Author Archives: Katherine Schlick Noe

Freedom Summer 1964: Looking back with a new generation


Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around
traditional song that became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960′s

Fifty years ago this month, the arduous efforts of civil rights advocates through the 50′s and 60′s coalesced in Mississippi as thousands organized to push for voting rights long-denied to African Americans.  Our nation’s work for equity and social justice goes on today, and the examples set by those who would not give up are treasured by ongoing generations of readers.  In their remarkable book, Oh, Freedom! Kids Talk about the Civil Rights Movement with the People Who Made it Happen,  Casey King and Linda Barrett Osborne share interviews that fourth graders conducted with family members and others who worked for justice during this time.

Starting with Oh, Freedom!, Seattle teacher Kay Yano built a unit on Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Movement so that her fifth-graders could also learn from — and be inspired by — this important time in our history.  Kay’s goal was “to draw students into the lives of some of the leading voices of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s and to see that they were all ordinary people who saw injustice and felt moved to action from it.  I want students to understand that people just like us can rise up and do extraordinary things, and that when we work together, we are able to be change agents.  My hope is that students can find that place in themselves that resonates with these leaders and find the ability to be change agents too.”

A Sampling of Books about the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom Summer

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; ill. by Jerome Lagarrigue.  Friendship defies racism for two boys in this stirring story of the “Freedom Summer” that followed the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now in a 50th Anniversary Edition with a refreshed cover and a new introduction. (Indiebound description)

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges.  This is a book written by Ruby Bridges herself!  She writes in her memoir about her experience, accompanied by Federal Marshals, of being a 6-year-old who became the first black student to attend her elementary school.  This book has articles that appeared in newspapers at the time and helps to create a context for her remarkable story of courage (Kay Yano description).

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Muñoz Ryan; ill. by Brian Selznick.  This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Marian Anderson, who was a gifted singer who was prevented from performing at the Metropolitan Opera and Constitution Hall because of discriminatory policies.  However, she was invited by President Roosevelt to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where she performed in front of an appreciative crowd of 75,000 people.  This performance opened doors for her and for others that had previously been closed. (Kay Yano description)

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni; ill. by Bryan Collier.  Rosa Parks’s story is told here, both her life leading up to the moment where she “sat down to stand up” for the African American community in Montgomery, Alabama.  The story then moves into the resulting bus boycott and some of concrete results of her actions of civil disobedience. (Kay Yano description)

As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing Walk toward Freedom by Richard Michelson; ill. by Raul Colon Tells the parallel stories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel (a Polish-born rabbi who fled Nazi Germany) and how they came together in the March To Montgomery.  It talks about the many influences and common experiences of oppression that both men faced and how they found commonality that helped to cement their alliance. (Kay Yano description)

Revolution by Deborah Wiles.  It’s 1964, and Sunny’s town is being invaded. Or at least that’s what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote. They’re calling it Freedom Summer.  As she did in her groundbreaking documentary novel COUNTDOWN award-winning author Deborah Wiles uses stories and images to tell the riveting story of a certain time and place — and of kids who, in a world where everyone is choosing sides, must figure out how to stand up for themselves and fight for what’s right. (Indiebound description)

Learn more about Deborah Wiles’ “60′s Trilogy” in MUF team member Laurie Beth Schneider’s interview with Deborah Wiles and her editor, David Levithan

Thank you to Kay Yano for sharing her unit ideas!

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.

Earth Day 2014: Inspiring a new generation of stewards

There is no power for change greater than a child
discovering what he or she cares about.

Seymour Simon
April 22, 2010
Earth Day 40th anniversary

Prolific nonfiction writer and Earth advocate Seymour Simon creates books that inspire young readers to care for our planet.  Tomorrow, a new generation of stewards will celebrate Earth Day — in parks, classrooms, gardens, libraries, homes —  all around the world.  I’d like to share some powerful resources teachers use to make Earth Day come alive for students and their families:  1) books that motivate middle-grade readers to take action for the environment, 2) how families can support students’ learning, and 3) resources to keep Earth Day “blooming” all year long.

Books about environmental stewardship
So many great books about caring for our world, it’s impossible to list them all!  So I’ve selected six titles that teacher colleagues recommend to provoke middle grade students’ thinking about and active engagement with the environment.

 Global Warming by Seymour Simon.  Earth’s climate has always varied, but it is now changing more rapidly than at any other time in recent centuries. The climate is very complex, and many factors play important roles in determining how it changes. Why is the climate changing? Could Earth be getting warmer by itself? Are people doing things that make the climate warmer? Award-winning science writer Seymour Simon teams up with the Smithsonian Institution to give you a full-color photographic introduction to the causes and effects of global warming and climate change. (Indiebound description)

Water Dance by Thomas Locker.  Travel with author-illustrator Thomas Locker and follow our planet’s most precious resource–water–on its daily journey through our world. (Indiebound description)

 

 Earth’s Garbage Crisis by Christine Dorion. This non-fiction text  focuses on the amount of garbage in the world. It explains the causes of the problem, but then provides actions and programs that are in place today that people are trying to get involved in to help this cause. It also prompts the reader to take action in his/her own community. (Teacher, Faith Kim description)

 

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter. A picture book based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, an environmental and political activist in Kenya and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. (Indiebound description)

 Nobody Particular: One Woman’s Fight to Save the Bays by Molly Bang.  The story of Dianne Wilson, a Texas shrimper, who took on the EPA and the big factories in her town to clean up the bay. She faces a number of hardships in this quest. We will use her story to talk about how anyone can become a good steward of the environment, and what resources help people make a difference. (Teacher, Andrea Kunz description)

boywhoharnessed
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
by William Kamkwamba; ill. by Elizabeth Zumba.  The true story of William, a boy in Malawi who builds a windmill to give his village clean power, and save them from a devastating drought.  William is only a child, whose parents can no longer afford to send him to school, but he also finds a way to make a difference, proving that anyone can be a good environmental steward, if they have what counts on the inside. (Teacher, Andrea Kunz description).

Earth Day at home: Families as learning partners
Learning can be more meaningful and powerful when teachers connect the classroom to issues that directly affect students’ and their families’ lives.  Here are some strategies that middle-grade teachers have used to enlist families in deepening their students’ learning related to the environment.  Two examples below illustrate how families partnered with students to help them consider varied perspectives on environmental issues and to create a concrete action plan of things they can do together at home to help the environment.

1.  Critical thinking about complex issues.  During her unit on environmental stewardship, middle school science teacher, Andrea Kunz pushed her students to consider a range of complex issues that came up as they read and discussed books and articles.  To deepen students’ thinking, she asked them to take these issues home and gather insights and perspectives from their families:

Week 1: Do Humans Help or Harm the Environment?  For the next several weeks, students will be reading and writing about the impact that humans have on their environment.  This is a topic that many people have different opinions about, so to get started, we wanted to involve you in the conversation. This week, we are asking the question: 
Are humans mostly to blame for our environmental problems, or are they solving more environmental problems than they cause?
Talk about this idea with your student: what are your ideas?  What are theirs?  What reasons or events have influenced your thinking?

Week 2: Making A Difference, Taking A Stand
  This week, we are looking at different people who have made a positive impact on their communities by trying to solve a problem in their local ecosystem or environment. There are many ways that people can make a difference, in many areas of life, not just the environment. 

When was a time you stood up for something you thought was wrong?  What happened? 

This is an opportunity for you to share your own experience, so that your student can see that many people can make a difference, or that sometimes we try hard to make a difference and it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will.  Tell your student your story! 

2.  Creating and enacting an environmental stewardship plan. Intermediate teachers Maria Smith and Stuart Potter created family activities that would build students’ understanding of concrete actions they could take to make a difference in the environment.  They started with a simple web of stewardship ideas that each student generated with someone at home.  Students then enlisted family members to help create an Environmental Stewardship Idea/Action Plan for their home. Finally, students led their families in carrying out one idea from their plan over a two-week period.

Resources to keep Earth Day blooming all year!

Finally, two (among the countless multitudes of) excellent online resources on Earth Day and environmental stewardship:

Authors for Earth Day: Supporting conservation through literacy.  A coalition of children’s authors who actively promote reading, writing, and learning about the environment.  The growing list of authors includes MUF’s own Yolanda Ridge!  Check out the A4ED blog to learn more about the authors and their projects.

The Nature Generation An environmental nonprofit that “inspires and empowers youth to make a difference. We reach our nation’s youth through innovative environmental stewardship programs in literature, science and the arts.”  Sponsors of the Read Green initiative to get “environmental books into the hands of children.”  Look into the short list for the 2014 Green Earth Book Awards (winners will be announced tomorrow on Earth Day, so come back soon!).

My thanks to author, science advocate, and environmental inspiration Seymour Simon for his life’s work on behalf of young readers and their world. And heartfelt thanks to the teacher colleagues who generously shared their book and teaching ideas on building strong environmental stewards in honor of this 44th Earth Day:  Andrea Kunz, Maria Smith, Stuart Potter, Hilary Mayfield, and Faith Kim!

 

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.

 

Living Lincoln’s Words

On this 205th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I’m grateful for our 16th President’s lasting legacy.  Lincoln shepherded this nation through some of our most trying times, a life beautifully captured in Russell Freedman’s Newbery Medal-winning book, Lincoln: A Photobiography.

I’ve always admired the clear, thoughtful, and often poignant way in which Lincoln spoke and wrote.  He is among our history’s most quotable thinkers.  To honor the rich legacy that he left us, I’ve partnered favorite Lincoln quotes with middle grade books whose characters live his words.  Let’s hope that ongoing generations of young readers find inspiration to carry on Lincoln’s ideals.

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.The vivid story of a black family whose warm ties to each other and their land give them strength to defy rural Southern racism during the Depression. . . . Entirely through its own internal development, the novel shows the rich inner rewards of black pride, love, and independence despite the certainty of outer defeat.” —Booklist (Indiebound description)

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed
is more important than any other.

  The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq by Jeanette Winter  Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.  … this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. (Indiebound description)

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

 The Underneath by Kathi Appelt; ill. by David Small  A calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up hound deep in the backwaters of the bayou. She dares to find him in the forest, and the hound dares to befriend this cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate. They are an unlikely pair, about to become an unlikely family. Ranger urges the cat to hide underneath the porch, to raise her kittens there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use them as alligator bait should he find them. But they are safe in the Underneath…as long as they stay in the Underneath. …a harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love — and its opposite, hate — the fragility of happiness and the importance of making good on your promises. (Indiebound description)

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead  By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. (Indiebound description)

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Anne Frank’s Story by Carol Ann Lee  Millions of people throughout the world have read Anne Frank’s unforgettable diary. But most readers don’t know much about Anne’s life before she went into hiding. This remarkable biography, written especially for young readers, chronicles Anne’s life from her earliest days. The book includes remembrances from Anne’s family and friends and features rare photos of Anne from infancy to adolescence. A powerful, moving tribute to an ordinary girl whose life has inspired millions.  (Indiebound description)

Whatever you are, be a good one.

  Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney  Alice Rumphius … longed to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful. The countless lupines that bloom along the coast of Maine are the legacy of the real Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady, who scattered lupine seeds everywhere she went.  (Indiebound description)

The probability that we may fail in the struggle
ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson  Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

Sincere thanks to Stephanie Guerra and Megan Sloan, my teacher/writer colleagues who contributed book suggestions!

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.