When I was five years old we moved from California to New Jersey for one year and my parents thought it would be quite an adventure to drive across country to our new home. The year was 1953. After days of driving in our brand new Ford Crestline two-toned sedan, my older brother and I were about to kill each other and my parents were very tired of feeling our little feet kicking against the back of their seats. On a hot, muggy day we pulled into a gas station in a small town in Alabama. I asked if I could get a drink of water and my overheated, tired, distracted mother said, “Sure.” I hopped out of car and headed for the drinking fountain, a little puzzled to see two. One right next to the other. A sign over one said “white” and over the other it read “colored.” Well, colored water sounded good to me and just as I was about to take a sip my mother swooped up behind me, grabbed me and yelled, “NO!” I remember a vague explanation she gave me about why I could only drink at the “white” fountain. What I clearly remember was how even at that young age I knew something wasn’t right about those separate drinking fountains. We’ve come a long way since 1953….
One of the best parts for me about reading stories and discussing the civil rights movement with my students today is the shocked looks on their faces when they see historical photographs of that period, especially ones of those separate drinking fountains. It seems quite inconceivable to them that these things could have happened. That’s the most hopeful thing about my having been a teacher for 40 years. A change has occurred and I’ve been able to see it.
This week in the Library in honor of Black History Month, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders saw a presentation on the history of the civil rights movement and we read books that related to that. One of the best is Matt Faulkner’s A Taste of Colored Water which reminded me of my own childhood experience. Fifth graders enjoyed this title. Sixth Graders heard Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles and Fourth Graders heard The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles.
Also in the Library this week….
Kindergarten–Following the further adventures of Walter, this week Kindergarteners heard about his little brother William’s adventures in No More Water in the Tub by Tedd Arnold. This rollicking tale follows William from floor to floor as he sails in his bathtub. This is a great read aloud for this age and they loved imagining the further adventures of William when the story ended.
First Grade–This week’s CYRM book was Judy Sierra’s hilarious Thelonius Monster’s Sky High Fly Pie. Thelonius literally tries to cook up a way to catch flies and ends up with a flying pie (he forgot to bake the pie). The rhyming text is complemented with the “delicious drawings” by Edward Koren. All together a strong contender with this age group.
Second & Third Grade–Pete is a perfectly predictable pig in Berkeley Breathed’s incredible book Pete and Pickles. This book, with its quirky but touching story of the friendship between Pete and a rescued circus elephant named Pickles, literally transfixed my students. They were absolutely silent while I was reading. (not the usual case, I’m afraid) The illustrations are a fabulous mix of surrealism and historical art and alliterations abound in the text making this a fantastic read aloud book. So far, this is a favorite CYRM nominee with second and third graders.
Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grades–see opening post.