In last week’s review of Separate is Never Equal I promised I’d share the educator’s guide for the book this week. As one of this year’s Américas Award winners, the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs sponsored the creation of curriculum materials to support using the book in the classroom. I’m really excited to share them with you today. In the guide you’ll find a variety of activities to help you implement the book in your classroom, whether on it’s own or part of a larger unit. The book would be an excellent addition to any unit plan on social justice, activism, children as activists, or Latino/a history. As we’ve mentioned in the past, there are a number of reasons diverse literature (like this book) is so important to our students and classrooms. The hope is that through providing students the space to engage with texts like this, we are giving them the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the books they read in school, or to learn about the lived realities of others so that they become more empathetic. Continue reading
Saludos, todos! Our featured book for this week is Sélavi / That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope, written and illustrated by Youme. This creative non-fiction book tells the story of young orphan children living in Haiti. Left parent-less due to fighting, violence, and poverty, these children band together and become a family of their own. This beautiful tale of love, compassion and goodwill narrates the real-life story of an orphan boy, Sélavi, and other children like him who created their own orphanage, extending a hand to all those other children in need. Eventually these same orphaned children began a radio show called Radyo Timoun, where they, to this day, advocate for children’s rights.
At the back of the book is an essay written by Edwidge Danticat, one of the most prominent and prolific contemporary Haitian writers, sharing some personal experiences and historical context to frame Youme’s story. As many of you know, we frequently feature Danticat’s books on our blog. In this particular essay, she notes that “My birthplace, Haiti, is a land of incredible beauty, but for many, it is also a place of great sadness.” Youme’s tale does a lovely job of embodying these two dualities—the laments of many of Haiti’s children, as well as their inspiring courage, hope and beauty.
Danticat also shares some historical facts: “In 1804, the slaves (of Haiti) revolted and won their independence, making Haiti the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere. Along with the American Revolution, Haiti’s was the only successful rebellion in North America.” Danticat’s essay continues with additional information on both Haiti’s history and contemporary Haiti, contributing a valuable component to this story and especially to the use of this story in the classroom. Finally, Danticat’s essay concludes with one final wish: “Being a child of Haiti myself, I can only hope that Sélavi’s story will be repeated in the lives of many other children, among them future writers, radio and television journalists, who will continue to tell—and show—their stories in such moving and powerful ways that the rest of the world will no longer be able to neglect them.” Youme’s story is one attempt at elevating and drawing attention to these children’s powerful stories. Continue reading
¡Feliz viernes a todos!
Thanks for joining me again this week! While this month has not been focused directly on activism, I have still been showcasing some resources on activism and Haiti, tying our themes from this month and the last together. My first two posts this year showed activism in forms that were different than the protesting we might immediately associate with the word. However, since we at Vamos a Leer are focusing on loving one another, community, and self-love, this week’s post will be focused on the Haitians and Haitian-American activists who are standing (quite literally) in protest with Dominicans of Haitian descent in the recent Dominican Republic-Haiti Deportation crisis. For those of you who have not heard about this, you can learn more from Michele Wucker’s article or from this NPR broadcast. This crisis, which involves the mass deportations of thousands of “Dominican-born Haitians,” or second/third generation Dominicans of Haitian lineage, is sparking upset globally. After spending this past summer learning Haitian Creole and visiting the country for myself, I am particularly invested in this topic. But more than anyone, Haitian and Haitian-American activists are upset and are taking a stand on the behalf of Dominican-born Haitians. Continue reading
Saludos, todos! This week’s featured book is Running the Road to ABC, written by Haitian author Denizé Lauture and illustrated by Reynold Ruffins. With stunning illustrations and compelling lyrical prose, this wonderful picture book tells the story of six Haitian children and the miles they travel to get to school. In doing so, Lauture’s tale takes readers on a visual and poetic journey of Haiti’s various landscapes, both geographical and social. While exposing some of the present-day hardships in Haiti, such as running barefoot over rough terrain to get to school, Lauture proudly depicts values such as strength, determination, and a love of learning.
Lauture introduces his book by dedicating it “To all children who, smiling and laughing,/ laughing and singing,/ singing and smiling,/ stand tall at the golden thresholds of their lives/ and welcome learning and teaching,/ and teaching and learning,/ as the two most endearing experiences in life.” A love and dedication to learning is certainly at the crux of this tale. As Lauture openly embraces the beauty in teaching and learning, his lovely, undulating prose is in itself didactic. Throughout the tale Lauture makes ample use of repetition and symmetrical sentence structures (such as “learning and teaching,/ and teaching and learning”), which can help young readers remember new vocabulary, keep up with the story, and witness the flexibility and playfulness of words. In addition, his long, flowing sentences tend to continue on and on without punctuation, reflecting the long and persistent, yet melodically joyful journey of the schoolchildren. Moreover, the lack of punctuation may reflect the cadence of Haitian Creole, which is generally not a written language. As a result, Lauture’s prose suggests a melody that would make the story perfect for reading out loud—a treat for listeners, and a celebration of Haiti’s rich oral tradition. Continue reading
¡Feliz viernes a todos!
Another week has gone by already! And just like that, we are into February. Thanks for reading again. Hopefully 2016 has gone smoothly for everyone reading! I know we are feeling the pace increase a bit here.
As February takes hold, and many classrooms turn to studies of Black History and the Civil Rights Movement, we at Vamos a Leer are turning our focus to the history of Afro-Latinos and Afro-Caribbean people. In this post in particular, I am addressing (very briefly) the widespread history of slavery and its implications particularly within Haiti and other Caribbean countries.
Besides open immigration flows, there are people of African descent in every country in the Western Hemisphere in large measure because Africans were taken forcibly as slaves and transported from Africa to the Americas from the 15th to the 19th century, used as human barter in exchange for goods, spices, and outright income. As slaves, Africans were treated as goods; they were bought, sold, traded, beaten and killed for disobeying unjust rules and regulations set by their owners. Side bar: we acknowledge that this is a difficult topic to teach, but also want to emphasize how necessary it is to have these conversations in our classrooms. For a brief overview of what to keep in mind when teaching about slavery writ large, see the article “Tongue-Tied” by Teaching Tolerance. Continue reading
With Valentine’s Day just a little over a week away, today’s post focuses on how to teach about love and social justice. It may not be the typical Valentine’s Day themed lesson, but I think it’s a powerful way to expand upon the ways in which we frame our conversations about love in the classroom. As we think about the ways in which we can guide our students to think about love in terms of love for the world and the societies in which we are a part, I can imagine no better way to talk about love than as a form of compassion, empathy, and activism through knowledge of the lived realities of those with whom we share this world.
Today’s post highlights a piece of the Rethinking Schools curriculum The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration. The connection to Valentine’s Day may not be immediately clear, but just bear with me for a bit. The Line Between Us is a book we highly recommend at Vamos a Leer. I used it as the basis for a semester long study when I taught 7th grade Social Studies and it was one of my most successful units (for both my students and myself as a teacher). If you’re not familiar with the book, here’s a quick overview: Continue reading
“Children are sweet and beautiful, but we want to show adults that the role of the child must be elevated; there are acute crises in countries when children have to make up part of the solution. You say children are the future. But we are the present, a present which we all have to build together.”
– Farlis Calle, child activist and co-founder of the Colombian Children’s Movement for Peace
Saludos, everyone! This week we will be tying up our January theme of civil rights with two incredible books by author and illustrator Janet Wilson. Each nonfiction book focuses on real life child activists from around the world, portraying them in an interesting medley of biographical information, inspiring quotes, photographs and poetry. These books are at once informative and inspiring, exposing children to a wide range of formats and styles of writing, from creative anecdotes, poetry, proverbs and metaphors, to statistical facts, historical accounts, and journalistic documentation. They also take readers on a tour of the world, with at least one profile representing each continent. While upholding values of justice, equality, and compassion, these books support the voices of child activists, empowering young readers along the way.
One of the wonderful things about these books is how rich each profile description is. Educators who are looking to focus on one specific region could easily create an entire lesson plan based on one profile. Given that we focus on Latin American content here at Vamos a Leer, this review emphasizes the Latin American children in these books, but they are only one piece of these books’ larger mosaic of information on the overarching themes of human rights and the rights of the child around the world. Continue reading
¡Feliz viernes a todos!
Thanks again for joining me this week! Last week, I featured Ana Teresa Fernández’s work in my post describing how activism can be practiced in different forms; art being one of them. This week, I will expand on the idea of activism in different forms, focusing more specifically on children as activists. As Keira noted in her Sobre Enero post, January is about focusing not only on how to teach young people about injustices, but also offering ideas for how they can take a stand against them. So, this week, I will provide online resources to introduce some really important young activists who have made a big difference in their country, Colombia, since they spoke up.
There were more than 4,000 child deaths in Colombia in 1996 due to civil war and La Violencia, which had already been underway for more than 30 years. Graça Machel, a well known humanitarian sent to study the impact of civil war and violence on children, visited Colombia that same year. When 15-year-old Farlis Calle Guerero heard the call for children’s testimony at her school, she organized as many of her classmates and friends as she could to present testimony to Graça Machel on how the war had impacted them. Bringing these students together to create this presentation led Farlis to the realization that they (her classmates and the rest of the youth) could be the solution to the violence. After the presentation, Graça reported back to the U.N. while Farlis and about two-dozen of her classmates got to work organizing and participating in peace meetings, which led to the creation of “peace zones” and “peace carnivals.” The movement, which turned out to have the participation of more than three million Colombian children, became known as the Children’s Peace Movement. Farlis and her classmates were able to start a movement, with the help of UNICEF, that created an international voice for children’s rights in all countries. Continue reading
¡Saludos, todos! Here is our second book for this month, again following the themes of civil rights and child activism. Our book for this week, That’s Not Fair! / ¡No Es Justo!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice/La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia, is a bilingual book written by Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Tenayuca and illustrated by Terry Ybáñez. This compelling tale, best for grades 2-6, recounts the biographical story of Emma Tenayuca, a young, Mexican-American activist. This book is an excellent contribution to our effort to diversify the immigrant narrative, as it exposes not only the initial hardships of immigrating to the U.S., but also the myriad of injustices and human rights abuses that have existed and still do exist for Mexican-Americans upon arrival in the U.S. Emma Tenayuca, from a very young age, recognizes the importance of education and the unfairness of the society around her. Her sympathetic viewpoint, coupled with a focused desire to redress wrongs, leads her to become a pioneer for Mexican-American rights in the U.S.
The illustrations nicely complement the themes of the story, the rights of Mexican-American laborers and pecan-shellers, and reinforce Emma’s bold agency throughout. In a review of the book, Beverly Slapin of De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children, comments upon the illustrations: “Ybáñez’s full-bleed double-spread illustrations, rendered in watercolor and pen-and-ink on a palette of bold, flat colors with bright highlights, are reminiscent of traditional Mexican murals. While Emma’s red sweater on almost every page focuses the reader’s attention on the subject, the pecan trees and branches that frame each illustration focus the reader’s attention on the issue.” Indeed, the illustrations, as you can seen in the image to the right, subtly show images of trees (the border) and pecans (the illustration on the back wall), reminding readers of the issues at hand. Continue reading
Saludos, todos, and welcome back to our weekly book reviews! Now that we have all had some time to rest during the holidays, we are ready to delve into the spring semester with an especially powerful January theme: civil rights. Throughout the month we will focus on books about child activists and the ways in which young children can make a difference in the world. These books are inspiring to say the least, and will motivate any reader of any age to stand up for a cause that they believe in. Additionally, these books empower children and adolescents, reinforcing many of our values and objectives here at Vamos a Leer.
This week I will be reviewing Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation, written by Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Leslie Staub. This book, best for ages 5-8, tells the story of a Haitian, immigrant family in the U.S. and a young girl who, amidst pain and separation, finds solace in her mother’s tales. As the protagonist overcomes some difficult challenges, she also learns to recognize the power of her own words.
The story centers on Saya, who is struggling with the separation from her mother, who has just been sent to “Sunshine Correctional” for not having “the right papers”. The name of the prison where Saya’s mom is being held reflects the practice of sugar-coating the real traumas that immigration laws and the separation of families inflict. In Danticat’s Author’s Note at the back of the book, she explains how this story is largely inspired by her own experiences as a child in Haiti dealing with the trauma of separation from her parents who moved to the U.S. Her parents tried to send for her and her brother, but could never succeed for they lacked “the right papers”. Danticat explains that she was always fascinated by “the idea of having the right papers” and how this abstract platitude weighed on many of her childhood memories: “As children in Haiti, my brother and I sometimes played writing games, making up passports, visas, and other documents that might one day reunite us with our parents.” Additionally, Danticat writes, “According to the Unites States’ Enforcement (ICE), the people Saya refers to as the immigration police, over 70,000 parents of American-born children have been jailed and deported in recent years. This book is dedicated to those children, who, like Saya, are dreaming of the day when their mother, or father, or both parents, will come home.” Danticat recreates her own childhood memories while infusing the story with elements of action, hope and change.