WOW Currents

Challenging Status Quo to Create Peace in Children’s Literature

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

One of my challenges is to fit inside the boxes that different groups in society create for me to live in. For example, I am a professor, so I live with the box of student expectation and preference for numerical grades instead of narrative feedback (my preference). Another box I live with relates to the frequent moves I have made between countries, states or provinces. Each place has their own way of operating, so I spend the first few months in a new environment learning the rules of that community. There are many rules that are fine and help me get along with the neighbors (e.g., “Mow your lawn once a week”). Others puzzle and constrain (e.g.,”Normal families eat dinner at 6 p.m.”) and end up making me feel odd, unwelcome and definitely not at peace.

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WOW Currents

The Difference Between Wants and Needs

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

A big challenge I faced as a parent of four boys was helping them understand the difference between things that are a big want and things that are a small want. My husband and I had no extra money, so it was important that they grasp the difference so they did not feel deprived! It took multiple discussions for them to develop a nuanced understanding of what was a need and what would be cool to have. The great challenge for me as a parent was providing them with what they didn’t consider to be a want, but that, unbeknownst to them, they needed in order to have a sense of peace, of well-being. Those “hidden” big wants or needs are the focus of this post.

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WOW Currents

Seeking Peace in Children’s Literature

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

As I began to write this post, President Trump returned from the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The goal: a fragile peace. While I don’t work towards peace at that diplomatic level, my desire to foster world peace motivates what I do on a daily basis. My hope as an educator is to shape my students to be peace-seeking individuals. But fostering peace in the classroom or at home isn’t always easy because peace is abstract and difficult to describe; it’s hard to figure out how peace “happens.” It’s not passivity, ignoring conflict in the hopes that it will go away. And it’s not the opposite, digging in heels at all costs because we feel we’re right.

So what is peace? I went to an older book written and illustrated by Katherine Scholes and Robert Ingpen–Peace Begins With You. I used their description of peace as the organizing tool for this month’s posts. The questions I have explored are: What is peace? What does it feel like? What does it look like? How can I describe it through stories? I’ve explored one descriptor each week by looking at books that give a picture of what peace means for a young person.

The first descriptor of peace is having the things you need: water, food, shelter and safety. The United Nations considers these as rights for children. The following books explore the implications when those necessities are missing.
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MTYT: Orion and the Dark

As we discussed last week, the current emphasis in schools on developing emotional health in children prompted our selection of books. We chose books that center around emotions common to children (loss, fear, anger) but with a twist. The emotions act as a character in the story. Also important, the books tell stories of a child coming to grips with emotion. The focus is on the great story–not on a list of coping skills found in the end matter and meant to teach children and parents. This week, we discuss Orion and the Dark.

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WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Mary’s Monster

Mary's Monster by Lita JudgeWriting in free verse and illustrating in stark black-and-white watercolors for Mary’s Monster, Lita Judge tells the story of Mary Shelley, the pregnant teen runaway who authored the first Gothic horror story, Frankenstein. Lord Byron’s challenge to write a horror story may be the often-cited reason Shelley wrote her book, but Mary’s Monster demonstrates the way the author drew on elements of her own difficult life to create the story of an experiment gone awry. Judge tells the story through Mary’s voice. Her sparse verse weaves the story of Mary’s own rejection with her creation of a monster rejected by society. Continue reading

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MTYT: Little Fox In the Forest

While serving on award committees, we took notice of books published in 2017 that feature foxes as characters. Throughout January, we looked at a few of these books to see how, or if, authors and illustrators reflect some of the more traditional and cultural views of foxes or if this is a new generation of perceptions of foxes. This week we give our takes on one final book. We started with The Fox and the Wild, then looked at The Fox Wish, also discussed Pandora and last week we give our takes on The Secret Life of the Red Fox. This week we discuss Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin.

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MTYT: The Secret Life of the Red Fox

Throughout January, we discuss the representation of foxes in recently published children’s books. This became our focus as we served on literature award committees and noticed so many picturebooks about foxes piqued our interest. We wondered if this representation or characterization of the fox changed from the traditional portrayals of foxes. This is our fourth book to give our take on this month. We started with The Fox and the Wild, then looked at The Fox Wish and discussed Pandora last week. This week we give our takes on The Secret Life of the Red Fox by Laurence Pringle and Kate Garchinsky.

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MTYT: The Fox and the Wild

Several members of our group serve on literature award committees and noticed that in 2017 publishers released some interesting books about foxes. We wondered if the representation or characterization of the fox changed from the traditional portrayal as a sly personality in trickster tales, classics like Aesop’s Fables, Pinocchio and Three Little Pigs, or modern tales like Fox (Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks) and Rosie’s Walk (Pat Hutchins). Are fox characters more empathetic in recent publications such as Pax (Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen)? In week 1, we discuss The Fox and the Wild by Clive McFarland.

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WOW Currents

Books that Support STEAM Explorations

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

While many books can be used to explore mathematical connections, the four titles profiled in this post work particularly well. I include cross-disciplinary inquiries that fit with each title, particularly inquiries that support STEAM explorations. The suggested inquiries can support the transfer of concepts between disciplines, critical thinking about social issues in classes in mathematics, history, science, and the arts, and creative problem solving.

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WOW Currents

Stories and Poems that Incorporate Math

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

This week’s focus is on books that incorporate math into a story. Books written to teach a mathematical concept are not always connected well to real life. The stories profiled in this post are about people who use math in their work, their social lives and their classes. The stories are complex with layered characters and are rich with themes to explore and discuss in STEM areas and also in other content areas (particularly the social sciences). The second half of the post is focused on poetry that incorporates math and science.

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