October 19, 2017

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Chapter Books for Change | Chapter Book Chat

We as educators and professionals who work with children have the responsibility and the privilege to educate them about our ever-changing world. Any time is a great time to introduce themes of tolerance, generosity, and friendship to your students. In this column, I focus on chapter books that feature diverse characters and timely social concepts. There is also a list of web resources that provide lesson plans and classroom activities for a large variety of social justice issues, so if you’re looking for ideas on how to introduce these concepts to your students, they are a great starting place.

Any of the following books can be great conversation starters with your students and help open windows to different experiences or provide mirrors so that students know they’re not alone.000 Tia

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez. Random. 2001. ISBN 9780375802157.

When Miguel finds out that his Tia Lola is coming to visit from the Dominican Republic where his parents were born, he’s not thrilled. Tia Lola is larger than life and the kids make enough fun of him as it is, mispronouncing his name and asking if his brown skin fades like a tan. But as Tia Lola’s visit continues, she makes many friends in their small town and Miguel begins to appreciate that Lola’s differences are what makes her special and fun.

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shahib Nye. Greenwillow. 2014. ISBN 9780062019721.

000 TurtleWhat do you love about your home? Third grader Aref loves his home in Oman, but his family will soon be moving to the United States. He spends a last week in his beautiful home experiencing all the things he loves—camping with his grandfather, fishing in the ocean, walking on the beach—before he leaves for a new country. This thoughtful book gives a glimpse into the mind of a child who is immigrating to a new country and emphasizes the small things that every person loves about their home. Reading about Aref’s country and the journey that he’s facing provides a perspective as children think about newcomers to our country. Although this book is a little longer than other titles I’ve included for this column, it’s a gentle story that would make a good read for younger elementary age kids reading above grade level.

Activities or Lesson-Plan Tie-Ins

Random House has a guide for the “Tia Lola” series, which includes thematic and curriculum connections.

HarperCollins offers a discussion guide for The Turtle of Oman, with discussion questions and extension activities.

Scholastic provides a unit lesson plan on immigration for a variety of grade levels.

 

George by Alex Gino. Scholastic Press. 2015. ISBN 9780545812542.

Melissa likes to look through fashion magazines and dream about the makeup she might wear when 000 Georgeshe’s older. On the inside, Melissa is a typical girl, but when people look at her they think they see a boy. At school and even at home, Melissa goes by the name she was given at birth, George. When Melissa’s class does a play based on Charlotte’s Web, she is dying to play the lead role, the spider Charlotte. This book is unique for its portrayal of a transgender girl for a younger middle grade audience. For kids hearing about transgender issues on the news or wondering what the big deal with gender-specific bathrooms has been, this is a great book to start a conversation. It also offers an authentic mirror for the experiences of transgender young readers. This would make a great pairing with the picture book I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

Activities or Lesson-Plan Tie-Ins

The Anti-Defamation League has created a guide for talking about George, which includes conversation starters and lots of resources to explore.

Ingrid Abrams of The Magpie Librarian blog shares a detailed post about booktalking and discussing George with fifth and sixth grade students at her school and about their author visit with Alex Gino. If you’re not sure how to introduce this book to students, this is a great place to start.

Tolerance.org provides information about the gender spectrum that includes suggestions for creating a gender inclusive classroom and they offer a series of lessons on gender expression.

 

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes. Penguin. 2009.

Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book by Nikki Grimes. Penguin. 2009.000 Diamonde

Dyamonde Daniel is a smart, energetic kid with plenty of confidence, and she’s great at seeing past first impressions and getting to know the kids in her class who don’t have a lot of friends. The second book in the series focuses on Dyamonde’s new friendship with Damaris, a girl in her class who’s been evicted from her home and now lives in a shelter. These books really center on the themes of making friends and getting to know kids before you judge them. Rich is a great introduction to homelessness for the early elementary set as we see Damaris’s struggles through Dyamonde’s eyes.

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor. Farrar. 2007.

000 DogGeorgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left them with just three rolls of quarters and a mayonnaise jar full of crumpled dollar bills, the family has been living in her mother’s car. When she sees an old reward poster offering a $500 reward for the return of a beloved lost dog, Georgina starts to come up with a plan. $500 would be enough to get an apartment and start getting their lives back on track. Stealing a dog turns out to be harder than Georgina thought, but desperate times call for desperate measures, right? And even though Georgina kinda knows it’s wrong, sometimes people in bad situations do bad things. Does it make her a bad person?

This is a more in-depth look at homelessness through the eyes of a kid who is experiencing it. Georgina’s story will foster conversations about homelessness and poverty. It also works wonderfully as a classroom read-aloud.

Pair How to Steal a Dog or Rich with Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate or, for older readers, Hold Fast by Blue Balliett for additional perspectives.

Activities or Lesson-Plan Tie-Ins

Penguin provides a guide for the first two “Dyamonde Daniel” books, which includes discussion questions and classroom activities.

Farrar provides a discussion guide for How to Steal a Dog,.

To delve further into the issue of homelessness and how it affects people, take a look at Learning to Give’s lesson plan, A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person.

The Committee on Temporary Shelter in Vermont provides an interdisciplinary activity guide for teaching about homelessness for grades K-12: Unsheltered Lives.

 

Additional Web Resources

Independent School Diversity Network: What is Diversity?

This site provides terms and information about many different types of diversity to consider when creating a school environment that is cognizant and supportive of a diverse student body.000 Teaching

Teaching Tolerance

This website has lesson plans and activities for a variety of grade levels on topics like immigration, race and identity, gender equity, and more.

GLSEN Educator Guides

GLSEN provides educational resources on creating a safe, respectful school environment and making your school a safe space for children of all gender expressions. Included in their educator guides is a free toolkit called Ready, Set, Respect with resources for kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade students.

 

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Abby Johnson About Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson is the youth services manager at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library in Southern Indiana. You can find her on the web at abbythelibrarian.com.

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Comments

  1. The road to hell is paved with feels-good-to-the-uneducated-adults intentions. It is irresponsible for adults, teachers, and librarians to encourage gender dysphoria in children. (Adolescents are a different story). The Fenway Institute is one of the world’s leading research locations for inquiry into LGBTQIA issues and the largest such institute in America. In a recent publication and presentation by Stewart Adelson, MD and Walter Bockting, Ph.D., the Co-Directors of the LGBT Health Initiative, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, the Institute said:

    * Gender Dysphoria is not the Same in Children as it is in Adolescents

    * In children, the salient disjunction of assigned gender is with gender expression in play, clothing, and peer preference, and in some also with primary sex characteristics

    * In adolescents, the secondary sex characteristics acquire increasing salience

    * Gender dysphoria remaining through adolescence usually persists long-term

    * However, most childhood gender dysphoria has not persisted in various clinical samples (eg., persistence rates of 1.5% to 37% by adolescence)

    * Instead, many gender dysphoric children become homosexual or bisexual but not transgender by adolescence/adulthood

    * Non-transgender, non-heterosexual outcome especially likely for natal males, less for natal females

    http://www.lgbthealtheducation.org/wp-content/uploads/Caring-for-Gender-Dysphoric-Children-and-Adolescents.pdf.

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