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Ukraine: Unexpected Connections and Insights

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi and Grace Klassen

A single story or book cannot completely portray the richness or ambiguities of one culture (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2009). As we study media images of atrocities occurring within Ukraine, we pause to wonder about these vibrant, resilient people and their varied stories. This exploration allows us to develop a more comprehensive understanding of universal themes relevant to many cultures which emerge from Ukrainian children’s authors. Continue reading

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Marching Towards Justice for All: Part II

by Daliswa Kumalo and Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

This week Daliswa (Didi) and I continue our look back at her African American Read-In experience with third graders, inspired by their exploration of Let the Children March. We share letters sent to students from foot soldiers still residing in Birmingham, Alabama and then consider third graders’ reactions. This insight from Desiree Cueto sums up our overarching intentions. “Our hope is that this work will inspire others to be courageous in their teaching and in their resolve to usher in a new generation of thoughtful and compassionate citizens.” Continue reading

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Marching Towards Justice for All: Part I

by Daliswa Kumalo and Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

Four young people in 1950s fashion lead a parade of protestors.Two years ago, Daliswa “Didi” Kumalo shared a compelling picturebook, Let the Children March, with third graders during our School of Education’s annual African American Read-In. She recently revealed the impetus for crafting this engagement. “When I was younger, my dad always told me that ‘history tends to repeat itself.’ As much as I wished that wasn’t the case, as I get older the connections to the past have never felt closer.” Through our blog post, I (Charlene) reveal Didi’s ability to connect 8- and 9-year-olds to the Civil Rights child foot soldiers featured in Monica Clark-Robinson and Frank Morrison‘s award winning book. We believe this literature engagement highlights the value of building bridges to our nation’s past. When teachers initiate hard conversations surrounding unresolved racial struggles, children can begin to consider their power to create much-needed change today. Continue reading

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Hidden Stories of Hope: Relevant Picture Book Biographies for Science Classrooms

by Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

In our last WOW Currents entry of the month, Charlene and I consider the challenges of supporting science preservice teachers. In past weeks we examined the usefulness of Young Adult picture book biographies to humanize complex content in ELA, history and math classes. We believe middle school learners deserve occasions to study change agents whose lives demonstrate a bridge between complex school content and purposeful use of this content in everyday lives. Continue reading

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Hidden Stories of Determination: Relevant Picture Book Biographies for Math Classrooms

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi and Karen Matis

This month of WOW Currents invites readers to examine adolescent picture book biographies providing relevant disciplinary points of connection for middle school math learners. Three books focus on determined female mathematicians with an additional text featuring a football player of note who pursued his passion for art following a professional sports career. Continue reading

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Hidden Stories of Change: Relevant Biographies and Non-fiction for the History Classroom

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi with Karen Matis

Cover of The Grand Mosque of Paris depicting Jewish families walking into a blue mosque.

This week we continue our exploration of “Hidden Stories” by revealing historical personalities too often overlooked. We zero in on adolescent books highlighting change agents chosen by history preservice teachers.

“I took many history courses in high school and college. Why have I never heard of these events?” (Makenzie, history major). This refrain, in response to Isabel’s Learning Invitation on the nonfiction book The grand mosque of Paris: A story of how Muslims rescued the Jews during the Holocaust (Ruelle, 2010), became a familiar response as we delved further into our hidden stories exploration. Continue reading

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Hidden Stories of Courage: Relevant biographies for the ELA classroom

by Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

Cover of How We Are Smart depicting six Black historical figures.

As collaborators in our work with secondary education preservice teachers each fall, we offer a month long look at picture book biographies filled with stories of courageous, determined global citizens that will especially appeal to adolescents.

The selected biographies we share present “Hidden Stories” of diverse writers, historical figures, mathematicians and scientists, all courageous activists who tackled their own set of problems in by-gone years. Our goal focuses on offering inspirational moments through relevant texts, thus revealing spirited advocates for change.

The past year brought unrest into the lives of many adolescents. In the midst of their naturally occurring coming of age insecurities, young people also endured circumstances resulting from health, social justice and political uncertainties. Such upheaval creates openings for middle school teachers to pause and ponder much needed moments of inspiration. We invite you to our discussion of inspiring picture books that encourage adolescents to consider their own lives in juxtaposition to others who also faced uncertainties in their lives. Continue reading

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MTYT Bonus: Looking Ahead to a Puerto Rican Read In

René Picó and Charlene Klassen Endrizzi close their inquiry with a bonus post looking ahead to their upcoming Puerto Rican Read In, scheduled for Fall 2018. We hope our read-in helps children connect to cross-cultural experiences through common everyday interactions and ponder cultural misunderstandings some mainlanders hold about a group of American citizens from another region in the United States.

Looking Ahead to a Puerto Rican Read In Continue reading

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MTYT: The Role of Women in Puerto Rican Culture

Many layers of idiosyncrasies lie within the books that allow readers to explore the cultural complexities of the Puerto Rican experience. This week, My Take/Your Take looks at the role of women in Puerto Rican culture as evident through a contemporary, well-known role model in Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx and a quieter, equally crucial role model in Grandma’s Records.

The Role of Women in Puerto Rican Culture--Sonia Satomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx Continue reading

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MTYT: Sights and Sounds in Puerto Rican Picturebooks

This July, René Picó and Charlene Klassen Endrizzi explore the cultural complexities of the Puerto Rican experience. Many layers of idiosyncrasies can be uncovered within these books by the reader. The aim is to reveal how Puerto Rico “is a human archipelago… self-assertive, puzzling and contradictory.”

Our search for Puerto Rican picturebooks continues as we focus on the rich eco-diversity of our Caribbean island. We hope to fascinate readers with the sights and sounds of the distinctive Puerto Rican wildlife (including parrots, coquís and iguanas) through our discussion of The Coqui and the Iguana and Parrots Over Puerto Rico.

The Coqui and the Iguana Continue reading