Responsible Citizens, Workers and Activists: Uncovering Informational Text Trios

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi with Karen Matis

text trios
Open minds Operate best.
Critical thinking Over tests.
Wisdom can’t be memorized.
Educate! Agitate! Organize!

Nagara, 2013

Innosanto Nagara’s ambitious declaration parallels Eel’s change of heart which initiated Karen’s and my month-long investigation into Responsible Citizens and Workers. A is for Activist embodies an edginess designed to encourage teachers and students to contemplate action. Our classrooms need to include more moments of agitation where teachers and students are nudged to evaluate their current lives and ponder civic responsibility.

Karen’s and my initial exploration into Responsible Citizens and Workers led us to consider subsequent steps for this next school year, when we meet new preservice teachers and seventh graders. This last blog is designed to show our expanding vision of possibilities based on this initial inquiry.

Our broader outlook on responsible citizenship led us to consider avenues for helping students take action to make a difference in their world. We hunted for role model citizens in new texts and quickly uncovered Niels Skov, a WWII Danish resistance fighter in Courage and Defiance. Sylvia Mendez, a Latino girl and her family who fought for school integration before Ruby Bridges, emerged from Separate is Never Equal. Protagonists like Parvana in The Breadwinner alongside real-life heroes like Irena Sendler in Irena’s Jars of Secrets soon appeared.

What follows is a compilation of text trios, Young Adult historical fiction or informational texts, alongside picture books, coupled with media resources, grouped to offer three different perspectives on one concept or historical time period. These text trios are designed to offer adolescent readers an opportunity to construct knowledge that “emerges through hopeful inquiry with others,” (Freire, 1986).

1850s Europe

Young Adult Texts: Informational and Historical Fiction
The Great Trouble, A Mystery of London, The Blue Death and a Boy Named Eel, Hopkinson, 2013
Outbreak: Plagues that Changed History, Barnard, 2005

Picture books
A Boy Called Dickens, Hopkinson, 2012
London: From Roman Capital to Olympic City, Platt, 2009
Plagues, Pox and Pestilence, Platt, 2011

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Cricket UCLA Dept. of Epidemiology – “John Snow and the Broad Street Pump,” Magazine, Tuthill, 2003
Center for Disease Control, Solve the Outbreak
Deborah Hopkinson’s WOW Interview

Early 1900s

1900s United States

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Kids on Strike! Campbell Bartoletti, 2003
Up Before Daybreak: Cotton and People in America, Hopkinson, 2006
Breaker Boys: How a Photograph Helped End Child Labor, Burgan, 2011

Picture Books
Bobbin Girl, McCully, 1996
Working Cotton, Williams, 1997

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
ReadWriteThink – NCTE – Giving Voice to Child Laborers Through Monologues
National Women’s History Museum, Lucy Larcom, Poet

1910s United States

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements, Hopkinson, 2003

Picture Books
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, Markel, 2013

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Immigration History Research Center, U of Minnesota, Immigration Stories – Past and Present

1920s United States

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor, Freedman, 1998

Picture Books
Which Side Are You On, Lyon, 2011

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
The History Place – Photos of Lewis Hines

1940s Europe

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Courage and Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs and Survivors, Hopkinson, 2015

Picture Books
The Grand Mosque of Paris: The Story of How the Muslims Rescued the Jews During the Holocaust, Ruelle, 2010
Irena’s Jars of Secrets, Vaughan, 2011

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Museum of Danish Resistance, Copenhagen
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

1920s-1940s U.S./Mexico

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Esperanza Rising, Ryan, 2002

Picture Books
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, Tonatiuh, 2014

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Teaching Tolerance – A Tale of Two Schools
Duncan Tonatiuh, YouTube author interview and WOW interview

1960s+ U.S./Mexico

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Voices from the Field: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories, Atkin, 2000

Picture Books
Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, Brown, 2010
Si Se Puede! Yes We Can: Janitor Strike in L.A., Cohn, 2005

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Writing Free Verse in the Voice of Cesar Chavez

Present Day

Africa

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Long Walk to Water, Park, 2011
Our World of Water: Children and Water Around the World, Hollyer, 2009

Picture Books
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth, Strauss, 2007
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Kamkwamba, 2012

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Adolescent Lit – Author interview – ParkU of Queensland Press
Culture Victoria, Refugee Camp, Ethiopia

Middle East

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Iqbal, D’Adamo, 2003
Stolen Dreams, Portraits of Working Children, Parker, 1998
The Breadwinner, Ellis, 2000

Picture Books
Malala, A Brave Girl from Pakistan and Iqbal, A Brave Boy from Pakistan, Winter, 2014
Razia’s Ray of Hope, Suneby, 2013
A is for Activist, Nagara, 2013
Nasreen’s Secret School: True Story from Afghanistan, Winters, 2009
Librarian of Basra: True Story from Iraq, Winters, 2005

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Scholastic Special Online Issue – Hazardous Child Labor
Child Labor and the Global Village
Tuberculosis outbreak in India
Deborah Ellis author interview on YouTube
Afghanistan today

Haiti

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Serafina’s Promis, Burg, 2010

Picture Books
Haiti My Country, Roge with Haiti Schoolchildren, 2014

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Author website, Roge
Crisis in Haiti, Scholastic Kid Reporters

World-wide

Young Adult Texts: Informational & Historical Fiction
Listen to Us: The World’s Working Children, Springer, 1997

Picture Books
Yasmin’s Hammer, Malaspina, 2010
This Child, Every Child: A Book About the World’s Children, Smith, 2011

Related Media Resources for Teachers and/or Students
Rights for Every Child, UNICEF
Teaching Guide for Smith’s This Child, Every Child

In closing, inspiration for Karen’s and my exploration came from three entities we must recognize. Grace Klassen, seventh grade English teacher from Exeter, California, initiated this investigation by sharing her Child Labor inquiry she developed 20 years ago. Deborah Hopkinson helped us imagine the potential within every citizen or student who chooses to accept her/his civic responsibility by offering insight from Niels Skov in Courage and Defiance. “Swim against the stream” (Hopkinson, 2015) is a notion we keep returning to as we consider next steps. Lastly we must express our gratitude to 45 seventh graders and 12 preservice teachers who keep pushing us to envision teaching as an active verb. We invite you to inspire curiosity and open-mindedness in your students and then take action in order to make a small contribution in your world.

References

Freire, P. (1986). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum.

Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Check out our two online journals, WOW Review and WOW Stories, and keep up with WOW’s news and events.

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