Fiction that Inspires

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati

Last week I talked about the three biographies on the WOW Recommends list and how inspiring they are for young people. This week I want to talk about a few equally inspiring fiction pieces. Those three books are The Stars at Oktober Bend (2018) by Glenda Millard, Speak: The Graphic Novel (2018) by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Escape from Aleppo (2018) by N.H. Senzai. While I suggest these books are inspiring, that does not mean they are without tragedy. In fact, all three chronicle an overwhelming tragedy for each of the protagonists. And it is their battle to overcome despite the tragedy, their hope for their futures and their ultimate victories that are so inspiring. The readers are with these characters as they encounter or struggle through the aftermath of each of their individual horrors. Let’s take a look at each one in turn. They deserve this second look!

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Re-Introducing 2018 WOW Recommends

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati

Each year, members of the Worlds of Words community recommend monthly books for readers to consider through the WoW Recommends feature. The main criteria is that the book must have a publish date within the last two years. Taking a look back at the 2018 list, I was interested in finding out what had been recommended so that I might read these books and think about how they may or may not resonate with me. I was also curious about what themes were discussed so that I might share my own thoughts about these texts.
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Gender Themed Latinx Children’s Literature

By Gilberto Peña Lara, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Gender is often presented as a binary where children have only two specific gender trajectories. As social norms, children are expected to conform to male or female ways of being. When children deviate from these social rules they are often met with harsh scolding, ridicule or even threats of harm. School is a place of socialization where children are socialized in many ways including rigid gendered identities. The classroom also offers important opportunities to break with sexist and homophobic attitudes and language. Just as we have a responsibility to stand up to racism or advocate for diversity, we also need to position gender identity as equally important and a basic human right. Continue reading

Exploring the Latinx Immigration Experience through Children’s Literature

By Maria Leija, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

There are many children’s books that are now available to discuss immigration. Discussing immigration sheds light on the emotional and physical hardships that documented and undocumented immigrants face as they immigrate to another country and/or live in their new country. The impact of immigration status on teachers’ as well as students’ and their families’ lives continues to be important for understanding the need for changes in schools. For example, societal views on immigration affects families’ home life and children’s schooling experiences. Because immigration policies and practices affect the health, academic performance, and school attendance of undocumented students or students living in mixed-status families; teachers, administrators, and school communities are not exempt from dealing with the repercussions of immigration policies. The American Federation of Teachers encourages teachers to discuss immigration issues as a way to create a safe learning environment and so that students identify educators as allies who can provide important information. Continue reading

Agency and Community in Latinx Immigrant Journey Picturebooks

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

This month in WOW Currents my colleagues and I discuss various aspects of children’s literature that features Latinx characters and settings. The Latinx population in the United States has grown dramatically and Latinx people now make up about 20% of the U.S. population. Yet this group remains underrepresented in the media, including children’s book publishing. Continue reading

Teaching about the Refugee Experience

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

In this month’s WOW Currents, Yoo Kyung Sung and Junko Sakoi talked about their project, “Read, Write, Review for Us (RWRU)” and how it is helping to educate local Tucson children about the refugee experiences of kids just like them. This week we will focus on the positive developments that came from the students’ pen pal experience. We will also discuss what teachers can do through classroom instruction to cultivate awareness of the diversity of people and cultures in the community.

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Creating Student Connections Using Text Sets

By Sakoi Junko, Tucson Unified School District and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico

This week, we will continue the discussion about text sets, which were created by the “Read, Write, Review for Us (RWRU)” project to help educate local Tucson children about refugee students’ homelands and the diversity within those groups of people. Once the first text set was displayed for book browsing in the classroom, the 5th graders were able to “relocate” their old home into the various stories within the books. We observed the excitement in the students’ voices as they shared stories of their homeland with their peers. It became obvious at that point that even the 5th graders did not know each other’s backgrounds. Because they are often generalized as “refugee students”, the students’ individual identities are often forgotten. With the exception of customs, the refugee and immigrant students are no different from any of the American students beginning the new year in a new classroom every August. It was particularly advantageous to put aside the term, “refugee” and allow the children to learn about each other from a fresh perspective.

Creating Student Connections Using Text Sets Continue reading