During one of our visits to our local library in late summer, several of the books on display caught my eye. School was the common thread, and my family found some good conversation starters among the titles. I’ll highlight three that have merit as texts that help build empathy and/or broaden children’s views about school and education.
Based on a true story, Hannah’s Way by Linda Glaser is set on Minnesota’s Iron Range during the Depression. Hannah’s family had moved from Minneapolis to Northern Minnesota so her father could work at his brother’s store. Hannah was the only Jewish child in her new school. When the teacher announced the school picnic, she was hopeful that attending the picnic would help her fit in and make friends. She was crestfallen to learn, however, that the school picnic would be on a Saturday. “You know that Saturday is our day of rest. We don’t work or drive on the Sabbath,” her father reminded her. When she realized that her parents wouldn’t bend on this rule, she ended up talking to her teacher about the situation. She was afraid people at school simply would not understand, but was surprised by her classmates’ kind gesture that helped ensure she made it to the picnic.
A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson is written as a thank you note to a second grade teacher who made a lasting impression on the writer. The narrator admits she found it hard to sit still and listen when she was in second grade. She described several specific events that illustrated how “ornery” and “exasperating” she was, but also showed that this teacher, who is the recipient of the letter, was patient and gave her extra help and encouragement as needed. She then disclosed that she’s starting her first job now and will “try my best to be like you.” This could be an encouraging book to pass along to an important educator in your life.
In School Days Around the World by Catherine Chambers, seven children provide an account of what it is like to go to school in their respective countries: Australia, Japan, India, Ghana, England, the United States, and Peru. There is plenty to compare and contrast in this book, which reveals important aspects of the different cultures as it provides details about each child’s before-school routine, their school schedules, lunch time, and the activities they do at recess. The book shows that though the schools in different countries have some marked differences, there are quite a few similarities. For example, children all around the world play games, celebrate Earth Day, and do math in school.