Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Day On, Not a Day Off

This Saturday (1/19/13) marks the National Day of Service and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which encourage Americans to make the MLK Federal Holiday a "day on, not a day off." This is a great opportunity to share the act of serving others with your children/students. Use the following books as a springboard for discussions about service, helping others, and making the world a better place. Find a service project that matches their interests or fills a need in your community. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "... anybody can serve."

“Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
— Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther Kind, Jr. (Written by Doreen Rappaport; Illustrated by Bryan Collier) - This picture book is so inviting. The title appears on the back cover to allow King's smiling portrait to welcome readers into the story, just as I imagine he welcomed all those who wanted to work for peaceful change. King's own words are paired with deftly crafted collages, creating a poignant biography that is accessible to young readers and true to the spirit of King's life and the Civil Rights Movement.

Miss Rumphius (Written and Illustrated by Barbara Cooney) - When Miss Rumphius is a little girl, she dreams of following in her grandfather's footsteps: traveling and living by the sea. But her grandfather reminds her that she also has a responsibility "to make the world more beautiful." She finds this to be a difficult task, but when she discovers how she can fulfill her promise, she sets to work. I especially love how this book ends as it began, with the same call to beauty, passing along this important task to the next generation.

We Dream of a World... (Written and Illustrated by the Gifted and Talented Students of Pershing Accelerated School in University City, Missouri) - This book is a winner of Scholastic's "Kids Are Authors" Competition. Each page finishes the phrase "We Dream of a World...", providing facts and suggesting actions that students can take to participate in making the world a better place.  There is even a template at the end of the book for readers to fill in their own dreams for the world.

Each Living Thing (Written by Joanne Ryder; Illustrated by Ashley Wolff) - This lovely poem reminds readers to be gentle with the Earth and all of its creatures. It subtlety leads the reader from a backyard observation of spiders to the sea and the skies and the animals that inhabit the world at night. Wolff's illustrations are like snapshots of a variety of ecosystems, including a bayou, a coral reef, and a desert. Readers are left with this responsibility: "Be watchful. Let them be."

The Quiltmaker's Journey (Written by Jeff Brumbeau; Illustrated by Gail de Marcken) - This story reads like a fairy tale, yet the "happily ever after" is very atypical. A girl grows up in luxury, as do all the people in her community. This is all she knows and she assumes that outside the town walls, every person is as lucky. Even though she has everything, she is not happy and longs to see what lies beyond the gates. When she discovers that there are poor in the world, she takes the risk of leaving her fortune far behind in order to help those in need, and so finds true happiness. Rich quilt-pattern inspired spreads grace the pages of this book, inviting readers to attend to both the text and the illustrations. While this is not a quick read-aloud, it is well worth the time.

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