A Classroom with NO Borders

dear.jpgDear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin is a picture book about two cousins who are writing back and forth like pen pals. One of the cousins, Carlitos, lives in Mexico while the other cousin, Charlie, lives in America. Through their exchanges of letters we learn a lot about both of their lifestyles, interests, and environments. There are some similarities and differences in what they share with each other, which is intriguing to take note of when reading. This book is an excellent segway into how teachers can begin to include global literacy in the classroom.

Global literacy within my classroom will be prevalent each and every day. I plan to go beyond the “surface elements of culture” and dig deeper into “the ever-changing values, traditions, social and political relationships, and worldview created, shared, and transformed by a group of people bound together by a combination of factors that can include common history, geographic location, language, social class, and religion” (Nieto, as cited in Jewett, 2011). I now know the benefits that global literacy can and will bring to my students if I expose them to it and I am still constantly learning about new strategies to do this.

Many teachers tend to feel the extreme pressures of “meeting the standards,” yet exploring cultures beyond the basis’ will allow students to connect with numerous aspects of their life. I want to create opportunities for my students to connect with the world around them, so that they can ultimately reach their highest potential and be a part with the world (Dwyer, 2016).

Global literacy is not just the task of including texts from a global perspective in your classroom library. It is imperative that educators take the time to incorporate, dissect, discuss, and explore these resources within their instruction to help their students scrape beyond the surface of cultures. I am very excited for the opportunity to experience cultural explorations with my students, and I am even more excited to continue the process of deepening my understanding.

“The best books break down borders. They surprise us – whether they are set close to home or abroad. They change our view of ourselves: they extend that phrase ‘like me’ to include what was foreign and strange” (Rochman, as cited in Jewett, 2011).

Dwyer, B. (2016). Teaching and learning in the global village: Connect, create, collaborate, and communicate. The Reading Teacher, 70, 131-136.

Jewett, P. (2011). “Some people do things different from us”: Exploring personal and global cultures in a first grade classroom. The Journal of Children’s Literature, 37, 20-29.

Tonatiuh, D. (2010). Dear Primo. New York, NY: Abrams Books.


A Wrinkle in Differences

This week I read A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel which was adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. Larson does a fantastic job expressing the extreme variety of emotions the characters experience through her graphics. It puts this universal world in which Meg, Calvin, Charles, and other characters travel to into perspective for the reader.

For my writing prompt, I would like to have had my students read both of the novels: the original written by Madeleine L’Engle and the graphic novel adapted/illustrated by Hope Larson. I feel that it would be a great opportunity to have the student’s write about what the graphic novel did for them as a reader when critically analyzing the graphics used. Solely for the graphic novel, I would have students really dig into the lesson the book offers of how we all should be satisfied with our differences.

255 and pg. 256 demonstrate the concerns from Meg about that the world of Camazotz being controlled by one mind. The student’s would pay close attention to all of the details on the spread from the characters facial expressions to their actions. Then I would have them think critically about the character’s situation and apply it to their own personal lives. My students would be prompted to write about their differences that make them unique and what they would feel like their world would be like if everyone was like everyone. I think this is a great book to show how special our uniquenesses are to each and every one.


Make Your Classroom Library Not Mean!

This week we were supposed to read a book that transitions from picture books to longer chapter books. I chose to read the book Lola Levine is Not Mean!, which is the first book in the Lola Levine series.This book is about a second grade girl with a multicultural background that does not seem to have many girls as her close friends, Lola Levine. I really enjoyed this quick yet inspirational read. I believe that it discusses one prevalent issue that many kids could face growing up, which is bullying. Yet, the issue is explained in more of a light-hearted way. As the reader, you will discover how Lola deals with issues that she faces, mainly writing in her diario. I feel that this book would be a great addition to my classroom library because of all that it offers the reader!


The classroom library is (in my opinion) in the top FIVE most important aspects of the classroom.

Therefore, it is my goal as a teacher to make sure that I provide a wide range of diverse book for my students to engage with. I know that many teachers and researchers believe different things about what would be the most beneficial way to organize a classroom library. Some say to organize them by reading levels while others say to organize them by topics/genres. My ultimate goal is for my classroom library to feel like a treasure to my students. I want them to value each and every single material within it. To do this, I believe that I will need to allow ALL of my students access to ALL materials in my library no matter their reading level. I believe that a student’s interests drives their ability to understand something and as Schwanenflugel & Knapp state “full comprehension is not necessary for a reader to enjoy and benefit from a book” (2017). Therefore, the hope of my future classroom library is to be arranged by genre/topics, so that my students don’t feel restricted as a reader.

Questions that I find important to ask myself as a teacher when creating my classroom library:

  • Is my library visible to my students?
  • Is my library appealing and inviting to my students?
  • Does it incorporate a variety of different types of reading materials?
  • Can my students relate to the books within my library?
    • Does it reflect the students in my classroom?
  • Is it accessible to all students?

I know that my classroom library will not be perfect at first, yet being open and flexible to try out new things in your classroom is key as a teacher.

Schwanenflugel, P. J., & Knapp, N. F. (2017, February 27). Three myths about “reading levels” and why shouldn’t you fall for them… Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-minds/201702/three-myths-about-reading-levels


Embark on the Craziness of the Summer

Check out my book trailer below of One Crazy Summer but also continue to read to discover more about the book and author!

Rita Williams-Garcia currently resides in Queens, New York and she is an author for young adults and middle grade readers. She is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels! In her book, One Crazy Summer, she discusses the topics of independence, race, class, family, community, and more. This remarkable book is just one of a series about the Gaither Sisters! There is also PS Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama. I did some research and discovered that her idea for One Crazy Summer actually came from her memories as a child. So she combined those memories with research that she did on her own about those times!

This book is a powerful resource that we can use within the classroom. Students can easily relate to the unique characters within the story. Delphine, the older sister, who is constantly being selfless by meeting every need of her two little sisters. Vonetta, the middle sister, is more of the want to be on her own and have all of the attention on her type of girl. Fern, the youngest sister, is your typical little kid who is easily scared and upset, yet her thinking process is different than most kids her age.


Below is a website that tells you more about Rita Williams-Garcia:


Storytelling Beyond the Text

I was so unfamiliar with a moment in history that impacted education. I feel as if I have been so well educated on the Brown v. Board of Education case but never on the Mendez v. Westminster case. A children’s book that I recently read and analyzed was one that exposed me to this case in history. After reading Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, I was truly amazed that I had never heard of this case in any of the 17 ½ years that I have been in school.

There are many diverse characters throughout the story. As a reader, I really wanted to keep up with who was who, so I composed a list of the characters for my benefit. They are:

  • Gonzalo Mendez (Mr. Mendez)–> Sylvia’s father
  • Felicitas→ Sylvia’s mother
  • Mr. Harris→ Westminster school superintendent
  • Mr. Atkinson→ County superintendent
  • Jerome and Gonzalo Jr.–> Sylvia’s brothers
  • Alice and Virgina→ Sylvia’s cousins
  • Aunt Soledad→ Sylvia’s aunt
  • Secretary
  • David Marcus→ The lawyer
  • The Estrada family
  • Mr. Kent→ Superintendent of the Garden Grove district
  • Carol Torres→ 14-year-old student from the Mexican school
  • Two education specialist
  • Paul McCormick→ The judge
  • Groups from across the country
  • Earl Warren→ Governor

This historical picture book encompases a family of color, the Mendez family, who puts up a fight for desegregation specifically in the school setting. The story shows the important role that Mexican Americans played within the Civil Rights movement. Duncan Tonatiuh’s unique and purposeful illustrations paint the intensity of racism and stereotypes within the 1940s.

Take a look at the spread located on pg. 16-17:


This is right after Sylvia’s father (Mr. Mendez) met with the Westminster school superintendent (Mr. Harris), the county superintendent (Mr. Atkinson), and then with the school board of Orange County) who all firmly stood the grounds of his children attending the “Mexican school.” Yet, none of this defeated the determination that he had of getting his children the best education that they could receive. Mr. Mendez created an association (Parents’ Association of Mexican American Children) and tried to get others to sign a petition so that they could integrate schools regardless of your skin color, lifestyle, or background.

As you can tell in the illustration on the left side of the spread, the Mendez family seems to be locking hands representing how they are sticking together to fight for justice. In the illustration on the right side of the spread, there are other individuals whose hands are directed towards the Mendez family representing that they are longing for that justice. Looking at the illustration on the right more critically, I am able to see that it seems as if the two individuals closest to the Mendez family appear as adults while the two in front of them appear as their children. The two children are looking back wanting to join the Mendez family while their parents hang down their heavy heads knowing that if they want to keep their jobs then they must refrain from signing.

This shows the extreme power that the whites held over people of color restricting them from their freedoms of Americans!

The book contains many illustrations throughout the book where the author/illustrator is trying to vocalize combatting the stereotypes of people. One of my favorite spreads that shows this is on pg. 32-33.


This is all about what is going on during the appeal process of the case. The illustration depicts many groups of individuals from all different backgrounds who are marginalized by whites coming together to fight for justice. This shows the author/illustrator incorporating diverse individuals coming together to fight for justice!

As I stated before, I am in awe of how uneducated I was on the Mendez v. Westminster case prior to reading this book. This shows how much knowledge a simple book can give to a reader, and it isn’t just the text that can do this. The process “putting on” the lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT) can open up a wide whelm of perspectives. 

Solórzano & Yosso (as cited in Marshall, 2016) states that “storytelling is racialized, gendered, and classed and these stories affect racialized, gendered, and classed communities” (p. 80).

If you want to learn more about the author/illustrator then visit this website: https://www.kidsreads.com/authors/duncan-tonatiuh-0

Marshall, E. (2016). Counter-storytelling through graphic life writing. Language Arts, 94(2), 79-93.

Tonatiuh, D. (2014). Separate is never equal: The story of Sylvia Mendez and her family. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.

March On to Revolution

Whenever I first picked up the book, March: Book One, I was skeptical. I was skeptical about how I would feel about it. I am one that has never been into comic books (graphic novels) and that is what genre this book falls under. Since I am not into these types of books I immediately went into the book dreading getting through it. My negative experience and lack of experience with reading these types of books influenced my motivation to start it. This shows the importance of including all types of book into your classroom to expose students of all topics, genres, and formats.

March: Book One is a book changed my persona on graphic novels. The storyline was all about John Lewis retelling his life in the 1960s, the time during the Civil Rights Movement, to two little boys who were African Americans. The fact that the story was illustrated mainly through visuals really brought it all to life for me as a reader in a heart wrenching way. The visual made me feel present in that time period like I was an outsider in the situation. I found myself constantly wondering what I would do in a situation like that. THIS IS WHAT WE WANT OUR STUDENTS TO DO AS READERS!

I do feel that March: Book One is a very intense story which teachers should caution students about beforehand, but I do not feel that it needs to be removed from the classroom since it teaches readers so much about the life during the Civil Rights Movement.

Interestingly, the story doesn’t end at the end of this book; in fact, there are two other March books after March: Book One!

As Freire and Giroux state (as cited in Ciardiello, 2004) “providing multiple perspectives is a major element of critical literacy practice because it helps learners view text as ideologically constructed” (p.141).


The book, Revolution, is a clear example of a book told from multiple perspectives. This includes the perspective of a boy, Raymond “Ray” Bullis, who is African American and from the perspective of a girl, Sunny Fairchild, who is white. Sunny and Ray live separate lives that both include their own personal challenges, but the similar problem that they face is segregation. By Deborah Wiles including multiple perspectives, I as a reader was able to see this problem from history in a different light. This opened up my mind as a reader and encouraged me to think critically about this pivotal time period in history.

Not only does Revolution include multiple perspectives of characters but it includes a great number of quotes, facts, song lyrics, photographs, reports, and more from multiple perspectives addressing topics from the Civil Rights Movement. At first, this was confusing to me as the reader but as I continued to read I gained a better appreciation of these ‘snippets’ for they opened up the doors to dig deeper into the real-life events that occurred during this time period.

I believe that these two books would be great as a text set for incorporating critical literacy into the classroom because of how they play off of each other. They are each written in unique formats which could grasp different readers attention. In my opinion, the storyline in Revolution is not as intense as March: Book One, which could be more a relaxing read for young readers. I believe that it is important for students to see a more intensified point of view, yet they also need to see a less intensified point of view, so they are not overwhelmed nor frightened of the historical events.

“If all children had the opportunity to challenge conversations, write as citizens of society, and compare historical and contemporary forms of text and media, then imagine what they would grow up to accomplish” (Smith-Buster, 2016, p. 110-111).            

Ciardiello, A. V. (2004). Democracy’s Young Heroes: An Instructional Model of Critical Literacy Practices. The Reading Teacher, 58(2), 138-147.

Lewis, J., Aydin, A., & Powell, N. (2013). March. Book One. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions.

Smith-Buster, E. (2016). Social Justice Literature and Writing: The Case for Widening Our Mentor Texts. Language Arts, 94(2), 108-111.

Wiles, D. (2014). Revolution. (Sixties trilogy, book 2.). New York, NY: Scholastic Press.





A Splash of Diverse Literature

Having to explore books beyond the Newberry and Caldecott Awards opened up my eyes to new awards that books can receive. I first looked through all of the awards to see the purpose behind each of them, which is when I discovered that I wanted to look at a book that won the Schneider Family Book Award. As stated on the American Library Association website, this award “honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences” (Schneider Family Book Award, 2012).

The reason why this specific award caught my eye at this time was because of a conversation I had just had with a friend. The conversation was simply this individual asking me all about Victory Junction, which is a camp that I worked at for three full summers. It is a camp that serves kids who have serious medical conditions. The hope of attending this camp is that the kids will leave all barriers and limitations at the gate and enjoy just being able to be a kid! As I came across this award, I immediately started replaying all that I had just told my friend about a place I hold near and dear to my heart.

Culturally Diverse Literature is an article that I read which talked all about book diversity within the classroom. It addressed three important categories that teachers should think about when deciding to fill their classroom with culturally diverse books. These three categories are:

  • Visual and verbal sensitivity
  • Authenticity and accuracy
  • Ideology

The book that I chose to read was A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

This book was awarded:

  • WINNER – School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
  • WINNER – Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
  • WINNER – Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice
  • WINNER 2014 – Orbis Pictus Non-Fiction Award
  • WINNER – Parents’ Choice Gold Award
  • SELECTION – Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices
  • WINNER 2014 – Schneider Family Book Award
  • WINNER – Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Book
  • WINNER 2013 – New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • SELECTION 2014 – ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • SELECTION 2014 – Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
  • NOMINEE 2015 – Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award
  • NOMINEE 2015 – Georgia Children’s Book Award
  • HONOR 2014 – Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Children’s Book of the Year
  • NOMINEE 2014 – Virginia Capitol Choices Award List

This book is about the life of a Horace Pippin. He was an African American who taught himself how to draw/paint. Horace was living during the time when the United States of America was at war with Germany (better known as World War I). He joined the army, which ended up leading him to a lifelong change.




He had been shot in his right arm. The arm would forever be damaged. It was the arm….that he used to make his pictures.

He was not able to find a job anywhere because of his arm. He then discovered how to regain his strength but it wasn’t easy. Through his perseverance, passion, talent, and experiences Horace because famous.

Visual and Verbal Sensitivity- The book is full of creative, abstract, colorful (some with only just a splash of red) pictures that make the words/story come to life for the reader. Every page was intriguing and many times they lead to deeper meaning of the text itself. Below are some examples of a couple of the pages that I found captivating:

Authenticity and Accuracy- The amount and variety of awards, honors, and nominees that this one book has received has given me affirmation that this book is a quality book for the classroom. At the end of the book, there is a biography of Horace Pippin which provided me with the factual information on his life beyond this book. Then on the back of that there is an author’s and illustrator’s note which explains their inspiration for creating this book. Reading this page front and back provides me a sense of trust of the facts provided within the book.

Ideology-  There isn’t any persuasion toward any view of life throughout the book, yet it is just an exposure of the diverse life that Horace Pippin lived. He (the main character) experiences a variety of ordeals throughout his life: parent leaving, low socioeconomic status, race, wars, a deep passion, physical diverse ability, and so much more, which many individuals could relate to. The crucial part of this is that the author did not provide any opinions about certain life experiences that Horace went through.

Bryant, J. (2013). A splash of red: the life and art of Horace Pippin. New York, NY: Random House Children’s Publishing.

Boyd, F. B., Causey, L. L. & Galda, L. (2015). Culturally diverse literature: Enriching variety in an era of common core state standards. The Reading Teacher 68, 378-387.

Schneider Family Book Award. (2012, June 15). Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/presskits/youthmediaawards/schneiderfamilybookaward.

What You KEEPing from Crenshaw?

Activity: Keepsakes

It is very important to discover and expose our students to activities and/or lesson that will challenge them to think outside the box about something that they have read. Crenshaw is a great example of a book that encompases many themes and topics that many individuals could relate to in some aspect.

Luckily, I was exposed to a hyperdoc that contains numerous instructional resources that a classroom teacher could use with Crenshaw. I specifically looked at an activity that is located in part 1 (located at the bottom of the hyperdoc). The activity is all about keepsakes, which I believe is very beneficial to understand and one can learn a lot about themselves and others when participating in this activity.

Keepsakes 1

I would use this in my classroom more towards the end of the book because my students would be using the strategies of revisiting and rereading the text. The activity provides a page number to reference, but it is the responsibility of the reader to pull out what the specific characters are including in their bag and the significance that it holds. I would take this activity a step further by having my students think about how these characters evolved throughout the book and how that might change the items in Jackson and Robin’s keepsake bags. I would provide the opportunity for them to either add or remove items from Jackson and Robin’s keepsake bags, but they would have to explain why they did so.

Not only does this activity allow for students to think critically about the characters, but it allows them to apply it to their lives. It is so beneficial for one to know what they hold nearest and dearest to their heart. This is what the part below does:

Keepsakes 2
This might be difficult for some students but with teacher modeling and support the students could learn great life skills (knowing yourself, self-reflection, prioritizing, and more).
Keepsakes 3

The last thing that is included in this activity is a book that Jackson placed in his bag and a book that Robin placed in his bag. The purpose of this aspect is to discover the importance of them keeping this book and how it relates to their lives. This is something that I would encourage my students to do for themselves because it is so important for students to find themselves in a book, and this could be a segway into it!

What a great amount of activities in one section on ONLY one part of the hyperdoc! There are more that should be explored as well!


Do YOU Believe in Magic?

This week I was captivated by the book, Crenshaw, which is written by Katherine Applegate. Just by looking at the cover, I sensed the magic that was brewing as the little boy and gigantic cat sat still on a bench. Inside though is when the true magic of self-discovery, love, family, and friendship sparks. Jackson, a wise young boy, is going through life facing many challenges causing him to long for a life that is certain.

As Jackson’s dad states:

“”Life is messy. It’s complicated. It would be nice if life were always like this.” He drew an imaginary line that kept going up and up. “But life is actually a lot more like this.” He made a jiggly line that went up and down like a mountain range. “You just have to keep trying.”” (Applegate, 2015, p. 236)

I re-read that quote and thought critically about it by relating it to my life.

“”Life is messy. It’s complicated. It would be nice if life were always like this.” He drew an imaginary line that kept going up and up. “But life is actually a lot more like this.” He made a jiggly line that went up and down like a mountain range. “You just have to keep trying.”” (p. 236)

Instantly, a vivid diagram appear in my mind of my life ups and downs. This is one amazing thing that the author, Katherine Applegate, did! She developed these characters throughout the story that were so rich and relatable, who ultimately pulled on the strings of our hearts.

Life can be confusing just like Jackson was.

Another amazing thing Katherine did was include many common life challenges throughout the story. Challenges of finance, moving, school, hunger, friendship, family, longing, prioritizing, lying, appreciation, love, and more! For teachers, the options of educational opportunities in this book are unlimited!

The hyperdoc https://www.thebooksomm.com/home/crenshaw opened my eyes to many ideas that I could explore with this book within my classroom that address many of the challenges and themes prevalent throughout the book.

Life can be unpredictable just like Crenshaw was.

Before I read Crenshaw, I read two pictures books, Curious About Fossils and The World of Weird Animals: What Makes a Monster? These books were intriguing and contained many facts, but I was confused on how it was going to apply to a book about a cat and a boy.

Life can be limited by what you choose to notice just like Jackson did.

Once I dug into Crenshaw I realized that the dreams of being a paleontologist and random facts about animals were addressed. BOOM! As a teacher, I could use these books together as a text set because of how they have the ability to build off of each other and expand my students’ knowledge.

In order to expand my students’ knowledge as effectively as I can through reading I should know my students’ interests. I want my students to want have a love for reading and it not be forced upon them. The first step in this is for me to discover a way to create reading experiences that will interest them. A great way to discover these interests are with interest inventories. This is an inventory that can help teachers strategically select books to use for the whole-class, the classroom library, and even in book talks (Springer, Harris, and Doyle, 2017, p. 45).

I simply started to research different ideas of interest inventories and here is a link from Pinterest which shows some examples: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/student-interest-inventory/?lp=true. I would use resources from this and other sources to create the best interest inventories for my students each year!

It is my job as a teacher to help students see themselves throughout all academic areas in my classroom. I want them to be engaged, challenged, and inspired. There is a purpose behind reading and I want to discover the interests of my students so they can grow as readers and as individuals. What a magical experience!

Life can be magical just like Crenshaw was.

As Renninger and Bachrach state (as cited in Springer, Harris, and Doyle, 2017) “Interest has a powerful impact on both the cognitive and affective aspects of reading: It affects both how we think and how we feel about what we read” (p.44).

Applegate, K. (2015). Crenshaw. New York, NY: Feiwel And Friends.

Springer, S. E., Harris, S., & Dole, J. A. (2017). From surviving to thriving: Four research-based principles to build students’ reading interest. The Reading Teacher, 71 (1), 43-50.