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In Praise of a Good Book

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

A large wolf in a forest walking towards the viewer. In the foreground is the silhouette of a young boy.There are many great books for young people available, and summertime is a great time to take advantage of the books we might have set aside hoping to get to them. Within the numerous books we might read, every now and then there is one that not only brings us pleasure but can have us thinking deeply about the state of the cosmos. Wolfstongue (2021) by Sam Thompson is one such book. I want to take nothing away from any number of books that might also have readers thinking philosophically about the world, but this book awed me in its thoughtfulness and its cosmopolitan way of envisioning the relationship between humans and nonhuman animals, and the role language plays in our often-hierarchical stance toward other species and the power differential displayed within those relationships. In the following paragraphs, I want to share some of the instances that had me contemplating and appreciating the marvels of this book. Continue reading

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Exploring Schools and Schooling Around the World

By Janine Schall, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX

Large waves fling a small boy and his boat into the airEducation is a universal right, but what children are asked to learn and the ways in which they engage in learning is very different around the world. Many children spend a significant portion of their lives in schools so it makes sense that they would be curious about how schools work and how children in different places experience school. This inquiry topic has natural interdisciplinary connections and can be a great way to begin and end the school year.

In this issue of WOW Currents, I share a text set of global and multicultural children’s picturebooks related to the school experience around the world, organized into four themes.

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Photography as a Tool for Social Change: Biographical Picturebooks

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Photography is part of the everyday world. Children (and adults, of course) are constant consumers of this medium in personal, social, political, economic and artistic realms. Indeed, practically every aspect of our lives is saturated by the photographic image. Not only are we consumers of photography, most of us are also producers of digital photographs. What began as an art form limited to scientists with specialized chemicals and equipment is now as quotidian as breakfast.

Blonde girl against blue background picks a red flowerLike many artistic practices, photography is often used as a form of activism. The photographic image can help bring hidden or shadowed issues and realities into the public eye, illuminating the world as a way to create change. An excellent way to unlock photographic history and activism for children in accessible and engaging ways is through biographical picturebooks of notable photographers. These stories provide context for how photography became so ubiquitous and essential around the globe, as well as how it has and can be used as a tool for social change, perhaps inspiring young readers to do the same. Although there are a number of excellent examples, for this post I will look closely at picturebook biographies of three artists who used the photographic medium for expression and activism: Anna Atkins of England, Jacob Riis of Denmark and the United States, and Gordon Parks of the United States. Continue reading

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The Power of Home: Promise or Uncertainty? Part II

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster College, PA, Bobbi Jentes Mason, Fresno Pacific University, CA, Karen Matis, Shenango Area School District, PA and Grace Klassen, Exeter School District, CA

Side profile of a young Black girl with a short afro, standing before a yellow background decorated by orange leaves.

“It is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need. Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.” (Matthew Desmond, 2017).

This month we explore an all too familiar struggle for affordable housing within some of our students’ and families’ lives. Last week we offered a comfortable view of home ownership for two distinct families. This week we move into uncomfortable, unreliable spaces as families struggle to find a path forward. Continue reading

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The Power of Home: Promise or Uncertainty? Part I

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster College, PA, Bobbi Jentes Mason, Fresno Pacific University, CA, Karen Matis, Shenango Area School District, PA and Grace Klassen, Exeter School District, CA

A young Black girl with pigtails looks out the window of a brick building.

“Our [nation] wasn’t originally built for everyone. Some took light-filled rooms with beautiful views. Others were consigned to basements. We’ve got to renovate so that there are good rooms for all — so that power is broadly shared.” (Danielle Allen, 2023 ).

This month Bobbi, Karen, Grace and I come together to examine the hope of home and affordable housing for all families. Through our first feature blog, we explore picturebooks offering “light-filled rooms with beautiful views” through Home is a Window and Farmhouse. Next week we assume a much less comfortable “basement” stance by examining the living spaces of under-resourced families through The Blue House, Sanctuary, The Notebook Keeper and I See You. Each situation helps us broaden our notion of home. Each text can inspire dialogic conversations with students to help broaden their lens on others who might find themselves in uncertain home settings. Continue reading

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37 Words: The Hope of Title IX’s Athletic Promise for Girls

by Karen Matis and Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

A Japanese American woman with short black hair in a red dress stands before the white house holding papers in her hands.Thirty-seven words offered in 1972 began a slow moving shift toward greater equity between female, male and nonbinary athletes.

Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act provides: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Last year, educators along with sports enthusiasts paused to commemorate Title IX’s 50 years of change, and consider the struggles and achievements of women and nonbinary athletes gaining a greater promise of equity. Continue reading

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Reclaiming Social Emotional Learning with Children’s Literature, Part II

By Angelica Serrano, 4th Grade Teacher with Jennifer Carey, School Counselor, Van Buskirk School, Tucson, Arizona

Cover of Outside In depicting a young girl in a red coat walking down a road with a cat. Trees and plants line either side of the road.

James Comer, a leading child psychiatrist once said, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”Kyle Schwartz

As a class, we discovered a certain connectedness, a bridge between each of us by exploring the activity “I wish My Teacher Knew…” The activity opened the door for our fourth-grade class to continue to have these conversations as our circles expanded and we realized just how much we each experience outside of the classroom. Now I wondered: how do we internalize this conversation and move forward? This is where we launched our second exploration with another children’s book. Continue reading

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Reclaiming Social Emotional Learning with Children’s Literature, Part I

By Angelica Serrano, 4th Grade Teacher, Van Buskirk School, Tucson, Arizona

A young child sits in the center of multiple circles like tree rings.

“Tú eres mi otro yo, si te hago daño a ti me hago daño a mí mismo; pero si te amo y respeto, me amo y me respeto yo”

“You are my other me, if I hurt you then I hurt myself too, but if I love you and respect you, then I love and respect myself too”

Award-winning playwright Luis Valdez’s poem captures a foundational teaching goal of mine, focused on reclaiming time for social emotional learning during my school day. Clearly the 2020 pandemic continues to impact children’s learning, including how children regulate their emotions and social interactions with others in the classroom. Over the past two years, teachers across the nation have expressed challenges they face through social media and other outlets. Many still see ripples of the pandemic as both students and teachers struggle to create spaces for learning, communication, cooperation, and community building. Continue reading

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Exploring a Fictional Sentience of Two Cats: Haven and Harvey

by Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

A gay striped cat with green eyes looks at the viewer from a circle with grass behind it. Framing the cat is a small picture of a bird, a bowl of soup, a woman with short brown hair, and a dog.As I noted earlier this month, an eco-cosmopolitan perspective is one way to address environmental issues, but it is an equally great way to explore the interconnectedness of all inhabitants of the planet. The definition I used was Heise’s (2008) in which she asserts that eco-cosmopolitanism is an “attempt to envision individuals and groups as part of planetary ‘imagined communities’ of both human and nonhuman kinds” (p. 61). Exploring ways in which humans are interconnected with other inhabitants of the earth has often been highlighted through conflict, specifically self against nature, which is an interesting perspective to take since that stance suggests that humans are not part of nature. What a theme to take on with secondary students! But for this blog entry, I want to highlight the connection between humans and two cats, Haven and Harvey. Both these cats give a fascinating entrée into “imagined communities” of being, in Harvey’s case, untamed or wild. In other words, feral. And for Haven, she must confront the outside world as she attempts to save her human companion. Continue reading

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Books for Exploring the Dignity of the Non-Human World

Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Pax by by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon KlassenThe environment has become a critical issue for a majority of people around the world. There are a number of ways to address the issue, and one of those ways is through an eco-cosmopolitan perspective. Eco-cosmopolitanism is “an attempt to envision individuals and groups as part of planetary ‘imagined communities’ of both human and nonhuman kinds” (Heise, 2008, p. 61). In children’s literature, we often get the perspective of an animal or insect. From Peter Rabbit (Potter, 1999) to Watership Down (Adams, 2014) to Charlotte’s Web (White, 2012) to more current texts such as Alice’s Farm (Wood, 2020) and Pax (Pennypacker, 2019), readers are delighted by the antics and/or adventures found within these marvelous examples of non-human creatures interacting in the world. Humorous tales such as the two Skunk and Badger stories (Timberlake, 2020; 2021) make us laugh, while Pax (Pennypacker, 2019), Pax Journey Home (2021) and Charlotte’s Web (White, 2012) can develop empathy for the living things outside the “human” realm. Continue reading