Day in the Life

Mission (Almost) Impossible

Day: Thursday

My mission, should I choose to accept it: In my one full day of work on this campus, impart a love of reading, match students with books, and teach writing, history, math, Bible, art appreciation, and library skills.

0920 hours: Fifth grade. They have worked for a month on biographies in class, preparing for oral presentations. I have helped them locate books, use databases, and narrow facts into coherent narratives. Today, in honor of Black History Month, we are exploring books on Martin Luther King Jr.: long chapter books, easy reader books, and picture books. How do the authors decide what to include and what to leave out? We discuss how authors come up with a dominant impression they want to impart to their readers (or listeners) and how to choose facts to support that. We end with Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. The author builds a narrative around the influence of words in King’s early life, and how he used his own words to fight for justice. You really can’t go wrong starting the school day with Dr. King.

1020 hours: Fourth grade. We read Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by author and illustrator team Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, which is about the 1960 Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina. Andrea Pinkney weaves food references throughout the book, using action verbs and meaningful repetition. We discuss what a challenge it would be to illustrate a whole book about people just sitting. How does Brian Pinkney match those vibrant words? We discuss the choices of bright, hopeful colors and look at the swirls of paint over the ink drawings that seem to convey movement and energy around people “just sitting.” Since teachers often focus on teaching students words, I love being able to point out the conscious choices of illustrators.

1100 hours: Third grade. With my head full of beautiful pictures and big words, I return to earth with a quick overview of the Dewey Decimal System, as I prepare to introduce the online library catalog next week. Third graders are the masters of, “Do you have any books about _____?” and it is time to help them gain independence in finding books. First, of course, they must understand fiction and nonfiction shelf organization, be able to alphabetize to three letters in, and understand decimal places well enough to find books in order. “Math in library? Not fair!” [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]


Works Cited

Meyer, Susan Lynn. New Shoes. Holiday House, [repr.] 2016.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down. Little, Brown, 2010.

Rappaport, Doreen. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hyperion, [repr.] 2010.

Wiesner, David. Mr. Wuffles! Clarion, 2013.


Heather Altena divides her time between the libraries of Chicago Christian High School and Southwest Chicago Christian School’s Oak Lawn campus.

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