#pb10for10 A New(ish) Edition
August 10, 2020
As of right now, our district will be operating in a hybrid model, some students in school alternating weeks. Everyone is fairly certain that this won’t last and quickly we will return to a remote model. The news is full of why elementary students should be in school and our superintendent, a wise woman, points to student needs including meals, social supports, and additional services. These are very uncertain times. Where do we turn in uncertainty, to books. The first weeks of schools have already been full of gathering together amazing books on new experiences, making friends, being your best you. Carry those books of gold in armfuls around the building, spreading them, sharing them, savoring them with as many students as possible. That is going to look a lot different this year. I’ve already purchased many of these books loving nestled in my ‘school bag’ in kindle form, so that I’ll be able to make videos reading them for classes and students at home. As we look at this year, what will be important from the start hasn’t changed, building community, respecting differences, finding common ground. Let’s start with a good book.
Since discovering The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson two years ago, I’ve been on a mission to share it with as many people as possible. It was a gift to all of our classroom teachers that fall, sparked our fall convocation, and a beautiful mural of hope in our front hall. There won’t be a convocation this year, but the message of the day you begin will still ring strong with the students, their families, and our learning communities.
Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali and Rahele Jomepour Bell is a new book for me this year. Published just this summer, this book is a wonderful entry point to knowing the people in our learning community better. What is your favorite day of the year? will be familiar ground for many. The teacher in this book begins will my favorite lines.
Celebrating each students favorite day of the year becomes the heart of this inclusionary classroom and it can be the heart of each of ours as well.
So much of Islandborn by Junot Diaz will become your teaching favorites. This book is rich with reading and writing mentor work. What makes it a great beginning book is that perennial question, Where are You From? Our central character sets out to find out about where’s she’s from and learns so much about her community as she learns about the island she’s from. The book gives a spark for students to explore their families cultural roots. Islandborn is a beautiful book that will win a place in your classroom and in your heart.
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez further explores the question many students are asked, where are you from. Our protagonist is confused by this questions as she is from exactly where she is, this is the only home she’s known, but she’s from many people and places as we all are. A wonderful exploration of the diversity of families and how we can look different from each other or exactly alike, but still have our own unique history.
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal has been on my back to school list for the two years since its publication. Our names are such an important part of who we are and knowing each others’ names and their significance honors the bearer of those names. Making name knowing, writing, practicing part of the early learning of a primary school life is heart-filling practice worthy of our time.
I love this beautiful book, Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o for the illustrations, but the message may ring true for many of our students. Sulwe is concerned by her darkness in contrast to her family, but many other students may see their concerns of ‘looking different’ in her story. The message of celebrating our differences and honoring ourselves couldn’t be more important.
Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen published this May carries with it the important message that we’re in this together. This book feels like a jumping off point to what school will be like and how we can be there for each other in this unprecedented, unpredictable year. What things will seem the same as years gone by and what things will be different and perhaps better? This book is a good start to so many conversations about what it means to be there for each other in a community of learners.
I adore this new book, You Matter by Christian Robinson nearly as much as I love his instagram page full of positivity and light. Simple in its presentation, this book carries layers upon layers of meaning that can be mined over and over again. You’ll use this book as a sweet read aloud and a go-to mentor text over and over again. The message, you matter is strong along with the message that a lot of other inhabitants of this world matter as well.
Perhaps every year for the rest of my career I’ll include this wonderful book, All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold with its heartfelt inclusionary message. This book depicts a school were each child is welcomed no matter what. All of us should find a home in a school of our own creation like the school in this amazing book and create a school for the children we know like this as well.
The final book in 10 for 10 is always the most difficult. There are so many more that I have loved and that would fit in this category, but School’s First Day of School by Alex Rex illustrated by Christian Robinson was the first book I thought of when I sat down to write this back-to-school list. We used this book the year we remodeled our school and added our first grade wing because the school and where the classrooms were was so different that years before. This year ‘the school’ is not just a building anymore and we will be wised to talk that over honestly and hopefully with our students.