Plan Ahead for Major Anniversaries

When it comes to teachable ­moments, nothing beats commemorative dates. 

When it comes to teachable ­moments, nothing beats commemorative dates. The new year will bring some monumental 50th anniversaries.

If you’re looking for summer programming or planning ahead for the fall, now is the time to go back a half century. There were two very different historical events and two equally distinct book publications in 1969. Each had a powerful and lasting impact and each deserves its continued legacy. The challenge, of course, is to make them relevant to today.

These events and titles can lend themselves to crosscurricular lessons and projects. The calendar has offered a gift this year—don’t miss the opportunity.

Moon landing. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on its surface when they stepped out of the lunar module as millions watched from Earth. More resources have become available over time.

One of the most recent, thanks to a collaboration between NASA and the University of Texas at Dallas, is 19,000 hours of audio transmission from the eight-day, three-hour mission, available for ­students to hear NASA resources.

Stonewall Riots. On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City. The situation escalated into a riot. While the Stonewall uprising didn’t start the gay rights movement, it was defining moment of political activism, leading to numerous gay rights organizations. In 2016, President Barack Obama designated the Stonewall Inn as a national monument. New York ­Public Library resource.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Eric Carle is making it very easy to celebrate his ­classic children’s text. The 89-year-old author is releasing three titles this year to share with your students: Calm with the Very Hungry Caterpillar,Eric Carle’s Book of Many Things, and Happy Birthday from the Very Hungry Caterpillar. It’s a good year for a new caterpillar craft. Carle Museum art resource.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Noting the publication of Maya Angelou’s iconic memoir can go beyond reading and analyze the classic text. A book with a history of challenges, the publication anniversary offers students an opportunity to discuss censorship and current titles that face attempts to remove them from the sheves. The American Library Association offers a banned book action guide of banned book activities and resources that includes Caged Bird and others.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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