there is a secret behind the dolls. Aunt Clare dismisses Amy’s claims, leading her to be even more suspicious about the story behind the dollhouse. Through much research Amy finds out that her grandparents were murdered. Slowly, she puts the pieces together and figures out the story behind the murders. Another underlying theme of this novel is Amy’s friendship and acceptance of her younger sister, who is handicapped.

This novel would be a great choice when discussing elements of stories. The author does an excellent job of developing the characters and setting in the story. The plot is very intense and suspenseful. Overall, the entire novel is very well written. Also, the students can write their own suspenseful stories after reading this novel or write a personal response on how they felt about the novel. Also, with this novel you could have a great discussion about friendship.
Up, Up Down
By: Robert Munsch

Grades K to 1

Communicate Ideas and Information

Demonstrate a willingness to participate in a variety of sharing activities that include the use of pictures, charts, storytelling, songs, lists, menus, and storybooks

Visual Arts K to 1

Identify a variety of image sources, their own and others
describe the many forms that images take

This story is about a girl named Anna who enjoys climbing various objects such as the refrigerator, dresser etc.. Her parents are constantly saying, “Be careful, don’t Climb”. The words, “Up, Up, Up” appear in the book when Anna is climbing and the words “Down, Down, Down” are used when Anna falls down. Anna decides to climb a very high tree and her parents try to bring her down, except they fall. Anna decides to climb down and wrap them in band-aid. At the end she says to them, “Be careful, Don’t Climb”.

I chose this book because a teacher can involve her students in the reading process. When I read this book with my students, I had them move their fingers upwards when I read the words “Up, Up” and they moved their fingers downwards when I read the words, “Down, Down”. In addition to this everyone as a class would read together when these words appeared in the book. Also, this book has excellent illustrations. The water colored pictures are amazing.

With this book the students can write about why it is important to listen and the consequences of not listening. For art the students can create watercolor pictures of a scene in the book. They can then describe their picture.
The Giving Tree
By: Shel Silverstein

Grades K to 1

Communicate Ideas and Information (Composing and Creating)
identify connections between ideas and information and their own experiences

Engagement and Personal Response
identify connections between their thoughts and feelings and their reading, viewing, or listening experiences

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is about a tree who provides unconditional love to a little boy. Giving to the little boy makes the tree happy. The story follows a young boy into manhood. When the boy is little he plays all day on the tree, swinging from the tree branches and picking its apples. The tree really enjoys the young boy’s company. As the boy gets older he starts to demand things from the tree. His first demands money. The tree in turn tells the boy to picks its apples and sell them in town so he can have some money. His next demand is a house. The tree tells the boy to cut down its branches so the boy can build a house. Soon there is nothing left of the tree but its stump. The story ends with the boy, now an old man, asking for a place to rest and the tree tells the man to sit on its stump.

This book demonstrates to the students the power of giving and unconditional love. With this story the teacher could ask the students to write or orally discuss the definition of giving. For an activity the teacher could ask the students to write about a gift they would like to give to someone or ask the students to write about a time they gave a gift and the reasons behind giving the gift.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Mina’s Spring of Colors

I enjoyed reading this book. I felt it effectively explored issues and topics that are relevant to the lives of young children. As I was reading this story I could personally identify with some of the issues Mina was going through. The whole idea of “fitting in” really struck a chord with me.

This book was written from the eyes of a minority child growing up in Canada, but at the same time I think that it can touch anyone regardless of ethnicity. One of the running themes in the story is about growing up. Part of growing up is learning how to forgive and accept others. These issues can be quite difficult to deal with at a young age. In the end I liked how the author portrayed everyone as one. This just goes to show that at the end of the day we are all the same.

With this book a teacher could ask the students to research a cultural celebration of their choice and orally present it to the class. The students would discuss the significance of the event and what the celebration consist of. The teacher could also have an anti-racism workshop with the class. The students could watch a video or engage in various activities relating to anti racism. Students could also write a continuation of the story. For example, they could write about Ashley’s and Mina’s relationship after etc. They could also write about their own grandparents and what they mean to them. Lastly, after reading the book the class could have an excellent discussion on such topics as: forgiveness, peer pressure, acceptance etc. A teacher could approach this book in a number of ways.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great by Judy Blume

I remember really enjoying this book when I was a child. My grade three teacher read this story to the class. This book is part of the fudge series which include the following: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge and Fudge-A-Mania. Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great is about a ten year girl, Sheila, who’s family spends the summer in a place called Tarrytown. Here Sheila is confronted with her biggest fears which are: the dark, spiders, dogs and swimming. Sheila also discovers who she “really” is. I enjoyed this book because I could relate to Sheila’s fears. Those same fears were my childhood fears (and some of them are still my fears i.e. spiders). I was terrified of big dogs when I was a child. Now dogs are my favorite!! Big or small!! I never learned how to swim until I was much older. I had a huge fear of water. I remember having to go to the library when there was a field trip to the swimming pool. I could see myself while reading this book. The author wrote the story in such a way that it made the characters come alive. I felt as though I was in the story. Most importantly this story made me realize the importance of being yourself.