Reading & Teaching Esperanza

My daughter is reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan in her 6th grade ELA class and since it’s been on my list of books to read for a couple of YEARS I decided to read it with her.  It is a story that draws readers in almost immediately, and one that many can identify with and that many of us can learn from.  I found the audiobook version on YouTube (see below) and plan on playing it for my younger daughter.

You can find numerous teaching resources online (here’s one from Scholastic) and it would be perfect for lessons in character, perseverance, historical fiction, immigration, the Great Depression, or Mexican culture.  I love that my daughter’s ELA teacher has parents bring in various food items that serve as chapter titles so students can try different foods.  (A more elaborate activity could be to have students/parents bring in food items for a fiesta like the one detailed in the book.  Guest speakers from the community can also be invited to talk about their immigration experience or any personal connections they might have to this time in history.)

Other topics mentioned in the book that can be further discussed

  • Class divides: Why does Esperanza say that in Mexico there’s a river between her and Miguel?  Does the same divide exist in the US?
  • Immigration, migrant workers
  • Working conditions for migrant workers: Why do workers strike? What are pros and cons of striking?
  • Segregation
  • Dust storms
  • Discussion of various symbols in the book — the mountains and valleys in the blanket Esperanza is crocheting, the meaning behind her name, etc.
  • Other books about characters that had to persevere through difficult circumstances… For example, read Listening for Lions (Gloria Whelan) or The Higher Power of Lucky (Susan Patron) and discuss similarities and differences between the stories and characters.

The Keeping Quilt: Patricia Polacco

bookcover

The Keeping Quilt

Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Year: 1988

Brief Summary: Patricia Polacco tells the story of her Jewish immigrant family and how four generations have been bound together by one homemade quilt. 

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Sydney Taylor Book Award, 1988 Winner Younger Readers United States
Best of the Bunch, 1988 Association of Jewish Librarians
Not Just for Children Anymore!, 1999 Children’s Book Council
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 California Department of Education
Teachers’ Choices, 1989 International Reading Association

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library; brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • Why do you think Polacco chose to keep only certain parts of the illustrations in color, while other parts remain in gray scale?  How did she use color in this book to highlight the theme of her story?
  • How has the quilt played a role in the characters’ lives? (Comprehension)
  • This story is a real story based on Polacco’s family.  Traci, Polacco’s daughter, was the last to get the quilt at the end of the book.  Can you make a prediction of who the quilt might be passed onto next?  How do you think the quilt will be used in this person’s life?  (Prediction)
  • What are some traditions Anna’s family keeps? (Comprehension)  What are some traditions your family keeps?  (Self-to-text connections)
  • Does your family have something that has been passed down from one generation to the next?  What is it and why is it important/special in your family?  Write a short story about it and illustrate. (Self-to-text connections)
  • Class Keeping Quilts: Have each student draw or write something that is important to him/her on a piece of square, colored paper. Connect all the squares into a “quilt”.  Have each student talk to the class about his/her square and its significance.  This could be done on actual quilting blocks that can be made into a quilt and given to the teacher/librarian as a gift.  (Art teacher)
  • Individual Keeping Quilts: Have each student make their own quilt (at least 9 squares).  What pictures/writings would they include?  Have students share about the significance of their drawings/writings.
  • Math connection: bring in some quilt samples or show the class pictures of various kinds of quilts.  What geometric shapes do students see in quilts?  Have students create their own quilting patterns using pre-cut shapes.

Tea with Milk: Allen Say

Tea with Milk

Author/Illustrator: Allen Say

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Publication Year: 1999

Brief Summary: A young woman who grew up in America returns to Japan with her parents and tries to adjust to her new life.

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2000 ; Bank Street College of Education
Booklist Book Review Stars, March 15, 1999 ; American Library Association
Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1999 ; Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Capitol Choices, 1999 ; The Capitol Choices Committee
Children’s Books of Distinction, 2000 ; Riverbank Review
Children’s Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson
Children’s Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson
Children’s Literature Choice List, 2000 ; Children’s Literature
Not Just for Children Anymore!, 2001 ; Children’s Book Council
Notable Children’s Books, 2000 ; ALSC American Library Association
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, March 1999 ; Cahners
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education
School Library Journal Best Books, 1999 ; Cahners
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, May 1999 ; Cahners
Smithsonian Magazine’s Notable Books for Children, 1999 ; Smithsonian
Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association, 2000 ; Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library; brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • Social Studies: Discuss immigration…what is it?  What might it be like if you have to move to a foreign country?  What are some difficulties you might encounter?  What are some good things that might come out of leaving for a new country?
  • We’ve read stories about people who immigrated to America, but in this story, a Japanese-American girl must go with her parents to Japan and start a new life there.  What kind of things does she have to get used to?
  • Why do you think the parents want to go back to Japan?
  • Social Studies: talk about Japan and its traditions and how these might be different from some of the traditions we have in the U.S.
  • Students research their families background/heritage.  Are there students whose families — parents, grandparents, or further back — have immigrated to the US, or have moved to a different country? Students can make a poster about their experience
  • Students can interview their parents/grandparents about their feelings about leaving their homeland. Make a chart of what they miss about their homeland, and what they love about their new country.
  • Read alongside Grandfather’s Journey and Tree of Cranes in sequence (Journey, then Tea with Milk, then Tree of Cranes).  Discuss how the child in the first book is the young woman in the second, and the mom in the third.
  • Have you travelled outside of the country before?  What was it like?  What did you see/learn/experience? Have students make travel brochures about a place they have visited and would like to promote to their friends (does not have to be outside of the country!).

Accessed at: Personal Library

Grandfather’s Journey: Allen Say

Grandfather’s Journey

  • Author/Illustrator: Allen Say

  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

  • Publication Year: 1993

  • Brief Summary: Say tells about his grandfather’s journey to America from Japan and feeling homesick for both countries.

  • Awards, Honors and Prizes:
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library:

    • Discuss immigration…what is it?  What might it be like if you have to move to a foreign country?  What are some difficulties you might encounter?  What are some good things that might come out of leaving for a new country?

    • What does the grandfather in this story miss about the US?  About Japan?

    • Students research their families background/heritage.  Are there students whose families — parents, grandparents, or further back — have immigrated to the US?   Students can make a poster about their culture.

    • Students can interview their parents/grandparents about their feelings about leaving their homeland.  Make a chart of what they miss about their homeland, and what they love about their new country.

    • Have you travelled outside of the country before?  What was it like?  What did you see/learn/experience?  Have students make travel brochures about a place they have visited and would like to promote to their friends (does not have to be outside of the country!).

    • What are some different modes of transportation?  The author’s grandfather traveled from Japan to California via steamboat.  Years later, when the author himself made this journey, do you think it was by the same mode of transportation?

    • Read alongside Tea with Milk and Tree of Cranes in sequence (Journey, then Tea with Milk, then Tree of Cranes).  Discuss how Allen Say based these books on his family.  His grandfather’s experiences is based on Allen Say’s life; his mom is the child in the first book, the young woman in the second book, and the mom in the third book, in which she taught Say about American Christmases.
  • Brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

    • Social studies connection — community, geography, immigration

    • text-to-world and text-to-self connections

  • Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.: Scholastic lesson plan http://teacher.scholastic.com/lessonrepro/lessonplans/profbooks/grandfatherjn.htm

  • Accessed at: Personal Library