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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | freedom

One Word

by Maurna Rome

One wordThis year I resolve to forgo the typical New Year’s resolutions. Truth is, they rarely make it past Dr. King’s birthday in mid-January. Beginning this year, I’m committing to a much simpler idea. It may seem trendy with a lot of recent hype, yet a quick Google search reveals a 2007 blog post by Christine Kane introducing the idea of a “one word” resolution (you can even download a free “Word-of-the-Year Discovery Toolkit”). In the past eight years, the concept of narrowing down all those soon to be forgotten New Year’s resolutions into a singular word has erupted into a major presence in the world of Twitter, published books, and blog posts (see list of resources at the end of this article).

The more I think about it, the more I like it. After a bit of reflecting, it was easy to choose my “one word.”  It encompasses all aspects of my life… teaching, learning, family, home, health and friends. It’s a theme I believe in, one that could propel 2016 into a stellar year.

As I think about applying this “one word” concept to life in the classroom, I am drawn to consider the challenges and rewards that I experience each and every day and also how it might impact my students’ learning. The double-sided coin of teaching and learning must be examined. My colleagues and I encounter the heart-tugging, tough questions, along with the nuggets of gold offered by our students, and everything in between on a daily basis. As we think about our approach to literacy instruction, we must also take our students into account.

My reflection on a “one word” choice for 2016 included:

  • Do I collaborate with my team effectively, and enough, while also maintaining my sense of uniqueness and spontaneity?
  • Am I giving kids enough freedom and self-direction in creating their literacy life while also holding them accountable?
  • When it comes to writing, which deserves more time, attention and effort: the formal process with a focus on mechanics or the open-ended, unstructured, “freedom to write whatever” approach?
  • Is it possible to promote an effective use of technology while also teaching students the value of being unplugged and tech-free?
  • How do I mesh a sense of urgency and passion for student learning while also creating a tranquil climate that evokes peace and security?

One WordAnd now for the drumroll please…. the “one word” I have chosen for 2016 is balance. It’s more than familiar. We’ve all heard of balanced literacy, a balanced diet, and even a balanced budget, all desirable and do-able. Yet for me, balance is something I seem to struggle to attain even though I yearn for it. I am hopeful that the answers I seek to the questions mentioned above can be found by focusing on my one word, balance.

A few weeks ago, students in my after-school “Literacy L.I.F.T. Club” selected a favorite word from a book they were each reading to create something we called “vocabulary bracelets.” At the time, the notion of a “one word” resolution had not even entered my mind. However, now that the New Year is here, I am excited to combine the two ideas.

On the first day of school in 2016, I’ll share my story about how and why I chose balance. Then during the month of January, I’ll invite my students to be on the lookout for their own “one word.” I’ll ask them to read with intention, reflecting on words that might fit the bill for a theme or goal they might create for themselves in 2016.  Then we will make another round of bracelets… “one word bracelets,” a perfect accessory for the New Year!

How about you? What one-word theme have you chosen for 2016?

“One word” author/advocates worth checking out include:

2007 Blog Post by Christine Kane

A “Lead Learner” from Cabot, Arkansas by Bethany Hill

Compilation of #oneword on Twitter


“Don’t get took! Read a book!”

by Vicki Palmquist

bk_bookitchI go crazy when I hear that Vaunda Michaux Nelson has another book coming out. I’m a fan. For my own reading life, No Crystal Stair: a documentary novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem bookseller, is one of my top ten books in the last ten years. I found every aspect of that book satisfying. I learned a great deal. Ms. Nelson’s writing style is well suited to narrative nonfiction: she makes it exciting. 

So, when I heard that a picture book form of No Crystal Stair was on the horizon, my expectations were high. It would be illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, whose work I have loved ever since his Stars in the Darkness (written by Barbara M. Joosse) found me sobbing. But how would they compress all of the great true stories in No Crystal Stair into a picture book?

They’ve done it. Even the title appeals to younger readers: The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore (Carolrhoda, 2015).

The book is narrated by Michaux’s son, Lewis H. Michaux, Jr., who is justly proud of his father. It opens with Muhammad Ali’s visit to the store. Jump right in!

With the longer text in No Crystal Stair, Nelson builds a depth of understanding for Michaux’s commitment to books. In The Book Itch, she knows this is not needed for young readers. We learn the parts that will interest this crowd. Michaux started with five books, selling his reading materials out of a pushcart. He couldn’t get financing from a bank because the banker said “Black people don’t read.” Michaux believed otherwise. His store became a place to find, and read, books by and about black people.

Lewis Michaux was a good friend to Malcolm X. They were both political and believed “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” Nelson includes the heartbreaking scene that recounts Michaux’s reaction to the assassination of Malcolm X. His son had never seen his father cry before that day.


This book keeps history alive and vital by connecting us to The National Memorial African Bookstore, a place which was, in Michaux’s words, “The House of Common Sense and Proper Propaganda.” Christie’s illustrations are at once a record and a ribbon reaching from the past, showing us how people felt. We often forget about this in our look back … and it’s essential to remember that important historical figures were just like us, thinking, acting, laughing, hurting.

Ms. Nelson’s place in my list of Best Nonfiction Authors is firm. This is a book that belongs in every library, classroom, and on family bookshelves. Books bring us freedom.


Bookstorm™: Chasing Freedom

Bookstorm Chasing FreedomIn this Bookstorm™:

Chasing FreedomChasing Freedom

The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts
written by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Michele Wood
Orchard Books, 2015

As Nikki Grimes writes in her author’s note for this book, “History is often taught in bits and pieces, and students rarely get the notion that these bits and pieces are connected.” Bookology wanted to look at this book for a number of reasons. We hope that you will consider the remarkable stories of freedom fighters Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony and the moments in history that the author reveals. We hope that you will study the illustrations by Michele Wood and discuss how each spread in the book makes you feel, how African motifs and quilt patterns are made an integral part of the book’s design, and how the color palette brings strength to the conversation between these two women. 

This conversation between these two women never took place. The subtitle reads “inspired by historical facts.” Nikki Grimes imagines a conversation that could have taken place between these two women, solidly drawn from the facts of their lives. Is this a new form of fiction? Nonfiction? You’ll have a meaningful discussion about the differences between fact, fiction, information text, nonfiction, and storytelling when you discuss this with your classroom or book club.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Chasing Freedom, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes, interests, and reading abilities. The book will be comfortably read by ages 7 through 12. We’ve included picture books, nonfiction, videos, websites, and destinations for the plethora of purposes you might have. There are many fine books that fall outside of these parameters, but we chose to narrow the selection of books this time to those that followed the fight for women’s right to vote from the 1840s to 1920 and those that followed slavery in America until the Emancipation Proclamation and a few years beyond. These are the major concerns behind the work of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony.


Celebrating Freedom. Two recent books are included, one dealing with the Emancipation Proclamation and the other with how freed people lived in New York City in Seneca Village, which would eventually become Central Park.

Harriet Tubman. We’ve chosen a few of the many good books about this freedom fighter, trail blazer, and spiritually motivated woman.

History. From Booker T. Washington’s autobiographical Up from Slavery to Julius Lester’s To Be a Slave through to Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul: the Story of America and African Americans, you’ll find a number of books that will fascinate your students and make fine choices for book club discussions.

Underground Railroad. One of our truly heroic movements in American history, we’ve selected books that chronicle the work, the danger, and the victories of these freedom fighters, of which Harriet Tubman was a strong, dedicated member. 


Susan B. Anthony. Often written about, we’ve selected just a few of the many books about this woman who understood the hardships women faced and the necessity for them to be able to vote, to have a voice in government.

More Suffragists. Many women around the globe fought for their right to vote and the fight continues in many countries. We’ve selected several books that fall within our time frame.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your discussions, classroom inclusion, or send us a photo of your library display.

(Thanks to Marsha Qualey and Claire Rudolf Murphy for sharing their considerable knowledge and insight about books for this Bookstorm™.)


All Different Now

All Different Now

Do you know how sometimes your hands hover over a book, wanting to open it, sensing that this will be an important book, and you hesitate, wanting to prolong your interaction? I did that, turning All Different Now this way and that, then examining the title page, the jacket flaps … and finally allowing myself […]