Monday, September 19, 2016

Part 1- Unique Picture Books for Social Studies

As a Social Studies and Reading teacher(who also happens to be an AVID book lover), I am always on the hunt for picture books that I can use to help teach content topics, introduce important people and events, and bring some joy and excitement to learning. 

That is why I am so excited about the following 4 books. I learned about most of these titles while I was at Nerd Camp this past summer and knew that they would be valuable stories for me to share with my students. 

The first is Unspoken by Henry Cole. Three major things make this book a must have. 

1) The book has no words. The story is told strictly through the remarkable black and white illustrations. This also means that the students are encouraged to really pay attention to the details of the pictures and the sequencing of the illustrations in order to piece together the storyline.

2) The story offers a unique twist on the Underground Railroad. Instead of telling the story through the eyes of a runaway slave or even a sympathizer, the story is told through the eyes of a young girl who notices a slave hiding in her family's shed. Instead of telling her family, she keeps it a secret and brings the slave food. Confederate troops visit the home, scouts are sent to look for slaves, and yet the girl still helps the slave and remains silent. There is a sweet end to the story that my 5th graders really enjoyed. 

3) Like many of my favorite teaching books, this one allows me to bring in multiple teaching points at once. We can discuss sequencing, summarizing, conventions of standard English,writing crafts,  and Social Studies topics surrounding the Pre/Civil War....just to name a few!

The second book is Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins.  I love that this author takes two individuals, from different, important eras, whose paths overlap because they believe in rights and equality for all. 

The two individuals meet over a cup of tea. Susan highlights the rights that women did not have and the things that they could not do. She knew she wanted more and was ready to fight for more rights. Frederick shares important parts about his life as well. He was a slave, but he yearned for more so he secretly learned to read and write. He too believed in rights for all. 

Together, Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony meet and talk about their plans for changing the future. 

Westward Expansion and the Reconstruction were two of my students' favorite time periods last year. I have a feeling that a lot of it had to do with the Social Studies simulations that we did, but I think an exciting reading passage about the outlaws, crime, gold, and new beginnings was also what made it such a big hit. So, when I stumbled across Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall by Vaunda Micheasux Nelson, I grabbed it for my readers!

This book follows the life of Bass Reeves. Reeves was a slave from Texas with a lot of promise. A life changing event caused Reeves to escape to Indian Territory. He lived with Indians until the end of the war and eventually became a Deputy Marshall for Oklahoma. 

The illustrations are engaging, the text is interesting, and the historical events shared throughout the story help readers better understand the time period.  This book would be great for middle school students and mature readers. 

I can't quit sharing this book. The Tree is the Courtyard:Looking Through Anne Frank's Window by Jeff Gottesfeld gives me goosebumps every time I read it. 

This story is written from the point of view of a tree sitting outside the annex of Anne Frank's father's factory. The tree watches Anne and her family. The tree watches her writing in her journal. She sees the family suffering, but does not understand why. The tree loves Anne.

The story changes when the tree watches Anne and her family being taken away, and she is there watching when only Anne's father returns. 

The author of this story has taken events from Anne's published journal and woven them into this story. 

The afterword at the end of the book shares information about the actual tree and informs readers that seedlings from the tree have actually been planted around the world. One is planted at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. Beautiful story!

So, there are a few picture books that we have really enjoyed adding to our classroom. 

Unspoken and The Tree in the Courtyard and two of my favorites right now! Check back soon as I share some more of my favorites with you!


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