I can barely sew a button back on when it falls off my husband’s shirt, but many of the women in my family are experts with a needle and thread. My grandmother quilts and has gifted us beautiful quilts we will always treasure. We also have an heirloom quilt that was pieced together by the quilting bee at my aunt’s parish when a trunk of hand-stitched quilting blocks was discovered in a relative’s attic. These blocks were determined to be sewn by my great-grandmother before the Great Depression.
The precious quilts made by my family made this particular book jump out at me when I saw it displayed at our public library a few weeks ago!
The Quilting Bee by Gail Gibbons tells the history and modern-day process of quilting in a fun, engaging way. The illustrations are bright and include many styles and types of quilting. Best of all, this book can easily fit into many content areas for the elementary classroom:
A literature unit on pioneers for books such as Sarah, Plain and Tall, Little House on the Prairie or Addie Across the Prairie.
A social studies lesson on the Oregon Trail, as many of the quilting patterns and blocks were created and used by settlers who traveled west in the United States during the 19th century.
A math lesson relating to topics of symmetry, geometry and shape recognition or tessellations.
And The Quilting Bee can also be incorporated in early childhood or preschool classes to touch on the topics of history, colors or teamwork.
Best Ages: pre-k – 3rd grade
If you have any family quilts, take them out and show them to your children. Or talk about their favorite blankets and how comforting it can be to have a special covering for going to sleep.
Visit a county fair or stop by a local craft/sewing store with your child. Show them the materials people use to sew today, as seen in the book.
Generations of families have enjoyed reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up reading these books and also watching the re-runs of the television show starring Michael Landon. I still re-read the series once a year and the older I get, the more I appreciate the hard work and family values the Ingalls maintained. As my husband and I have moved 6 times in 7 years of marriage, I also value grace and strength the mother, Caroline Ingalls, displayed as she helped smooth the transitions from one place to another for her children.
If you also grew up reading and/or watching the show, or if you are interested in United States history, the “My First Little House Books” will be a wonderful addition to your child’s, classroom or family reading list. These books provide a perspective of life in a less modernized time and show children that there are some basic similarities among children and families across history.
Our favorite picture book in this adapted series for young readers is Summertime in the Big Woods. It shows the many activities Laura and her family enjoyed during the summer seasons including playing with friends who visit, feeding farm animals and making cheese with their mother. We have also enjoyed reading Dance at Grandpa’s and Going to Town.
Best Ages: pre-k to 2nd Grade
Have a conversation about with your child about how you have experienced similar activities to the ones Laura describes in the book. How are things similar and how are they different because of the time period we live in?
Find Wisconsin on a map and then find where your family lives. Laura’s family traveled by foot or horse and wagon. How would you travel from your home to Wisconsin today?
Create a T-chart with “Laura’s Life” and “Our Life.” Ask students to describe what they recall from the book that occurred during Laura’s life. Then ask what they do for fun, transportation, obtaining food, etc. (Depending on which book in the series you read.) Compare and contrast.