Confession: I am a book nerd. I took Harry Potter books on a ski trip and curled up by the fire reading when I was in college, read a book in the middle of a party in high school, and would sneak a flashlight under my covers and read till the wee hours of the morning as an elementary school child. Growing up my friends all made fun of me because of my affinity for reading.
My parents had the most ingenious way of helping me read. When I messed up they would punish me and send me to my room. Now when I was a kid (I am laughing so hard at that phrase and how that sounds in my head) I had nothing in my room but books. No radio, no television, no toys, nothing. What was a boy with attention issues going to do in a room with nothing but books? He is going to read! And read I did. I read everything and anything. It didn’t matter if it was written by James Patterson, Nora Roberts, or Sun Tzu. If it had words on paper I was devouring it.
I have plowed through books that are windows, doors, and mirrors. “A window-type book is one that engages children into imagining what the world looks like in places and circumstances that they have never experienced.” Books allow me to see the world through the lens of characters that don’t look and act like me. I recently read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The story is told through the lens of a young black girl. I was able to see life from a different vantage point. We need to “see” through these windows if we hope to grow as humans.
Books open doors to places that my mind couldn’t possibly create on its own. I have traveled across galaxies, been to foreign lands, battled impossible odds, and have even climbed in the middle of a giant peach!
Finally, books can be mirrors that show characters that look and act like me. It is important to see characters that reflect myself because it allows me to identify with the characters and normalizes how I look and act. As a child I read Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, and The Outsiders identifying with the characters who either because of the illustration on the cover or the description stated I identified as white males. It was easy for me as a white cisgender male to find books that acted like mirrors. This was not as easy for black and brown students, although #DisruptTexts is making sure this is changing.
I tell you all that above because February 1 is World Read Aloud Day. This is not to be confused with Global Read Aloud created by Pernille Ripp which, “picks a book to read aloud to students during a set 6-week period and during that time tries to make as many global connections as possible.” “Every year, on World Read Aloud Day, people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people.” Andy Milne has organized the hashtag #HPEReadAloudDay for Health and Physical Education teachers to post under if they want to participate. #WorldReadAloudDay is the official hashtag of the event. You can read all about his idea here.
I am going to be reading a variety of books that are doors, windows, and mirrors for my students. I will start off with my 2nd-grade class reading Donovan’s Word Jar. The cover shows a black boy who is approximately 9 years old.
“Donavan Allen doesn’t collect coins, comics, or trading cards like most kids. He collects words—big words, little words, soft words, and silly words. Whenever Donavan finds a new word, he writes it on a slip of paper and puts it in his word jar.https://www.amazon.com/Donavans-Word-Trophy-Chapter-Book/dp/0064420892
But one day, Donavan discovers that his word jar is full. He can’t put any new words in without taking some of the old words out—and he wants to keep all his words. Donavan doesn’t know what to do until a visit to his grandma provides him with the perfect solution.”
My kindergarten class will be reading Skin Again written by the queer feminist writer bell hooks. They will also be reading the book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.
“Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity. Race matters, but only so much–what’s most important is who we are on the inside. Looking beyond skin, going straight to the heart, we find in each other the treasures stored down deep. Learning to cherish those treasures, to be all we imagine ourselves to be, makes us free.https://www.amazon.com/Skin-Again-Bell-Hooks/dp/148479923
This award-winning book, with its myriad of faces, introduces a strong message of loving yourself and others that will appeal to parents of our youngest readers.”
“Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless.”https://www.amazon.com/Dreamers-Yuyi-Morales/dp/0823440559/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548623356&sr=1-1&keywords=dreamers+by+yuyi+morales
My third graders will be reading the Giving Tree. It is a classic book that for brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.
“For those of you who don’t remember, The Giving Tree is a 1964 children’s book about a tree who happily gives what she can to a young boy. First, she gives him shade. Then apples. She even lets him carve initials into her.https://thewritepractice.com/the-giving-tree/
As the boy grows up, he needs more. So he takes her branches and eventually cuts down her trunk. At that point, the tree is alive, but nothing but a stump. Yet the boy, now an old man, still needs more. He needs a seat. She gives it to him. “And the tree was happy.” (The last line of the book.)
My first graders will be reading the book Princess Truly in I Am Truly. I picked this because the main character is a young black girl. This will be a book that is both a window and a mirror for the various students in that class.
“Brimming with warmth and color, Princess Truly’s rhythmic rhyming adventures are a celebration of individuality, girl power, and diversity. A perfect graduation gift, this heartfelt story is a reminder to young girls everywhere that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it and dream big!”https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Truly-I-Am/dp/1943806047
My fifth graders will be reading two books. The book is called For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever. I am choosing this book for two reasons. First I want to start the conversation about what exactly gender is. This will be a perfect lead into the idea that because you may identify with a gender does not mean that you will automatically like certain things or that certain subjects are off limits to you. The second book is my favorite book of all time called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This book shows various women (including Women of Color) throughout history and give a one page summary of their accomplishments. The illustrations are fantastic and will hopefully help combat the idea that only white men have made all the major breakthroughs throughout history.
As you can tell it will be a busy day. I hope you will stop your class and read a book aloud even if it is for five minutes. It doesn’t matter what the subject area is; we all need to support reading. Lastly, remember to post on Twitter under the #HPEReadAloudDay as well as #WorldReadAloudDay. If you want more resources or to register for World Read Aloud Day go to this website created by the creators of the event Kidlit.