Tag Archives: Booklists

Empathy & Compassion: YA Titles to Build Bridges

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there are 917 Hate Groups in the United States. That means there are close to one thousand hate groups in the United States. Today in 2017.

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Photo from splcenter.org

The events that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this past week are disturbing and upsetting.  At the same time, as a teacher, I look to current events to guide my teaching in middle school.  As a teacher and a human being I promote empathy, compassion, and understanding among ALL people both in and outside of my classroom.

For summer reading I requested students choose any book they wanted to read that had a theme of social justice. Social justice and Reconstruction are where we begin in September. Students will participate in many conversations about social justice and injustice based on events that took place this summer as well as in the books they read while on break. We will continue to address social justice throughout our reading and writing units over the course of the school year because teaching students to be critical thinkers and compassionate people is just as much as a learning target and goal as any Common Core Learning Standard.

In response to Frank Bruni’s op-ed piece in the New York TimesI Am a White Man. Hear Me Out” (8/13/2017), Colette M Bennett’s blog Used Books in Class writes,

Reading provides the reader the experience of seeing through another’s eyes. That is the definition of empathy. There is research that supports the link between the reading of stories and empathy.  Therefore, my response as an educator to Bruni is that the bridges he seeks can be bridges that are built by reading stories.

Reading is at the center of my middle school English classroom and reading and sharing books is key. In response to building bridges, conducting conversations about current events, and promoting tolerance, here are four YA titles worth reading.

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Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) takes place in Mississippi in 1955 in a town next to where Emmitt Till was murdered. The protagonist, 13 year old Rose Lee Carter, is living with her grandmother, working in the cotton fields and dreaming of a better life. The writing is powerful and gets into the heart and mind of a young African American girl struggling between what could be and the violence of what is. This book can be used parallel to primary sources about Emmitt Till, Jim Crow South, and Brown vs. Board of Ed.
Alan Gratz’s Refugee (Scholastic, 2017) tells the story of three different young people who escape their home country for a better life and for safety. One story is of Josef, a young boy living in Nazi Germany during the 1930s. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994 hoping to safely make it to America and Mahmoud is a Syrian Boy in 2015 looking to escape with his family after the ongoing violence and destruction in his homeland. The three young people are connected in the end but the journey they embark on is harrowing. 9780545880831_mres

 

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (Balzer & Bray, 2017) is powerful and poignant. After reading Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiley’s All American Boys (Scholastic, 2015), I did not think there would be another book as honest, raw, and gripping for young adults about police violence and brutality. Angie Thomas exceeds my expectations. The book gets at the heart of matter and puts down on paper the difficult questions many are asking about race, violence, and humanity. f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9f41mrnaqoygl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

 

 

American War: A Novel by Omar El Akkad (Knopf, 2017) is a post apocalyptic story about a divided United States after the Second Civil War breaks out in 2074 and leaves America fractured. The protagonists is young Sarat Chestnut, a tomboy who comes of age during this frightening war torn time. There are so many parallels to what is happening in our world today that will leave the reader with disturbing thoughts about the direction we are heading.

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Picture Books that Celebrate Messy

I am a neat freak. Yet, my children have a collection of of books about messy children. Some of these books celebrate messy where others offer messages how keeping cleaning is important.

Here is the beginning list of books about the delights and horrors of messy, dirty, and just plain gross.

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The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer and Jake Parker (2013)

“There once was a girl who wouldn’t brush her hair . . .” the story begins. Although the main character will take a bath every night, she will not brush her hair. And then one night a mouse takes residence in her tangled hair. She is okay with it and more and more mice move into her tangled and hair. They eat her food and convince her not to take baths anymore. She starts to smell and loses sleep. This is no good. She devises a plan so that the mice will leave her hair.

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Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest written by Judith Viorst with pictures by Robin Preiss Glasser illustrator of Fancy Nancy (2001)

This book is told from the perspective of neat and perfect Olivia, older sister to messy and clumsy Sophia. Sophia’s room is a disaster and she gets everything messy in a matter of seconds. “You wouldn’t want her in your new car,” Olivia declares. As much as Olivia wants her sister to be neat like her, her family makes her realize that Sophia is caring, kind, and creative, despite being messiness.

Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joe written by Dave Keane and illustrated by Denise Brunkus (2009)

Like Sophia in Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest, Sloppy Joe is messy but he has a kind and caring heart. He admits, “I slurp, spill, slouch, talk with my mouth full, and put my elbows on the table.” But when his family gets the flu, Sloppy Joe takes charge as Neat Joe to help everyone get better. Although, Sloppy Joe has some connections to Amelia BeDelia, despite wanting to change, his parents love him just the way he is with the old stale sandwiches in his room and mud on his sneakers.

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Too Many Toys by David Shannon (2008)

Spencer has too many toys and when his mother decides it is time to donate some of them, the negotiating begins. What should stay and what should go? In the end there is some consensus, but the box with the donated toys makes the best toy ever. The mountains of toys that Shannon illustrates on each page might be a child’s delight and a parent’s worst nightmare.

thanks a lot emily post

Thanks a LOT, Emily Post! written by Jennifer LaRue Huget and illustrated Alexandra Boiger (2009)

For four brothers and sisters, when their mom brings home a book by Emily Post, new rules dictate their behavior. No elbows on the tables, no talking while chewing food, play fair with others. The children decide to take matters into their own hands and give their mother a bit of Emily Post’s advice too. The book’s illustrations are great with lots of emotion in each of the characters presented.

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The Taming of Lola: A Shrew Story written by Ellen Weiss and illustrated by Jerry Smath (2010)

Although this book is not about being messy, it is about an obnoxious young mole who is a handful. This picture book is a play on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Weiss and Smath, present Lola with a bad attitude and awful temper. When Lola’s cousin comes for a visit, she meets her match. Lester is just as stubborn, demanding, and as rude as Lola. Lester’s visit holds a mirror to Lola as they battle each over the silliest of things.

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