This week I read Karen Lynn Williams's Circles of Hope to my 2nd-5th grade reading intervention students.
Book description (from back flap/author's website):
Young Facile wants to plant a tree in honor of his new baby sister, but he faces many obstacles. The first seed he plants is eaten by a goat, the second seed is washed away in a storm, and another is burnt by scrub fire. Will Facile ever be able to plant a tree that will grow strong for baby Lucia?
This story of determination, faith and love introduces the reader to the realities of rural life in the mountains of Haiti. Imbued with brilliant colors, expressive characters and vivid landscapes, Linda Saport’s illustrations capture the indomitable spirit of hope.
Behind the Story (from author's website):
When I was living in Haiti, I took a hike with a friend. As we climbed higher into the mountains above the Artibonite Valley we saw several stone structures in the distance. They came and went out of our view as we followed the path over and around dusty, treeless ridges. They were round structures made of sun-bleached stone. Curious, we tried to guess what they might be. Ovens for baking bread? Vessels to collect precious rain water? This experience gave me the idea for Circles of Hope.
I knew about the effects of erosion and had observed the desperate state of the environment on this tiny island country. I used what I learned first hand about the frustrations of tree planting and effort put into reforestation along with the significance of trees for the people of Haiti to write this book. It began as a story for adults and as with most of my books it went through many rewrites.
How I used this book in the classroom:
I read this book to students in my reading intervention small groups this past week. I live in Oakland, CA, so I feel like I often use the tree as a metaphor in my teaching. This year I labeled my books with 4 levels, and they are a quite wide range, considering I work with students in 1st-5th grades. The labels are oak tree tree themed images I found in clip art on my computer: (acorn [emergent readers], walking acorn [decodables/transitional readers], oak tree [fluent readers/easy chapter books], oak tree with roots [proficient readers/longer, more complex chapter books]. I also have an oak tree decor on the wall with my student's names on the leaves. When I saw this book, Circles of Hope, at the library, I knew I had to grab it. I wanted to reinforce my year's theme of "Growing Strong as a Reader," and this book spoke directly to that.
My student's connected with the main character, Facile, on many levels. They all are determined, yet have had their fair share of struggle, especially with reading. I am going to go back to this book throughout the year, reminding my student's of Facile's determination to plant a tree for his sister, despite his many failed attempts.
|Williams' book takes place in the mountains of Haiti. |
The dry earth, brush fires, and erosion make it difficult for vegetation to survive.
Williams set the book in Haiti. I had not read any of her books before. But now that I found this gem, I see that many of her books are set in Africa or Haiti. I loved how she gently dealt with the environmental factors distinct to Haiti, along with the cultural nuances, without overshadowing the simple narrative about a young boy's determination. I may start every year with this text.
See Karen's Lyn William's Website (with blog) here.
I'm linking up to Read Aloud Thursday:
Be Well! Read On!