Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Books to help children find hope and strength in stressful times: A librarian’s list

By Karen MacPherson

As an inveterate bibliophile, I naturally turn to books in times of stress, and because I’m a children’s librarian, those books tend to be ones written for kids. Children, too, are seeking guidance as they navigate these challenging and sometimes confusing times. Books can help.
Here’s a list of titles to nurture hope in kids and adults, while also inspiring them into activism to make that hopeful world a reality. My idea was to choose books for younger readers that focus on kindness, peace and feeling good — and proud — about who you are. For older readers, I looked for books about diverse people, including kids who have overcome sometimes overwhelming odds to make a difference in the world. My choices draw heavily on “Unity.Kindness.Peace.,” a list published a few days after the November election by the Association for Library Service to Children. Given time and space constraints, I’ve had to leave out many wonderful books, so head to your local public library and seek out children’s librarians, experts eager to help you find just the right title.

YOUNGER READERS (Ages 3 to 7):

“Because Amelia Smiled,” by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick)
Because Amelia Smiled, by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick): One smile has international consequences in a book that celebrates the power of love and hope.
Can I Play Too? , by Mo Willems (Disney/Hyperion): Elephant and Piggy must wrestle with the question of what to do — and how they should act — when Snake, who has no arms or legs, asks to play catch.
Counting on Community , by Innosanto Nagara (Triangle Square): In this counting book, readers learn many ways that community is important, such as working together in a community garden and protesting injustice.

“If You Plant a Seed,” by Kadir Nelson (Balzer + Bray)
If You Plant a Seed , by Kadir Nelson (Balzer+Bray): A food fight breaks out when a rabbit and a mouse refuse to share the bounty of their vegetable harvest with a flock of birds. Things look grave until the mouse realizes that sharing just might be a better solution.
Last Stop on Market Street , by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Putnam): During a bus ride, a young boy in the inner city learns to appreciate his Nana’s ability to find — and celebrate — beauty anywhere. The picture book won the 2016 Newbery Medal and for its illustrations, a 2016 Caldecott Honor.
“The Lion & the Mouse,” by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
The Lion and the Mouse , by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown): Setting Aesop’s beloved fable in the African Serengeti, Pinkney’s illustrations — and nearly wordless text — give this classic a powerful new twist. This book won the 2010 Caldecott Medal.
The Peace Book , by Todd Parr (Little, Brown): In his cheerful style, Parr defines the meaning of peace for very young children, from “offering a hug to a friend” to “keeping the streets clean” to the concluding message that “peace is being who you are.”
“The Story of Ferdinand,” by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson (Grosset & Dunlap)

The Story of Ferdinand , by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson (Grosset & Dunlap): This classic tells the story of a peace-loving bull who is mistakenly thought to be a tough, violent animal but proves otherwise when he’s put to the test in the bull ring.

OLDER READERS (Ages 5 to 12)

A Is for Activist , by Innosanto Nagara (Triangle Square): This unusual, beautifully illustrated book offers ways to identify and promote activism through each letter of the alphabet.
Drum Dream Girl , by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López (HMH): Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban musician, won international acclaim for her drumming, but only after overcoming Cuba’s ban on women drummers.

“Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah,” by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls (Schwartz & Wade)
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah , by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Schwartz & Wade): Born with a deformed leg, the determined Yeboah became a renowned athlete, winning fame for a 400-mile journey in his native Ghana to campaign for equal rights for the physically disabled.
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez , by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (HMH): Krull tells Chavez’s compelling story with emotion and compassion, as she details what led him to push for the creation of the National Farm Workers Association.

“I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings and Shelagh McNicholas (Dial )
I Am Jazz , by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas (Dial). Jazz Jennings, who knew from age 2 that she was really a girl in a boy’s body, has become a young spokesperson for the transgender community.
Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal: A Brave Boy From Pakistan , by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane): The stories of two brave Pakistani children who refused to accept the limitations set by the Taliban. Both were attacked for their outspokenness; one died and the other lived.

“Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story,” by Ruby Bridges (Cartwheel)
Ruby Bridges Goes to School , by Ruby Bridges (Scholastic): In 1960, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges was thrust into the national spotlight when she became the face of school desegregation efforts in New Orleans.
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation , by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams): The Mendez family led a successful fight to desegregate the California schools nearly a decade before the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregated schools.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down , by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Little, Brown): On Feb. 1, 1960, four young African American men took a seat at a “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., inspiring others to do the same throughout the South.
The Storyteller’s Candle , by Lucia Gonzalez, illustrated by Lulu Delacre (Lee & Low): A Puerto Rican family newly arrived in the United States finds refuge at their nearby public library, where the children’s room was presided over by Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York’s public library system.

“Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement,” by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes (Candlewick )
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement , by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick): In emotionally searing poems, Weatherford takes readers through the momentous life of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The book won a 2016 Caldecott Honor.

Karen MacPherson is the children’s and teen services coordinator for the Takoma Park, Md., library, the only independent community public library in the state.

          Published December 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Teaching Children to be of Service

Colette B. Cross

Today I proudly watched our Kindergarten students bring holiday song, cheer and handmade gifts to the seniors at our local senior residential home.  This is an annual tradition at our school for our oldest students who, as leaders in our school, have earned this great privilege.  Observing this interaction never fails to bring every adult watching to tears.  The mix of multi ages all experiencing smiles, innocence, joy, and with kindness abounding warms every heart present.   It is true that it is never too early to help children be of service to others.

Every year, and throughout the year, our school supports our local food pantry. Each class takes a turn to bring in needed items on a monthly basis.  It is difficult sometimes to understand that there are hungry people right in our back yard, but there are.  It is an easy lesson to teach our young children: how can we help people who are hungry and make a difference?  Children can choose a can, or packet, or food item from their own pantry at home, or from the store shelf whilst shopping with mom or dad, and then bring it to school and place it in our special container.  Because our parents are so generous the bags are often heavy and the children watch as their parents deliver the items and then assist in the unpacking.  This real and visual experience can make a huge impact, and can develop a great sense of lasting empathy and kindness.

At this time of year and during the holidays many opportunities to help others present themselves, from toy drives, clothing drives, soup kitchen support, adopt a family plans, and various food drives.  Many families participate in their own way, in their own communities. What a wonderful example for children.   However, in order to develop the life skill of helping others, it is important to role model kindness and giving every day.  Allow and expect children to help out at home regularly, assign chores and responsibilities, and talk to them about giving and kindness to others as part of their daily lives.

Research shows that showing kindness brings greater happiness and greater friendships to the giver.  It is definitely nice to receive but infinitely more rewarding to give.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

An Hour of Code

The Westmont Montessori Kindergarten class participated this year in the Hour of Code. They were led by Maria Fehling, a Westmont parent from the company Accenture who encourages their employees to volunteer at schools to teach computer coding. In the case of our Kindergarten class, they learned that computers have a special language that people called programmers use to tell the computers what to do. They discussed the kinds of computers around us and the children named quite a few items in their own houses that were programmed.

Next, the children participated in an activity in coding. Some of them were “programmers” and some of them were “computers”. They were told that the code they were going to use was arrows and the task that the computers were to accomplish was to build a structure using cups. The programmers then worked to write their code of arrows; an arrow pointing up meant to pick up a cup, an arrow pointing right or left meant to move the cup that many spaces on a grid, a circular arrow meant to turn the cup 180 degrees, and an arrow pointing down meant to put the cup down.

Once the children had a few practice runs all together, they split into groups and started their work. It was a great experience for them in collaboration, cooperation, and coding!

Thank you to Mrs. Fehling and Accenture for the opportunity to participate in this fantastic lesson!