Jessica Lander celebrates students' strengths, talks about using text structure to synthesize research, and self care.
As educators, we know students need to find mirrors in books. But, let's face it. Many students, especially immigrant students, never find those mirrors. As a result, they don't read. Jessica Lander has a simple solution for that all-too-common classroom challenge.
All of her students write their migration stories, which Jessica edits and publishes as books. Check out her We Are America site, if this is a project you'd like to implement in your high school. Publishing her students' work is one of many ways Jessica celebrates her students' strengths.
Need to get unstuck? Take a walk. That's what Jessica did and as she was walking, she figured out the text structure for her amazing book, Making Americans. She had done a ton of historical research, visited multiple schools, and did hundreds of hours of interviews, which she had cobbled together in a way that muddled her message and confused her first readers. But as she walked, the structure of the book: the past, the present, and the personal emerged. The rest is history.
Finally, Jessica talks about self care. Whether it's taking a walk, visiting with friends, or even something simple like treating herself to a cup of tea while she writes. In order for her students to have self care opportunities during the school day, she's created a welcoming space in her classroom complete with a herbal garden, a paper tree, and hanging butterflies. Whatever self care looks like for each person, it's something we all need more of in our lives.
For a list of over 200 carefully curated social justice titles for high school classroom collections, please contact Jessica.
In the meantime, if you're looking for two titles that will most likely have mirrors for your immigrant, high school students, check out We Are America and We Are America Too, written by Jessica's students.
If you would like to be entered to win a copy of Making Americans, please leave a comment below.
As always, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink's logo and banner.
Nicole D. Collier talks about facing fears, asking tough questions about whether or not we’re betraying ourselves and gives listeners tips to create courage.
It took decades for Nicole to face her fear and begin writing. But she did even though she didn't know how to begin or what to write. She began just in time to craft her debut Just Right Jillian. Just like Nicole, Jillian has to overcome her fear of being seen in order to pursue her dream of participating in her school's Mind Bender challenge.
In her second novel, The Many Fortunes of Maya, Nicole asks readers to consider a tough question. When we have a choice, how do we stay true to ourselves and choose what we want instead of choosing what someone else wants because we want to please others?
Nicole recommends listeners take the following actions to create the courage they need to chase after their dreams:
1) Read affirmations.
2) Listen to courageous music.
3) Wear courageous clothes.
Nicole recommends the following middle grade novels:
Hannah Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation by Sylvia Liu
Kids are connected to the internet through their brains. Say no more! I have to grab a copy of this book, curl up on the couch, and crack it open.
Dan Unmasked by Chris Negron
This book speaks to boys' social emotional health.
Not an Easy Win by Chrystal D. Giles
Giles tackles tough topics in this novel that features a multigenerational household and an incarcerated parent. I haven't read this story, but I love her other book, Take Back the Block.
The Tryout by Christina D. Soontornvat
Double Newbery Honor winning author, Christina Soontornvat's, graphic memoir about growing up in Texas. I own a copy of this book, but I've never read it. The title keeps getting passed from student-to-student. Looks like it will be a summer read.
If you would like to win a copy of one of Nicole's delightful novels, leave a comment below. Or share this episode on social media, and be sure to tag Nicole and me.
Remember to sign up for our next Chalk + Ink Chat featuring Carole Boston Weatherford and Rob Sanders on March 29th from 8-9 PM EST. We'll be talking about biographies, collaboration, book bans and more.
Many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art. Congrats to Sarah on her latest book sale. I’ll echo another critique group member and say I can’t wait to see Lolly on the ice and on bookshelves.
Kyle Lukoff talks about puzzling out books, gives tips to librarians to protect their patrons’ right to choose their own books and compares picture books to formalist poems.
It turns out that Kyle thinks writing a novel is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and so do I. He talks about how his third novel he wasn't sure how three different story elements were going to hang together, but in the end they all fit perfectly with one another, which felt like magic. His third novel isn't out yet. In the meantime, read his Newbery Honor book Too Bright To See or his latest novel Different Kinds of Fruit.
For eight years, Kyle worked as a school librarian. When I read his ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Award speech, I wanted to delve into protecting patron's rights on the podcast. He took the following actions to protect his students' right to choose their own books:
1) Invited parents and guardians to check out up to four books they could share with their kids at home to validate the adult's right to choose and participate in their child's reading life.
2) When a caregiver complained to Kyle that the book their child chose was too difficult, Kyle asked the adult to read the book at home for 15 minutes with the child. Then, ask if the child enjoyed the book. If the answer was yes, great. If the answer was no, then ask the child if they would like to return the book and pick a different title. That way the child had agency instead of the adult choosing for them.
3) Kyle told teachers that if caregivers had a problem with something in the library, that the caregiver had to reach out to him directly.
For the first time ever on the podcast, we talked about how "picture books are more aligned with formalist poetry than any other kind of writing." Kyle gives a lesson on picture book structure using Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and he also talks about the structure in Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper and Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen. I talked about Kyle's book Explosion at the Poem Factory, which in addition to being a super-fun story is also a poetry primer.
Kyle recommends that elementary libraries have the following books on hand:
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
Sounds like Kyle loves this book as much as I do. He wrote a forthcoming picture book called Just What to Do, which is a response to Cori's book about how often what we need when we're upset is not to do anything, but to have someone who will listen to us talk it through.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell
Traci was in my debut group, and I love her work. In addition to We Are Grateful which talks about gratitude year round, Kyle said he loves At the Mountain's Base. As a fourth grade teacher, I highly recommend We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know because it dispels the myth that Native Americans no longer exist and highlights the power of education.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
It's impossible not to feel joy when reading this book.
Finally, Kyle recommends any book written or illustrated by Yuyi Morales to brighten up any library space.
If you would like to win one of Kyle's amazing books, leave a comment below.
As always, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink's podcast art.
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