Great Picture Books to Inspire Hope in the World

It seems that these are dire times.  That hate, anger, and rage against others is more than the norm than ever.  I can tell you, going home to Denmark, many friends have asked me; what in the world is happening in America?  At times, it feels as if we are judged as a nation by the very loud actions of a few and so it comes down to the rest of us, those whose voices are for some reason not being heard to make sure that the America we know is one of love, of hope, of kindness.  A place where all can exist unafraid.  What better way to spread more kindness, love, and hope in the world with a few great picture books?

I wonder if there will ever be a time where I can read I Wish You More  by Amy Krouse Rosenthal  (Author), Tom Lichtenheld  (Illustrator) without tearing up.  After all, Amy’s whole mission in life seemed to be to spread more love and happiness.  What better way to remind ourselves that this is what we should wish for everyone?
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson  (Author), E. B. Lewis (Illustrator) continues to be a needed book.  We must teach children that their actions, even their unkind ones, have repercussions and that we all play a part in how we make others feel.  While this book does not offer up a happy ending, in my eyes, it offers up the perfect one.

My favorite Peter H. Reynolds book, which says a lot, is The North Star.  We follow the journey of a boy who goes on a windy path to get to where he needs to be.  I end every single year with a read aloud of this book because my students are on a journey that is just beginning, even if the future seems a bit unknown and sometimes scary.

Originally published in 1993, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me is about to be reprinted in 2018 for its 25 year anniversary.  What a powerful picture book written by Maya Angelou using paintings by Jean Michel Basquiat to remind us to face our own fears.

When we learn about what others have accomplished and overcome sometimes our own troubles do not seem as scary.  I love Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics 
At times, the biggest reminder we need to not feel afraid is to be in the very moment we are in.  Now by Antoinette Portis is magnificent in its simplicity and powerful reminder of mindfulness, quiet, and patience.

 

 

While not out until February 2018, I wish Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill would be the very first read aloud in every single classroom.  We are so quick to tell children to be kind, but do they really know what that means?

Sometimes our best-laid plans and biggest dreams don’t turn out the way we had anticipated, so then what do we do.   In We’ll Paint the Octopus Red 

 

 

How can you find hope in a picture book about death?  In the Danish picture book Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved (Author), Charlotte Pardi (Illustrator), Robert Moulthrop (Translator) they manage to do just that.  While death is inevitable, how we feel about it is a choice.
Have we forgotten how to be united as a nation?  Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass  (Author), E.B. Lewis (Illustrator) shares a remarkable story that would be a great reminder to many.

 

Be a Friend by  Salina Yoon reminds us all to see past the obvious when looking for a friend.  After all, who doesn’t hope to meet joy?

 

While it is certain that all of Kathryn Otoshi’s books could be on this list, my favorite is One.  The book reminds us of what the power of one can do in the face of adversity.

 

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald  (Author), Freya Blackwood (Illustrator) reminds us of the power of familiarity even when everything seems new and scary.  It is also a beautiful tale of friendship and reaching out to others.  

 

Sometimes the world is so scary that all we want to do is shut the door and protect our hearts.  The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers reminds us to not do that but to keep on loving even when we are afraid of our hearts breaking.

 

We are one, even when we are split, even when we are hurting, even when others seem hell-bent on splitting us apart.  One Today by Richard Blanco  (Author), Dav Pilkey (Illustrator) is the beautiful poem from President Obama’s second inauguration is the commemoration of the dreams so many of us carry for the United States.

 

A few great picture books to bring back hope, and love, and kindness.  What are your favorites? To see all of our favorite books, go here.

 

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

What We Need to Remember

image from icanread

image from icanread

The words seem to fall off the pages as I scroll through their answers.  The beginning seeds to what will become the kids that we will get to teach.  They speak of hope, of dreams, and wishes.  They speak of failures in the past, of words beyond their control, and actions they wish they could have protected their child from.  Some merely say they hope for a good year, while others ask us to please love their child, that they could really use someone more who cares.

We take these children for granted.  We take their dreams for granted.  Their hopes.  Their wishes.  We have them speak but then do not always listen.  We hurry so much at times in our urge to get to everything that we forget that we are not here to teach content, but here to teach children.

Yet the parents.  The guardians.  The ones that sit at home.  They tell us to please remember.  To please not forget, that that child we spoke of today in our meetings, that the child we mentioned to our families, that the child that kept us up thinking late last night, that child belongs to someone.  That at one point that child was so loved that the world seemed to stop for a moment and everything else fell away.  Even if life has changed by now.

So as we get ready for another year, please remember that we do not teach products.  We do not teach neat little boxes that will follow our every direction.  That we do not teach robots who will comply with our every whim.  We teach human beings, with all of their laughter, with all of their joy, but also with all of their anger, their confusion, their restlessness, and their dreams of something better.  Please don’t forget that.

Because from one parent to another.  From one teacher to another.  Sending your child to school and hoping that someone else will get them is one of the hardest things to do.  It’s one of the biggest leaps we take.  We hope with every inch of us that on that first day of school our child will come home with a smile on their face and not just talk about all of the great things they did but about how much they love their teacher.  How much they cannot wait to go back.

We hold the power to the future, we cannot forget that.  Even on our toughest day that child is someone else’s.  That child has dreams.  And that child needs us to love them.  Even when they don’t love themselves.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge.

You Are Not “Just” A Teacher

“I am just a teacher.”  How many times have we said it without even realizing it?  Without realizing how much we are cutting ourselves down?  How many times have we started our retort, offered an idea, or even pushed back with these words?  I am just a teacher so no one has to listen to me.  I am just a teacher so my ideas don’t have value.  I am just a teacher so what do I know…

But here’s the thing, you are not just a teacher.  You are so much more.

You are the first line of defense for a child’s love of learning.  The original believer in all children.  The person who every day gets up and thinks that they can truly make a difference.

You are a dream-builder.  A planner. A wonder-er.

You are a compass for those who may be lost.  A map for those who need to find a way.  And a flashlight for those who have lost their vision.

You are not just a teacher, you are a pair of arms for those who feel the world is against them.  A shoulder for those who need to cry.   Ears that will listen to whose who feel no one hears their voice anymore.

You are someone who believes even when others don’t.  You are someone who fights even after all seems lost.  You are someone who never, ever gives up even when a child has given up on themselves.

You are not “just” a teacher, but instead a warrior whose urgency only grows with every child we meet.  A campaigner for others to believe in the good that you see in a child.  A window opener when all the doors have been closed.

You are the family that some children don’t get to have.  You are someone who cares with everything you do.  You are the voice of reason when others speak nonsense.

You are the last line of defense when others say no more, nothing else, we are done.

So yes, you may just be a teacher but think of what you are to all of those kids that you teach.  Think of what you can be.  And then think of what they will do knowing you were their teacher.  So the next time you find yourself saying you are just a teacher, wear that title with pride.  You are just a teacher, but teachers change the world.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

My Students Still Hate Book Clubs, So Now What?

I knew I was up against some pretty deep-seated negative notions, but I guess I didn’t know how deep they really ran until yesterday when I started to read my end-of-year surveys.  One questions asked, “What is the one thing Mrs. Ripp should never have 7th graders do?” Usually answers are varied, spread across an entire year of trying to meet every child’s need and invariably always upsetting someone else.  But not this year; this year there was a clear winner; book clubs.  This awesome way to create a reading community was one of the most hated things by far we did all year.  And I am stumped

You see, we didn’t do book clubs the traditional way.  Students self-selected their books from more than 50 choices (we even involved the library for some groups that didn’t like the 50 presented to them).  Students set their own rules, reading pace, and expectations.  They were given 3 weeks to read the books and ample time to do so in class, so that it wouldn’t become another homework assignment.  I asked them to try to speak about the books for no more than 10 minutes, keeping their conversations focused and to the point.  I encouraged them to write down things they wanted to discuss and we also brainstormed guiding questions that they were then given on bookmarks to help start their conversations.  Their final product was a book talk with a small 5 slide presentation to use a backdrop for their conversation; and again, they were given time in class.  Yet, they hated it.

They hated having to read at the pace of someone else.  They hated the stilted conversations.  They hated that I was even asking them to have a shared reading conversation, often carrying resentment that I had shaped their groups.  We had discussed why I had made the groups, and some ended up loving theirs, and yet, others said it was the worst experience I could have forced them to do.  It wasn’t that they didn’t want to talk about books, they just didn’t want to go deeper with them, not in that way, not with those people.

So as I sit and dream of next year, because isn’t that what we do over the summer, I cannot help but think what else I can do to make book clubs an enjoyable part?  Should I abandon them altogether?  We do read aloud where we discuss text, so we still have a shared reading conversation where we interpret, experience, and try to figure out the book together.  Should I make it book partnerships where they interview three potential partners, one recommended by me, and they pick another person or two to read the same book with but perhaps with final approval from me?

Is there even a purpose for book clubs or are they a left over notion from when we were doing literature circles and felt we had to be in more control?  How do we rescue something that most of my students hated, but I still see value in?  Do I continue to just force it on them, trying to listen, or do we change our ways?  Are book clubs even necessary for developing readers?  I would love to hear your thoughts…

For more behind the scenes information on ideas for book clubs, both good and bad, please go here 

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter@PernilleRipp.

Why You Should Ask For Parent Feedback Even When You Are Afraid of the Answers

I just hit “Send” and for a moment my hand hovered over the “undo” button.  Perhaps I didn’t need to ask these questions, perhaps this year I would skip the annual end of year parent survey.  I don’t know why after 7 years of teaching, asking for feedback is still so excruciatingly tough.  Not from the kids, that I ask for every single day, but from the adults, the parents/guardians, the ones at home that see the effects of the teaching I do every single day.

For a few weeks I have wondered if I even wanted to send it this year.  If anything good would come from it, or if my self-esteem could handle it?  This was my first year teaching 7th grade and in so many ways I have felt like a brand new teacher with all of the flaws, the mishaps, the bad teaching that comes along with the first year title.  So now as the end of the year is in sight, I was compelled to just forget all about the feedback, pretend I don’t want to know, pretend to not care.

But that’s not the truth.  Because I do care.  Sometimes probably too much.  I know that I have screwed up.  I know that I could have been better at reaching every kid and teaching them what they needed.  I know I have failed some times, and I know some of my feedback will say that.  Some will probably crack my facade and make me feel pretty terrible.

And yet, if I don’t ask, I can’t grow.

So I let it go, and I now I wait, hoping for the best.  I hope there are some that will see how hard I tried to reach every kid.  I hope there are some that will see the thought, effort, and diligence that went into this year.  But I also hope there are some that will take a moment to give me advice, to tell me how I can grow.  Because I know I need to, and that is the bottom-line.  This is not about me, it is about the students.  And while I may have an idea of what I need to work on (and boy, do I ever), there is nothing like the perspective of a parent/guardian to show you things you never even thought of.  If we truly mean that we are in this for the kids, then we have to include those at home.  We have to ask the tough questions, even if the answers may sting.

If you would like to see my parent survey this year, here you are.  Student surveys will be done in class next week.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join ourPassionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

A Hope for the First Day of School

In the movies they often speak about that one day that changes everything.  The moment in which the world stood still or tilted on its side or whatever cosmic thing that can happen, happened.  That day that changed someone forever.  And as much as I love the movies, I don’t think our lives can depend on just one day.  I think it can depend on many “one day’s,” a collection of big days that compounds us and define us, creating the person we want to be.

One of those days is the first day of school.  The real first day, not the ones where parents show up and you wear your finest clothes and you smile and socialize and talk and try to not show how insanely nervous you are.  No, the one after that.  The one where the students show up after the bell rings and try to remember where their desks are, try to remember your name, try to remember what was all said the day before.  That day can change everything.
We worry about the impression we make on parents, did we get our message across?  Did we plant the seed of relationship?  Do they really trust us as professionals?  But do we worry enough about the impression we make on our students?  Has that seed of trust been planted or is it simply taken for granted?
So on that first day of school, that real first day, I want to reach out and connect.  I want to laugh a lot.  I want to excite, I want to work, and I want to bare myself.  I want to invest, to relish, and to trust my students.  I want them to feel they are at home, that our room is safe, and that 5th grade will be just as magical as they hoped it would.  I want to make a day that changes their lives, I want to be part of their collection of “one day’s.”  I hope it is not asking too much.