NCTE published its Position Statement on the Role of Nonfiction Literature (K-12) and it's a must-read for all educators. One of my favorite quotes from the statement is, "Informed citizens of pluralistic societies appreciate multiple perspectives and worldviews and acknowledge the dangers of any single story."
One of the stories we've been sold over and over again is that undocumented immigrants are lazy and uneducated, and that is false. But don't take my word for it. I am not and was never an undocumented immigrant.
But Emily Francis was. In her stunning epistolary memoir, If You Only Knew: Letters From an Immigrant Teacher, Emily Francis describes her immigration journey, how she perseveres, despite countless obstacles, to become a teacher, and how sharing her story with her students empowers them to share their voices and stories in her classroom.
On this episode, Emily talks about the necessity of transparency and honoring students' stories and their wishes.
Emily cuts to the chase about the importance of transparency in the classroom. Speaking about her students she states, "I want them to see me for who I am, with all transparency." She continues on to say, "That vulnerability in the book... was necessary because it helped me heal... and it helps empower students to say, 'Hey, if Ms. Francis is sharing this part of her life, I think I can share mine, too.' "
So how does Emily provide the opportunity for students to share their stories? She uses Reimagining Migration's Moving Stories Unit which teachers can use in their classroom so that all students share their family's moving story about how they or their ancestors came or were forced to come to the United States, or how their ancestors were forced to move as a result of European colonization.
Not only does the unit provide teachers with a scaffold to help students share their stories, the unit also honors students wishes by providing them with statements they can incorporate into their individual writing contracts. Contracts reassure students that they will have the power to choose which parts of their stories they share, and which parts of their stories they will write for themselves.
She uses the following books when launching Moving Stories:
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Part of Emily's transparency in the classroom and as a keynote speaker is sharing her reading life. Click here to find more titles she recommends. It delighted me to see that her featured photo for her My Reading Life page included René Has Two Last Names by former podcast guest, René Colato Laínez.
If you'd like to be entered to win a signed copy of Emily's book, If You Only Knew, leave a comment below.
Finally, I want to give a shout out to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art and call attention to the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal. Last year at ALA, Summertime Sleepers, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah Brannen, won the Sibert Honor. As I write this post, the ALA awards are only ten days away and I can’t wait to see which book wins the Sibert Medal this year.
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