Sunday, February 7, 2016

Can a Children's Book Change the World?

Without a doubt, I have become a stronger, better-equipped educator as a result of the Professional Learning Network (PLN) I have been able to develop over the last six years.  Recently, as a result of my PLN, I came across Linda Sue Park's TEDx Talk addressing the question, "Can a Children's Book Change the World?"

I consider myself so blessed to be in a position where we can truly impact a community through the decisions we make at our school; a school that some outsiders consider "a tough place to teach" and the incredible insiders who pour their hearts into their professions consider "a place that is exactly where we are meant to be."

Linda Sue Park wraps up her Tedx Talk with "Can a children's book save the world?  No, but the young people who read them can."

I only have to go back to this past week to provide multiple examples to support her final statement; like when a young man in 5th grade was talking to a 4th grade counterpart about Tim Green's Unstoppable and said something along the lines of "Be careful when you get to the end of Chapter 4.  You might cry."  

Linda Sue Park continues with, "Two crucial pathways are being laid down.  The first in their brains.  Reading for practice at life.  The second, in their lives.  Empathy igniting engagement."

It's a little difficult to read, but on Friday, I received a letter from a student who is really enjoying Sharon Draper's Out of my Mind.  If you are not familiar with this story (it is one of my all-time favorites), Melody is young lady with cerebral palsy who isn't given much credit for being the intelligent young lady that she is.  Below, is a piece of the letter I received from Emani.

"It's just horrid (speaking of how Melody was being treated) and after I read the first chapter I felt like I had to do something about all the people that have disorders.  Like I could find a cure or do anything to make their life any better than it already is."

My response to Emani is below.

After Emani had a chance to read my response, we spoke about the action she could take to lift up others.  We pulled Rubi into the conversation as well (as she had read Out of my Mind earlier in the year).  I shared with them that I had spoken with one of our teachers who works with students with mild intellectual disabilities in a self-contained classroom and that she was eager to have some volunteers to work with her students.

Emani and Rubi, 5th graders, are now volunteering their time (during lunch) once a week to serve others.  I've spoken with a 4th grade teacher who is currently using Out of my Mind as her Extended Text and she's already planning on planting the seed with Masiah and another young man to see if they would like to do the same.

So, back to Linda Sue Park's question, "Can a children's book save the world?  No, but the young people who read them can."  I couldn't agree more, Ms. Park.