Over the course of the summer, a couple of soon-to-be 5th grade girls are coming to my place to get some low-key reading support. Considering that today was such a beautiful sunny day in Oakland, California, we decided to do our reading at a nearby park. We grabbed the Radio Flyer, our books, my toddler and her sand toys, and were on our way.
The girls did some partner reading, snuggled in the wagon we toted to the park- it was very sweet, and hopefully enjoyable for them.
Then as my daughter played close-by, I began reading Rita Williams-Garcia's One Crazy Summer aloud to the girls. This book is above their reading levels, but I wanted to share it with them- so a read aloud made perfect sense.
Many of my students are Latino, have been raised in East Oakland, but know little about the rich cultural diversity surrounding them or about the history that has shaped the Oakland they live in. The 2 girls I'm working with this summer are also Latino. I asked them what they new about Bay Area or California history, and they could tell me that there were 21 missions and that California used to be Mexico. While these are both true, I was hoping they'd have more of a sense of our history: Chinese Immigrants laid most of the railroad tracks out west; Japanese Americans immigrated to California through Angel Island, and many were placed in Japanese Internment Camps after during WWII ; African Americans migrated from they south to work in Oakland's Shipyards in the 50s and 60s, the Black Panther Movement; Mien, Vietnamese, and Cambodian families came to Oakland in droves after the Vietnam War, and so on... Well, okay, I knew they wouldn't know a lot of this history, and that's one of the reasons why I chose to read this book aloud to them. I want to build their background knowledge about the world they live in, and besides, it's a great story, regardless of the setting.
I really enjoyed this book. I feel like it gave me a bigger sense in the Oakland I live in and the world of the Black Panthers. I think I wanted to read this and have a sense if the Black Panthers should go on my good/bad list. But Williams-Garcia does an excellent job portraying the positive side of the panthers, while also exposing readers to the more dangerous aspects of the political movement.
Her characters are very 3-dimensional. You hurt for them, and relate to them completely. I also like the way she writes. In the future I can see using this book as a mentor text in teaching writing with imagery- she does this very well.
I would recommend this book to kids grades 5+, and I would encourage adults to read it as well!
It was pretty awesome to be sitting in the sun at the park, my baby playing nearby, reading aloud to eager students. Oakland today feels like such a different Oakland in so many ways.
Listen to the author reading an excerpt of the book here.
From Good Reads:
Hope is the Word. Check out the other great RAT posts!
Crazy for Books.
Question for the Week:
Be Well! Read on!
This blog is for teachers and families- all for the sheer joy of literacy. Currently, I am Director of Education at a non-profit in Oakland, CA. Formerly, I was a Literacy Specialist at a charter school in East Oakland, primarily working with English Language Learners. I've also taught middle school (which I loved!!), was the RtI Coordinator at my school, and have been an instructor for a teacher's ed program. I also have two young kids of my own. Stop by often to grab or share an idea or two.