K2 Read Alouds: Week 10: Eboné Tales

Week of November 18-22.


We had a field trip to the Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday. One of our activities was to paint a mural on recycled paper, using bits of nature  to paint our strokes rather than bristled brushes. There was a book on a bench. So I read it to the children while they created our mural. The book was The Color Box by Dayle Ann Dodds. Illustrated by Giles Laroche.



Eboné tale, The Girl Who Spun Gold by Virginia Hamilton. Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. The children asked if we could act out this story sometime. So I’ll have to fit it into the curriculum at some point, to appease the budding actors.

The Girl Who Spun Gold By Virginia Hamilton

The Girl Who Spun Gold
By Virginia Hamilton

Illustration by Leo & Diane Dillon for Virginia Hamilton's The Girl Who Spun Gold

Illustration by Leo & Diane Dillon for Virginia Hamilton’s The Girl Who Spun Gold


The Science teacher read the students a story, but I don’t know which one. Though, I’m sure it was awesome because our Science teacher is pretty awesome.

 Thursday and Friday

Eboné tale, Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

We’ve begun creating miniature furniture for Hewitt, in the classroom. The kids have begun learning to sew as well. Thus far, the protagonist, Hewitt, has three hand-sewn pillows to rest his petite head on beds of plastic crate pieces and feathers. Photos to come.



In the Listening Center

I picked up Nikki Giovanni’s Hip Hop Speaks to Children book & CD, for a steal at Rodney’s Used Bookstore in Cambridge.

hiphopcoverThanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

1st Graders deciphering Langston’s Train Ride


Langston’s Train Ride
by Robert Burleigh.
Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

I look forward to more conversations like these, but closer to June…when my Kindergarten crew is developed and ready. Happy school ya’ll.

Thanks for watching The Picture Book Pusher.

Black History Taught in September & The 50th Anniversary of ‘I Have a Dream’

Illustration by Kadir Nelson 2012

Illustration by Kadir Nelson 2012

As we embark on the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  delivery of his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and march again to Washington, on August 24th, 2013, I like to think my young students will be having discussions about these events in their homes, with their families, during these last weeks of summer before the school year.  Goodness knows they’ll be having them with me in the classroom, come September.

I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King. Illustrations by Kadir Nelson.  Schwartz & Wade 2012

I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King. Illustrations by Kadir Nelson.
Schwartz & Wade 2012

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimner

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin
by Larry Dane Brimner

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco Published by Philomel 1994

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
Published by Philomel 1994

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

I, Too, Am America By Langston Hughes Illustrated by Bryan Collier Simon & Schuster 2012

I, Too, Am America
By Langston Hughes
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Simon & Schuster 2012

Ellington Was Not A Street By Ntozake Shange Illustrated by Kadir Nelson Simon & Schuster 2004

Ellington Was Not A Street
By Ntozake Shange
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Simon & Schuster 2004

The 50th anniversary of ‘I Have A Dream’ provides me with a perfect “excuse” to begin our American history lessons in September (through June), rather than the too-easily-embraced-custom of teaching it only from February 1st – 28th. Who can object to my lessons beginning in September? After all, I am a Dreamkeeper, and tomorrow’s march on Washington makes The Civil Rights Movement a current event.  The Civil Rights Movement is now.

Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher

Ideal Picture Books for the K2 Classroom

So this year, I will be teaching Kindergarten in an Inclusion setting, rather than first grade. I’ve taught K2 before so I’m cool with it. I will miss guiding students in the persuasive essay process though. That’s right, persuasive essays in first grade.

Anyhow, the following picture books will surely be permanent fixtures in our K2 space. They are ideal and hard to come by.

The Sweet and Sour Animal Book By Langston Hughes

The Sweet and Sour Animal Book
By Langston Hughes

The Book of Mean People By Toni Morrison & Slade Morrison Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

The Book of Mean People
By Toni Morrison & Slade Morrison
Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

Grump Groan Growl By bell hooks Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Grump Groan Growl
By bell hooks
Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou Illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me
by Maya Angelou
Illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat

One by Kathryn Otoshi

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Lil Man Makes a Name for Himself Written & Illustrated by Caleb Neelon Cantab Publishing 2004

Lil Man Makes a Name for Himself
Written & Illustrated by Caleb Neelon
Cantab Publishing 2004

Queen of the Scene by Queen Latifah Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Queen of the Scene by Queen Latifah
Illustrated by Frank Morrison

These are some of my faves. Find them where you can.

Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher

Everyone’s Books: For Social Change and the Earth – A Bookstore*


Everyone’s Books bookstore, located in Brattleboro, Vermont. Photo taken by…me. December 2012
Everyone’s Books: 25 Elliot St. Brattleboro, VT. 05301. (802) 254-8160.

Happy New Year!  Before the new year rang in, I visited a few bookshops for the first time. One being Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro, VT.  Fulfilling first time trip. Lovely, and mindful staff. Divinely engaging Children’s section. As always, it was a joy to come across so many titles that I had never heard of before. Bought a bunch.

Photo on 2013-01-05 at 20.42

This is my “bunch” that I purchased. It may be a short stack, but it’s contents are enormous.

My purchases:

1. The Black Book of Colors, written by Menena Cottin, illustrated by Rosana Faría, is a book dedicated to colors, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it.


El Libro Negro De Los Colores was first published in Mexico in 2006.
First translated into English by Elisa Amado. Published by Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press. 2008. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Distributed by Publishers Group West. Berkeley, California. Printed and bound in China.
Illustrations are raised black lines on black paper.

Upon opening the book, I read on the left-hand side, “Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.” On the right-hand page I feel the feathers. I don’t see them. No yellow to see. Only yellow to feel. Don’t envision a baby board book. There’s no fluffy fuzzy chicky fur to feel. It’s a black page with raised, tactile feathers.


But wait. There’s something else I’ve missed. Back on the left-hand side, above the written words, I see the same sentence in Braille. I feel it. I smile.  My mind brings me back to my elementary school,  Happy Hollow , in Wayland, Massachusetts. When I was in fourth grade, we were privileged enough to participate in the Just Like Me program. The program was my first introduction to Braille. I remember the program like it was yesterday; it was that effective. It was that educational.  I gained significant respect for people who have different physical challenges than me, and it also diminished fear and confusion I may have had over people who communicate differently. I often try to emulate those experiences for my own students now. And I can’t wait to offer this book to my students to appreciate.

“But black is the king of all the colors. It is as soft as silk when his mother hugs him.”

Kudos to the author for including such a powerful line of text.

Pluses & Minuses:

(+) The alphabet in Braille, is provided at the end of the book.

(-) There are no page numbers. Page numbers are a desired attribute for avid referencers, like myself.


2. I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier, is a gem of a book, and a must-have for all elementary classrooms. All.


Published under the title, I, Too, Am America, by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division New York, N.Y. 2012.
Text copyright by Langston Hughes, 1925.
Manufactured in China.
Illustrations rendered in mixed media.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Langston’s work is already a staple in my classroom. Yet, his words never grow dull in the hearts of my young students.

"I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother." - Hughes

“I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother.” – Hughes

I look forward to sharing this book with a fellow teacher whom, I humbly admit, I often bump heads with. We are different, her and I. She teaches. I educate.*

“They send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes/But I laugh/And eat well/And grow strong.” – Hughes

The illustrator wrote a poignant introduction to this story. I won’t quote it in its entirety, but I will quote the historic facts he wrote.

“I fully acknowledge and appreciate the long hours, timeless dedication, and amazing dignity of the Pullman porters, African-American men who worked as caretakers to wealthy white passengers aboard luxury trains. This practice began after legal slavery ended.” – Bryan Collier


3.  You Are Healthy by Todd Snow, illustrated by Melodee Strong.



You Are Healthy published by Maren Green Publishing Inc., Oak Park Heights, Minnesota . 2008.
Manufactured in China.
Illustrations are acrylic on wood.

It’s not exactly a story with a beginning, middle, and end. No character development either. But as a picture book, its simplicity,  beauty and accuracy make for an engaging and educational read.


“You are healthy when you laugh and giggle”


4. Tales Told in Tents: Stories from Central Asia by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Sophie Hexheimer.


Tales Told in Tents published by Frances Lincoln Limited, London, U.K. 2004
Printed by Star Standard Industries in Jurong Town, Singapore. 2008
Illustrations are pen, ink, and watercolor.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even know the countries in Central Asia existed when I was a child. This book of riddles, and storyteller tales, comes from the countries of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.


“The people called the horsehair fiddle the kobiz. And they carved a horse’s head on top of the kobiz, remembering how the horse of songs helped make the first fiddle.” – Pg. 50

The book comes complete with a glossary, and a map of Central Asia that illustrates each country and region’s major form of industry and trade.


5. Jonathan Green Coloring Book.

Yesss. Yes. Includes over 20 reprintable coloring pages of Jonathan Green’s famous paintings. Jonathan Green is an American painter and is part of the Gullah community.


Jonathan Green Coloring Book published by Pomegranate Communications Inc., Petaluma, California. 2009.
For Pomegranate Europe Ltd., Warwickshire, UK.
Printed in Korea.


Now all the boys and girls can color the bois & girls.
Dale School Choir. Coloring page 9

Photo on 2013-01-27 at 21.10

This photo is perfect. It is anything.
Simple Pleasures. Coloring page 13.


6. Buddhist Painting Coloring Book.


Buddhist Painting Coloring Book published by Pomegranate Communications Inc., Petaluma, California. 2009.
For Pomegranate Europe Ltd., Warwickshire, UK.
Asian Art Museum/ Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture
Printed in Korea.

Practice understanding architecture, my kiddies. Practice well. Have an airial view. You deserve it. Says I.


Mandala with thunderbolts.
Coloring page 7.

7.  History of the Civil Rights Movement Coloring Book by Steven James Petruccio.


History of the Civil Rights Movement Coloring Book Published by Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, N.Y. 2010.
Manufactured in the United States by Courier Corporations.

Photo on 2013-01-27 at 22.16 #2

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of busing as a means of desegregating public schools on April 20, 1971. The decision was expected to assure that schools would be fairly integrated, enabling all students to receive equal educational opportunities, regardless of their race. “
– Petruccio.

We’re still working on this busing business though. I’m curious to know what questions my students may ask about this picture, when coloring it. I don’t know how to progressively, and effectively,  answer them yet.


Everyone’s Bookstore has the BEST teacher discount that I have ever come upon. 25% discount, plus tax exempt. 

I look forward to visiting this bookstore again.

* This post is an edited version.

Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

Poem: My Person by Josviel Diaz

 My Person  by Josviel Diaz

Langston Hughes
was a poet.

Now he is
a poem.

Poem written by one of my first graders, this past June. The assignment was: “Write a poem about a person, or people.”    No other guide lines were expected. We studied Langston during our Poets & Poetry unit. A selection of his poems were in the students’ poetry folders; making the student’s choice of theme, in My Person, more than fitting. He wrote the poem in front of me, and then read it aloud once completed. I fell in love with it instantly. Surely the title was inspired by our class’ class poem: My People by Langston Hughes. Over the course of the school year, my students recited My People for at least a half dozen audiences. Regardless of the inspiration the class curriculum provided, My Person is an original poem. Much respect to its young author.

Poetry in Pictures

 Poetry in Pictures: For the First-Grade Mind
Copy K Norris © 2009.
Original Artwork by 7 year old Keith Norris Jr.
(pictorial poetry at it’s finest)

I’ve never written a haiku.  I have been known to write a high coo’, though.

Working Overtime: A High Coo’

I’m not supposed to

Read at home each students’ poem

But I do just that


The month of May will soon be over.  June welcomes our Poetry Unit, in my classroom.  When choosing poems, for this unit, I am oh so selective. Time is precious, and so is the word.

I do not call myself a poet. I cannot write poems, but I try, every once in a while, to write a poette strictly from the heart.

Yesterday, as I sat at my classroom computer, preparing for our upcoming Poetry Unit, I jotted down (typed out) some quick words that came to mind.

Poette: Urban School Teacher Blues

at the computer
Over the Sonia Sanchez words
I type out
For my students’ poetry folders
at the copier
In the main office
Because their silent stares
are thinking
‘she’s not teaching what we told her’


The format of the poetry folders, that I create for my students, is inspired by a mentor of mine, from 2008. A veteran, genuinely highly qualified, first-grade teacher, in an affluent town one mile outside the city. I was fortunate enough to complete my teaching practicum in her classroom. To this day, I emulate many of her teaching practices, but the content of our lessons does differ. We teach two entirely different demographics of students, even though we teach just 6 miles apart from each other.

I choose the content of my lessons based on the needs, desires, and interests of my students. I pay attention to what sort of stories they engage most with, and the depth of their responses to those stories.

Going through some of the old poems that I kept from my mentor’s classroom, I decided that these poems would not do justice to the needs of my current students. One strength I do know that I have, is scaffolding – a fine art, and vital quality to any teacher’s repertoire. The poems that I chose, this year, may seem deep to many, but they make sense to my students. And with the right scaffolding, they will empower my students.

Listed below, are this year’s poems. It is not a complete list. I want to add more poems that describe our natural environment, and the seasons. Each poem is chosen from a book of poetry we have in the classroom –  Children’s editions, complete with pictures of course.





Langston Hughes

Poetry Means the World to Me

All My Life


My People

Anne Turner

The Park


Marchette Chute

My Dog

Sonia Sanchez

To P.J. (2 yrs old who sed write a poem for me in Portland, Oregon) 

Joyce Carol Thomas

Cherish Me

Eloise Greenfield


 Kay Winters

Books, Books, Books

Alice Wilkins

The Ducks

Lulu Delacre

Qué Linda Manito!

Vachel Lindsay

The Little Turtle

Pat Mora

Old Snake

Lee Bennett Hopkins



So this is the list, thus far.  I like the simple, and eloquent style of Lee Bennet Hopkins’ poems for young children, in his book Alphathoughts, illustrated by Marla Baggetta. However, I no longer keep it on the shelf for my students to grab at their leisure, because the pictures are not relevant enough for my students. Everything, in my classroom must be relatable, and kind, to the lives of my students.

         Langston Hughes; please someone stop me before I only fill my students’ ears with words of Langston. Do you know how difficult it was for me to limit our selection to just four poems of Hughes? My students are already very familiar with his poem, My People. We performed it over the loud speaker for the entire school. It will be the first poem in their poetry folders. The last poem, in their folders, will most definitely be Things, by Eloise Greenfield.

The last stanza reads, “Went to the kitchen/Lay down on the floor/Made me a poem/Still got it/Still got it.”

Eloise Greenfield is also a favorite of my students. On Valentine’s Day, her book of verse for young children, Honey, I Love was a gift to my class, from me. Celebrating ‘Love’ is always welcomed in our classroom. Below is a snapshot from our Valentine’s Day classroom party.

            Another part of our June Poetry Unit, is inviting poets into the classroom.  A couple months back, I met Mel King, long time activist and author, from Boston, Massachusetts. He gave me his number to call him to set up a time that he could come in my classroom, and read from his book of poems entitled, Streets. How grateful I will be, for his time with my students. 

I picked up our classroom copy of, Streets, at my favorite bookstore in Roxbury, MA – Frugal Books: A Multicultural Bookstore.

On scaffolding:

Below are some questions that you can discuss with students, before introducing a poem. The thoughtful, and relevant questions are taken from the website http://www.leeandlow.com. The discussion questions, that this website provides, are very similar to my own strategies in the classroom, however I wanted to promote this website because it does such a fine job of respecting valuable and relevant picture books. They provide teacher guides, for free online, so teachers may delve into a picture book in a more concrete and engaging way with their students. You can also purchase books from their site.

“Before Reading
Prereading Focus Questions
Before introducing the book, share the background information with students. Then you may wish to explore one or more of the following questions with them.  How would you honor someone you thought was really special?

  1. Who is your favorite writer? Has that writer influenced you in some way? How?
  2. What kinds of poetry do you enjoy? What is your favorite poem? Why do you like it?
  3. How do you show what you are feeling or thinking? Do you ever express yourself through art, stories, dance, or poems? How do these forms of expression help you communicate with others?
  4. When something is unjust, what could you say or do about it?”


Thank you for reading another blog post by The Picture Book Pusher. Write on.