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 […]