On My Journey Now:
Looking at African-American History Through the Spirituals
(Candlewick Press, 2007)
116 pp. $18.95 hardback
In a series of short essays accessible to middle and high-schoolaged students, Giovanni retells the African-American freedom struggle using excerpts from spirituals. This book will be useful to teachers wanting to deepen their teaching of history with music, as well as music teachers who want their students to better understand the social significance of this genre of music.
(ACLU of Massachusetts, 2006)
70 pp. $5
Written to appeal to the interests of middle- and high-schoolaged students, this engaging booklet introduces the history and importance of the Bill of Rights. Going beyond the history of when they were written, Rights Matter describes how people have fought to make the Rights a reality, with many examples of people who "have rights because they dare to maintain them," in the words of 19th century writer and activist James Russell Lowell. The companion website is worth a visit, with or without the booklet — www.rightsmatter.org
How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools
(Harvard Education Press, 2007)
250 pp. $24.95
During the No Child Left Behind reauthorization, many criticisms are being raised of the law, but this book focuses on just one. As the authors note, "High-stakes testing in education has been, is, and will continue to be a failure." Drawing on extensive research, Nichols and Berliner document and categorize the ways that high-stakes testing threatens the purposes and ideals of U.S. education. They apply "Campbell's Law," which posits that the greater the social consequences associated with a quantitative indicator (such as test scores), the more likely it is that the indicator itself will become corrupted — and the more likely that the use of the indicator will corrupt the social processes it was intended to monitor. Through data analysis and anecdotal examples, the authors show the mounting negative impact that the current testing craze is wreaking upon students and educators. These scholarly arguments and clear descriptions of the human consequences provide a useful tool for those fighting the highstakes testing craze.
Lessons in Powerful Education (2nd Edition)
164 pp. $19.50
Written by founders and cofounders of various "democratic schools" in the United States, this revised and updated 2nd edition of Democratic Schools offers models of school reform based on community activism and social justice. Contributors include Rethinking Schools' Bob Peterson and the story of La Escuela Fratney, as well as Deborah Meier and Paul Schwarz of the Central Park East Secondary School. Including the text of the original, this 2nd edition also offers a new chapter on an elementary school in Chicago's Cabrini Green, as well as author updates on the status and struggles of their schools since the 1st edition was published 12 years ago.
The Politics of Patriotism in America's Schools
(Teachers College Press, 2007)
219 pp. $18.95
Too often, "patriotism" goes unexamined, in school as in the larger society. The assumption is that patriotism is a virtue, evoking notions of loyalty, generosity, and self-sacrifice. Not so fast, according to many of the contributors in Pledging Allegiance. The book includes numerous critical articles on patriotism — and a few not-socritical. Some of these could be used with high school students. The collection would be a welcome addition to a teacher education curriculum. Contributors include Gloria Ladson-Billings, Deborah Meier, Robert Jensen, and Bill Ayers.
Bronzeville Boys and Girls
(HarperCollins Publishers, 2007)
42 pp. $16.99 hardback
In 1956 Gwendolyn Brooks wrote a collection of poems set in the Bronzeville section of Chicago that celebrated the joys and imagination of childhood. These simple poems that vividly describe the everyday life of different children have been used for decades by teachers. In this new edition they are accompanied by vibrant paintings of the Caldecott Honor artist Faith Ringgold.
Different Like Coco
(Candlewick Press, 2007)
32 pp. $16.99 hardback
A delightful, biographical, "rags to riches," illustrated story about Coco Channel, who Pablo Picasso once described as having "more sense than any other woman in Europe." Challenging class and gender boundaries, Coco went from an orphanage to becoming one of the world's foremost designers.
Teachers can use Different Like Coco along with Shana Corey's picture book, You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer, to help children learn how women have struggled for the rights most societies now take for granted.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
(David Fickling Books, 2006)
224 pp. $15.95
This book is best given to a mature reader with some background knowledge about the Holocaust. Set in the early 1940s, the nine-year-old protagonist, Bruno, comes home from school to find the family's maid in his room, packing his things. His unremitting politeness bars him from speaking to her, as he would wish. We follow him and his family from their beautiful, five-story home in Berlin to their new home in "Out-With" that "seemed to be the exact opposite of their old home." Through Bruno's innocent, naïve perspective, we experience forbidden friendship during one of the darkest times in history — which of course couldn't happen in this day and age....
(Roaring Brook Press, 2006)
131 pp. $16.95
Ann Jaramillo teaches 7th and 8th graders in Salinas, Calif. In an afterward to her book, Jaramillo writes, "Many, many of my students have been and continue to be new-arrival immigrants, 12, 13, 14 years old. They set foot in my classroom not knowing a word of English, some having survived a journey that is daunting for even the hardiest of individuals. From them I have learned the meaning of optimism, courage, and determination." All of these qualities are captured eloquently in Jaramillo's first novel about a brother and sister who leave their village in Mexico. The youngsters' trek takes them (inadvertently) to Chiapas, where they board the mata gente, the people killer — so named because of the dangers of jumping onto this moving train, but also because of the gangs, police, and military who prey on migrants. The book is fast paced but detailed enough to offer readers a compelling portrait of the horrific conditions this brother and sister encounter, as well as the solidarity received from other migrants and Mexicans along the route. As is true of most stories of migration from Mexico to the United States, the book gives insufficient attention to the roots of the conditions that prompt such a dangerous journey. But La Línea is a sympathetic and authenticfeeling account that is an excellent classroom resource.
Gaia Girls: Enter the Earth
(Daisyworld Press, 2006)
336 pp. $18.95 hardback
Enter the Earth is the first of a new series of books geared to intermediate readers and published by the notable environmental publishing house, Chelsea Green. If the first book is any indication of things to come, these books will be enjoyed by young adults as well as the recommended "9 and up" target audience. In this book, Elizabeth is the first of four Gaia Girls to discover — via a talking otter — that she has been granted special powers by Gaia, the spirit of the Earth. Young Elizabeth must learn to use her powers responsibly to help Gaia survive the effects of modern humanity. She must help save her community from a corporate factory pig farm that wants to take over all of the neighboring farmland, including her family's organic farm. Enter the Earth combines a humorous, enjoyable story with the message that we all must work together to save the Earth.
Schools for Chiapas
Schools for Chiapas, the organization that has worked for years in solidarity with popular struggles in southern Mexico, has launched a new website. The site includes English translations of documents and resources, and many original materials in Spanish. It also offers information on educator trips to Chiapas as well teaching materials and a photo gallery that could be useful in class.