Women in the Bible & the 19th Amendment

The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution provided women with the right to legally vote. It is an important part of our country’s history. Being a female US citizen, I am grateful for my ability to vote… And grateful that my daughters will someday be able to vote, too.

When I found the picture book Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins at the public library, I was thrilled to read it to my daughters. It provided another opportunity to teach my children about our country’s history, the courage of many women who have gone before us, and the truth that men and women are of equal value and worth.

Miss Paul and the President explains how Alice Paul and other suffragettes worked tirelessly to bring the issue of the women’s vote to national attention. She met with then-President Wilson, organized peaceful marches in Washington, D.C., and traveled the country as part of a dedicated effort to influence Congress to pass the 19th Amendment. And in the 1920 presidential election, she was among millions of other women who cast their ballots for the first time in American history.

In reading this book, I couldn’t help but think of to the numerous women in the Bible who worked with equal bravery and commitment: the Hebrew midwives who refused to kill babies as the Egyptian king commanded (Exodus 1); Abigail, who successfully negotiated with David and his soldiers in the wake of her husband’s foolish and reckless behavior (1 Samuel 25); Deborah’s distinguished service as judge over Israel (Judges 4); and Lydia, a prominent leader in the early Christian church who ran her own business (Acts 16).

My Christian faith has given me a firm belief in the value and dignity of both men and women in God’s eyes. Despite the fact that some people have historically misused the Bible to promote their own agendas regarding gender roles, the Bible stands out among any other writings of its time. The Bible asserts that men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that there is no distinction between the worth of men and women in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28).

Jesus Himself demonstrated counter-cultural behavior during His time, astonishing even His closest friends and disciples at times. He spoke with women in public with respect and compassion, even if they did not share his same religious background or were viewed as moral people (John 4, Matthew 15, John 12). He healed women and young girls, as well as men, without discrimination (Luke 4, Luke 8).

Pretty amazing!

Whatever your personal faith and convictions, I am sure that you will find Miss Paul and the President to be an exceptional read in the classroom at home. Plus, there are extra notes and a bibliography included at the end of the book for your perusal!

To read another excellent book by this author, see my previous post on Friendship in Hard Times.

Best Ages: 1st grade – 4th grade

Check out this article to find out more about the 19th Amendment.

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of his most beautiful paintings at both the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Art Institute in Chicago. Although his work was not appreciated during his lifetime, Van Gogh’s art is well-known and world-renowned today!

The book Camille and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt touches on a brief time in Vincent’s life and career when he traveled to a small town and befriend the postman’s family. They helped Vincent settle into his home, visited him regularly and treated him kindly and respectfully despite the other townspeople’s distrust of an outsider.

My children liked reading this book and it provided an excellent opportunity to discuss biography, art history and friendship. The illustrations are nostalgic and include photographs of real Van Gogh paintings.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Discuss how the townspeople treated Vincent and what was different about how the postman’s family chose to treat Vincent. How can we learn from them?
  • Vincent was a neighbor to the postman’s family and they welcomed him to their neighborhood with many kind gestures. Choose a neighbor (old or new) to show kindness to this week! Bring over a homemade treat, send a card in the mail or offer to shovel the sidewalk.

For Teachers:

  • Camille was sad when he took his painting to school and his classmates laughed at it. How should we treat our friends when they tell us about something that is important to them?
  • Find the country of the Netherlands (Holland) on a world map, as well as Belgium and France. Explain those were the 3 places where Vincent lived throughout his life.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, complete this art activity based on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting style with your students. Coordinate with your art teacher if desired. Display completed paintings in your classroom, along with printed copies of his most famous work as seen in the book.

African American History Month

African American History month is a time to reflect on the contributions of African Americans and important events that have shaped our nation. Although African American history is should not only reflect the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century, this is a period that deeply moves and inspires our family.

Our latest read to recommend is A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson. It tells the story of two sisters who join others in their neighborhood to march peacefully for equal rights, and their experience listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The illustrations are incredible charcoal drawings that add to the greatness of the historic moments the book encompasses.

Please feel free to share a book that you are reading for African American History month!

 

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

*For further exploration and ideas on how to explore African American History this month, check out this website, with contributing work from the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and more. You can access easy links for audio and video archives and teacher ideas from the top left panel on the home page.

Check out my previous post to read more books featuring African American children.

 

Books Featuring African-American Children

February is African American History Month, so what better time than to intentionally seek out some books that feature African American children? Whatever your family or classroom’s racial and ethnic make-up, it’s always positive to show our children and students diverse people in the books we read with them.

Picture Books

When I Am Old With You by Angela Johnson

A grandson spends the day with his grandfather. As they do various activities together, he imagines that he will be able to do all of those things with his grandpa each day when he is grown up. Such a sweet read with beautiful illustrations!

Grandma Lena’s Big Ol’ Turnip by Denia Lewis Hester

Adapted from a Russian folktale, Grandma Lena discovers an enormous turnip growing in her garden… And calls on the whole family to help pull it up out of the ground! The ending is a fun celebration with the whole community.

Lola in the Library by Anna McQuinn

One of our favorite books to read as a family! Bold, heart-warming illustrations make this an eye-catching book for children. And the story of Lola’s regular trips to the library resonate with many families who also enjoy spending time together.

Is It My Turn Now? by Catherine Lukas

Part of a series of Little Bill, this book is one that our family often reads. It shows a tight-knit family that  pulls together to help each other out in the children’s various activities, ranging from chess to basketball to a school play.

Board Books

In the Wind by Elizabeth Spurr

A great book as spring is around the corner, this is the story of a little girl who plays with her kite on a windy day. Just when she thinks it may have blown away and lost forever, she gets a lovely surprise!

Good Night Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson

A slightly older board book that has a timeless quality about it. The whole family is pictured in the book as they get Baby read for bedtime.

Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

Loving and playful text from a parent’s point of view. My children loved this book as babies and toddlers, and they giggled every time we read it!

Kia Tanisha Drives Her Car by Eloise Greenfield

A girl plays outside and visits her friend down the street while trying out some newfound freedom in a play car. Very short text that would be great for a child with a shorter attention span.

 

 

 

Snowflakes and Science

Happy February! Is it snowing where you live? If so, you may enjoy reading Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.

As a child growing up in Vermont in the 19th century, Willie Bentley was extremely curious about the world around him. That curiosity was heightened when he looked at snowflakes under a microscope and discovered that no two snowflakes were alike. When he was 17 years old, Willie’s parents parents decided to use their life savings to purchase him a state-of-the-art microscopic camera. From that point on, Willie Bentley dedicated his life to exploring nature and sharing his discoveries with the world.

Willie Bentley’s biography provides an outstanding example to children today of creativity, dedication and perseverance. The book also features wonderful sidebar notes for adults, teachers or older students to read to themselves for further information on Willie Bentley’s scientific work.  A black-and-white photograph of Mr. Bentley is featured at the end of the book, along with 3 breathtaking samples of the photographs he took of snowflake crystals.

On top of all that, the book won the the Caldecott Medal in 1999 for its incredible illustrations.

Snowflake Bentley is an excellent choice for a read-aloud or to incorporate in a unit on biographies, weather or science.

Note: As a biography, the book does explain that Willie died at the age of 66 years old of pneumonia. If you are uncomfortable discussing the subject of death with your children or students, you can skip the last 2 pages.

Best Ages: 1st grade – 4th grade

For Parents:

  • After reading the book together, explain the character trait of “perseverance.”  How did Willie Bentley show perseverance? Is there a time in your life when you displayed perseverance that you can share with your child?
  • For younger children, make snowflakes out of folded coffee filters. Hang them up with clear fishing line in your child’s bedroom.

For Teachers:

  • After reading the book together, discuss the word “perseverance.”  How did Willie Bentley show perseverance? How can you?
  • For 1st and 2nd graders, make snowflakes out of folded coffee filters. Display on a bulletin board and point out to students that each one is different.
  • For 3rd and 4th graders, post questions about the book around classroom. Number each question. Instruct students to number a page in their notebooks and walk around to look at each question – doesn’t have to be in order – and write down the answers. (If you’ve never tried this kind of movement in a review, divide your students into groups and set a time for 1 minute. Call out when it’s time to rotate.) Review answers to the questions as a class.
  • For 3rd and 4th graders, create a timeline of Willie’s life.  You may want students to refer to this Smithsonian webpage. Then ask students to illustrate the part of his life or scientific work they found most interesting.
  • Show this PBS video on The Science of Snowflakes.

 

Celebrating MLK Jr. & Coretta Scott King

On Monday, January 16th, the United States will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

And what a perfect timing.

Many Americans experience genuine and ongoing pain surrounding the events of 2016 that revealed ongoing racial tension in our nation, from police shootings to a gut-wrenching and divisive presidential election. On Monday, we need to be reminded of the incredible dedication of those who have already lived out how to charter these waters of injustice and division…. peacefully.

In a previous post, I wrote about an excellent children’s book on the life of MLK Jr. This week, my children and I read the book Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange.

Beautiful illustrations and poetic text make this book a wonderful read-aloud.  While is not religious in tone, the book describes how Coretta and her husband prayed together for peace and equality, and also referenced the work MLK Jr. did as an ordained minister. This background information helps children to understand an important reason the Kings chose to fight against injustice in a non-violent way. They were acting in obedience to Jesus’ call to Christians to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28).

The book also references Ghandi, who held very different religious beliefs, but chose to act and lead in non-violent ways. Ghandi’s example in India was a source of inspiration to many civil rights activists in the United States.

Coretta Scott proclaims a timely message for our children and for this nation: We can be agents of change within our families, our communities and our country.

And we can do it with respect, dignity and peace.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

The Life and Work of Diego Rivera

I have personally seen the work of Diego Rivera as painted in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City… And it is spectacular. How delightful to be able to share that with my daughters with the children’s book Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuth.

Surprisingly, my two-year old liked this one even more than my preschooler!

This book is a biography of Diego Rivera but also explores themes of art. For those of you who know a bit about Rivera, he was classically trained in Europe before returning to Mexico when he was commissioned by the government. He often selected everyday people and scenes, or important events in his homeland’s history, to paint in public murals. The author ends the book by asking the reader to consider what Diego Rivera might have chosen to paint if he lived today.

Author-illustrator Duncan Tonatiuth created illustrations that imitate Rivera’s style. And the back of the book contains some educational bonuses: a glossary of words and references in the order in which they appear in the book, an author’s note, a list of some places where you can find Diego Rivera’s artwork, a bibliography and a list of Rivera’s artwork which inspired the illustrator of the book.

This would be an asset to any unit on Hispanic Heritage study, intercultural unit, art, history or multiculturalism. Or simply a stand-alone for home or classroom use.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Print off a coloring page of one of Diego Rivera’s more well-known murals. See if your child can find that same artwork in the book, or if there is another illustration that is similar. Then allow your child to color in their own artwork.
  • Use an atlas world map (print or digital) to look up some of the places where Rivera’s artwork is displayed. Refer to in the index of the book! 🙂

For Teachers:

  • Have student volunteers locate the various countries that are mentioned in the story on a globe or world map. Ask students what prior knowledge they have about these places, or if any of them have traveled to those countries.
  • Use a DocuCam or projector to go through this “Inside Scoop” on Diego Rivera with your class, as published by the National Art Gallery in Washington.
  • Check out this amazing idea for creating a classroom mural based on Diego Rivera’s famous artwork! The teacher here suggests swapping with another school through the mail, but you could do it as your own grade level or with another class in your school.

Non-Fiction Winter Book

It’s important to expose our children to non-fiction, at home or in the classroom. I found a fabulous one for this time of year at our public library: Let’s Look at Winter by Sarah L. Schuette. The book explains the weather patterns of winter and how animals and plants go through changes in this cold season.

My preschooler liked reading this book multiple times and we were able to discuss our own observations of winter – both from memory and in light of the current and increasingly cold weather here in the midwest!

This book would be a great read-aloud for young children and an excellent read-to-self book for emergent readers. And it could be easily integrated with a science lesson or unit on climate, weather or seasons.

Check out my previous post, Animal Hibernation, for more winter learning fun.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • With your child, take out family pictures from last winter. While you look at them together, talk about the activities you did together.
  • For young children, print out and play with this free warm weather/cold weather clothing sort from Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • If possible where you live, find some time to play outside in the snow together 🙂

For  Teachers:

  • During calendar or circle time, discuss the 4 seasons. Ask students to describe the weather in each season.
  • Prior to reading the book, take out a box of clothing and ask students to sort the clothes for warm weather and cold weather as a whole class. Then show students the cover of the book and ask which collection of clothes the characters in the book should wear to stay healthy and safe.
  • Set up learning station with activities for winter. Include this warm weather/cold weather clothing sort or these Snow Much Fun Task Cards, both free at Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • During recess or free time, have students complete a relay race. Set piles of winter clothing at one end of the gym and then instruct students to run across the room and put on one item at a time, then give to the next person in line, until all the winter clothes are worn by one team member.

 

 

Teaching Sensitivity to Young Children

We were walking home from the park when my preschooler loudly said, “That man is bald, just like Uncle B!” The man, who was on his knees gardening, looked up and then continued to work. My husband said hello and commented on the beautiful weather while I just smiled and felt my face heat up to a nice bright red.

Kids will just blurt things out, right?

But sometimes those blurted observations can be more hurtful than humorous. How do we teach our young children, whether parents or caregivers or educators, to be sensitive to others?

I don’t have a magic bullet or guaranteed method to teaching sensitivity (which you probably figured out by reading the anecdote above!) but I believe we can help them to learn to be sensitive to others by modeling it in our own speech and actions… and by intentionally selecting books to read that teach children sensitivity. Exposing our children to people who are different in books – whether those differences are in culture, interests, abilities or anything else under the sun – will provide a foundation to discuss how to be sensitive to others in life.

A great starting point is the book Best Friend on Wheels by Debra Shirley. The book has bright and colorful illustrations, rhyming text and thought-provoking statements from a child’s point of view on having a friend who uses a wheel chair. Best Friend on Wheels can help you have conversations in your home or classroom about being sensitive to others.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • If you haven’t before, explain to your child that some people need extra help getting around and may use a wheelchair, just like some people use glasses to help them see better. Emphasize that while every person is different, we don’t need to be afraid, nervous or shy because of those differences.
  • Ask what things people found they had in common with Sarah even if they initially didn’t think they would be able to find something in common with a person in a wheelchair. Look back through the book together.
  • Print a picture of your child with his/her best friend. Pull out art supplies and make a collage with the picture glued on to the artwork. Hang it up or give it as a gift to that friend.

For Teachers:

  • Show your students photos of eye glasses, a wheelchair, training wheels and swimming floaties. Ask them why people need to use those items. Remind them that people need help sometimes to do things better (like see, get around or swim), whether temporary or permanent. Emphasize that while every person is different, we don’t need to be afraid, nervous or shy because of those differences.
  • Ask students to make a list of the things they like to do with their friends. Remind them that when we have things in common with others, we can have a wonderful friendship with them, even if they look different on the outside.
  • Create friendship collages in small groups. Have each student write down an activity they enjoy doing with a friend on colored paper (lots of ideas in the book!). Have student glue their papers on a pasteboard and use tissue paper, markers and other art supplies to decorate. Ask each group to share their friendship college posters with the rest of the class. Display in your room.

Introducing Hellen Keller

As a teacher, I have worked with children of varying ability levels and needs. And I find it very important to make my classroom (and as a parent, my home) a welcoming and safe place for every person who enters. It is a priority for me to teach my children to love and accept people of all backgrounds and I was very pleased to find this beautiful book at our local library to read with my daughters at home: Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle by Holly M. Barry.

The book describes Helen Keller’s childhood, including information about her teacher Anne Sullivan and the journey to discovering a world while blind and deaf. In a touching manner, Holly M. Barry describes the constant friendship Helen found with her dogs and most especially a dog named Belle.

Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle is one of the best non-fiction picture books I have read in recent months and an exceptional biography for the primary grades. The book includes information on the American Sign Language alphabet, braille system and further reading on the life of Helen Keller.

I hope that you are able to check out this book for your home or classroom!

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Review the 5 senses with your child. Imagine what it would be like to lose one or more senses (like Helen Keller did as a small child). Which senses would you need to rely on?
  • Find things in your home that you can experience with each of your 5 senses. Put them in a large bag and then sort them into small containers or shoe boxes with your child. Remind your child that some things can be experienced by more than one sense!
  • Read this article for more information about hearing loss and your child’s health.

For Teachers:

  • Have a discussion on the differing abilities all people have. Reiterate the need to demonstrate respect for everyone and not be afraid of those differences.
  • Review the 5 senses. Which senses did Helen Keller lose as a young child?
  • Set up learning stations with these wonderful ideas on 5 senses activities or select one activity for the entire class to do together.
  • Check out this funky learning song on the 5 senses.