Facebook Read Alouds

At the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, Gill Elementary started a new tradition: bi-weekly read alouds on our Gill Elementary Facebook Page. Our principal, Mr. Driscoll, introduced the first one by saying "the goal of this bi-monthly segment is to spark conversation. Each video will showcase a great picture book that does just that. The really great thing about picture books is that they’re not just for kids. A truly great picture book can inspire conversation and debate among adults just as they can and should with students."

Read Aloud #8: I Am Enough, Written by Grace Byers, Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo, Read by Principal Conor Driscoll

 

Welcome back to Gill Elementary School’s Read Alouds.  The goal of this bi-monthly segment is to spark conversation. Each video will showcase a great picture book that does just that. The really great thing about picture books is that they’re not just for kids. A truly great picture book can inspire conversation and debate among adults just as they can and should with students. 

This week’s choice is the book “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers. I really like this book because I think it does a nice job of distinguishing between celebrating diversity and celebrating individuality. Often, when we ask kids (and even adults) what makes them who they are- an individual- we get answers like “I’m really good at sports” or “I’m a great singer” or “I am so good at Minecraft, Fortnight, etc…” Often, these responses can lead to a kind of competition among kids- well I’m good at Minecraft, too!- which runs the risk of undermining the very message of trying to celebrate our differences and why we are a stronger community because of those differences. This book is a way to help get kids to recognize that differences, disagreements (when they are productive) and experiences other than their own don’t need to be a competition, but can help us learn and grow together. 

Here are a couple of discussion questions to think about and talk about with your kids if you would like. For those of you coming to our all-school-meeting today, you’ll get a preview of what we will be doing then. 

1) The author says “Like the champ, I’m here to fight. Like the heart, I’m here to love.” How can she be here to do both? 

2) The author says “I’m not meant to be like you; you’re not meant to be like me. Sometimes we will get along. Sometimes we will disagree.” How can disagreeing with someone be good? Can you learn from disagreeing? 

3) The author says, “In the end we are right here, to live a life of love, not fear…” Why might things that make us different make some people feel afraid? How could you help show them love? 

4) What does the author mean when she says, “I am enough.” 

 

Read Aloud #7: Just Ask, Written by Sonja Sotomayot, Illustrated by Rafael Lopes, Read by Principal Conor Driscoll

Gill Read Aloud: Just Ask from Kathleen Lynch on Vimeo.

 

Welcome Back to Gill Elementary School’s read alouds. The goal of this bi-monthly segment is to highlight great picture books that celebrate diversity and inspire conversation among our students. Picture books are not just for kids, and the topics they cover can, and should, inspire conversation among grown ups just as they do in our classrooms. 

This week’s choice was done as a school-wide read aloud today. It is called “Just Ask” and it is written by Supreme Court Justice Sonja Sotomayor. Each character featured in this book highlights an exceptional child- one who has something that makes him or her unique. There are a number of things I love about this book. The first is the level of relevance to our students. As you will see, there are several characters featured that deal with some of the same issues that our kids deal with on a daily basis. The second thing I love is that this book looks at differences that are not just visible. In the realm of disabilities, it is often easy to focus on, and therefore empathize with physical disabilities that are obvious in their impact. Often, with differences of the mind, people- kids and adults alike- will jump to quick judgement which can lead to further isolation of people with those disabilities. The last thing, and the biggest thing that I really love about this book is the premise contained in the title: Just Ask. So often, when kids have honest questions about people who look or act different than themselves, the conditioned adult response is to “shush” them- often for fear of embarrassment. But answering with silence reinforces the isolating reality that many people with disabilities already face. By offering the option to “Just Ask,” Justice Sotomayor places a responsibility on us as adults. If we are telling our kids to ask, we should answer- honestly, with empathy, and in ways that allow our kids to see not just the limitations that may be placed on others, but the ways in which peoples’ differences can make them shine. 

With each book, I’ve offered discussion questions that can be used to talk about the book with kids. However, as you’ll see, Justice Sotomayor has done this work for me, and each character poses a question to the reader for thought and reflection. 

I hope you enjoy this reading of “Just Ask.” Special thanks to the folks at MCTV for donating their time, equipment and energy to help produce this video. 

 

Read Aloud #6: All the World, Written by Liz Garton Scanlon, Illustrated by Marla Frazee, Read by Principal Conor Driscoll

This week’s read aloud is a staple in our house’s bedtime routine. My daughter loves the pictures, and the rhymes in it allow for fun, repeated reading where even little kids can start to remember and say the words. It is titled All the World, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I love this book for two main reasons. The first, as I mentioned is because of its wide appeal for kids. The second is because of the simple, beautiful message of interconnectedness between humanity, time and place. Working with kids, I’m often struck by how much we, as adults, can over-complicate and philosophize these concepts with existential questions that weigh us down, when children often just get it intuitively. On another note, because this is a small board book, the pictures won’t be as stunning on this video as they are in the book. I encourage you to find it in a library and check it out. 

As always, here are some discussion questions to think about:

  1. There are a lot of contradictions in this book (things that seem to mean the opposite)- All the world is cold and hot. All the world is old and new. How can the world be old and new? Cold and hot? Why do you think the author put those opposites together?

  2. What does the author mean when she says “All the world is everything. Everything is you and me?” 

  3. What does it mean that “All the world is all of us?” How does that thought make you feel?

Read Aloud #5: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Written by Barack Obama, Illustrated by Loren Long, Read by Principal Conor Driscoll

This week’s read aloud is titled “Of Thee I Sing: A letter to My Daughters.” It is written by Barack Obama and illustrated by Loren Long. This choice was not meant to be a political one- if valuing differences among each other becomes political, we have seriously lost our way. Rather, the choice in this book was made because of the values it showcases and the vision of patriotism that it exemplifies. 

As always, here are some discussion questions worth thinking about and discussing with your kids if you see fit. 

  1. How did the people in this story use their differences to add value to the world? 

  2. What is something about you that makes you different? 

  3. How can that difference in you help to make the world better? 

  4. How can all of the personality traits in this book (brave, strong, etc.) be found in everybody? How can they be found in you? 

  5. All of the people in this book made a different mark on the world we live in. What mark can you make? 

Thank you all. 

Read Aloud #4: Ian (a video, not a read aloud) 

Kindergarten, first and second grade students have been using this video for discussion with our counselor. The film, Ian, has no spoken words, but is a great conversation starter for body language, disability inclusion, and the barriers that separate people- both visible and invisible. I would invite you to watch the video and to discuss it with your child. The video can be found by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz_d-cikWmI&t=486s 

The discussion questions, which can get very deep into the subject matter, were created by our first and second grade students, who did go deep with this one. 

  • What is seperating Ian from the rest of the kids?

  • What was the fence?

  • Why did he get pulled through the fence? 

  • Why do you think the kids laughed and were mean to Ian?

  • How did the other kids change? 

  • Why did the other kids change?

I hope you enjoy it! 

Read Aloud #3: The Invisible String, Written by Patrice Karst and Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, read by Principal Conor Driscoll.

 

This week’s book is a personal favorite that “tugs at your heartstrings.” It showcases the interconnectedness that we all have as people because of one common thing that binds us together- love. It also provides an opening to discuss an incredibly hard topic with students- grief and loss. Everyone grieves differently, and kids especially so. They grieve differently than adults, and differently than each other. 

This past summer, my family experienced the loss of my mother, and by extension, my daughter’s grandmother. My wife and I found that books, this one in particular, helped build Courtney’s capacity to discuss loss, and to retain a feeling of connectedness to my mother’s memory. She’ll often surprise us still by saying things like “I feel Meme pulling on my string!” Which is both heartwarming and heartbreaking- par for course with grief. 

Several students in our school have experienced loss and grief since the start of this school year, alone. The goal in sharing this book is a hope that they know that they are not alone. If you or your child is experiencing grief and needs support, please check out https://www.look4help.org/ or reach out to the school so we can point you in the direction of community resources. 

As with the other books, questions for discussion are posted below. I apologize for the long-winded introduction. Without further adieu, I hope you enjoy The Invisible String. Written by Patrice Karst and Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vreithoff. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What does the author mean that love connects us all? 

  2. How can we love something or someone that isn’t here? 

  3. Why is it important that the string stays there even when people might get mad? 

  4. If there is ever a time when you don’t feel the string, what strategies could you use to make sure it is still there? (happy memories, doing something the brings back memories, etc.)

 

Read Aloud #2: We're All Wonders, Written by R.J. Palacio, read by Principal Conor Driscoll. 

[Source: https://www.facebook.com/GillElementary/videos/2380082025543398/ ]

This week’s read aloud is “We’re All Wonders” By R.J. Palacio. This book, like the last one highlights a character who is different, and who gets his feelings hurt by the way some people react to his differences. Towards the end, is the message about people changing the way they see people who are different than themselves. What a concept- that the way we look at things can determine how we see them and by extension, how people feel. This book will also be highlighted by our counselor in the future with a more in depth lesson for our students. As with last week, posted along with this video are some questions for thought. These aren’t broken up by age level, as kids and adults of all ages can talk about them. 

  1. What does it mean to be normal (or ordinary)? 

  2. What would the world be like if everyone was ordinary? 

  3. What does it mean to “change the way you see?” 

  4. How can you practice “changing the way you see?”

Read Aloud #1: Wings, written and illustrated by Christopher Myers, read by Principal Conor Driscoll.  

Principal Driscoll's introduction, from the Facebook Live post on August 30, 2019:

I really like this book for a couple of reasons. As you’ll see, It is about people being unkind to someone who is different, but it is written from the perspective of someone watching- a bystander who becomes troubled by her own silence. It also brings into the fray social structures that can lead to isolation or perpetuate harmful practices in the interest of conformity, safety or stability. It is a really great book, accessible to every grade level. Here are some discussion questions that I would invite you to talk about with your child, your friends, or just think about for yourself.

Discussion questions for students:

1) Have you ever had things happen to you that made you feel alone or hurt? What helped or would have helped at those times?

2) Have you ever been quiet when you wish you had spoken up? What would help you speak up?

3) What do you think about what the teacher and policeman did in this story? The teacher was thinking about the other kids in class and the policeman was thinking about safety. Were they right or wrong? Why?

4) How many people being kind did it take for Ikarus to feel good? Why is that an important lesson? 
Ikarus had something really cool- he was able to fly! Why did he feel bad about that?

5) Why do you think the other kids laughed at Ikarus and didn’t want to play with him?

6) Why was it so hard for the main character to speak up? How do you think she felt once she did?

Discussion questions for adults and/or older kids:

1) The main character was new to the school and had a very visible thing that made him different. Do you think that is easier or harder than having something that is different about you that is not visible?

2) As adults, what role do we have to help kids not be silent when they see injustice?

3) In this case, the teacher and the police officer may have been a metaphor for social structures that, while well-intentioned (i.e. the teacher wanting to maintain order in the classroom and the officer wanting to maintain safety on the street) may perpetuate practices that isolate and marginalize. How can we work together to strike the balance necessary to maintain order and stay safe, while still allowing for individual differences to be valued and celebrated.