Are you familiar with books by Jeanette Winter? Over time she has written many picture book biographies of individuals who have worked to improve the lives of others. Many of these biographies feature people working to promote peace and social justice. In fact, she won the 2010 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award—an award given for books that encourage children to think about peace, social justice, world community, and equality—for Nasreen’s Secret School. Winter’s books are excellent material to use to introduce young children (grades 1-4) to thoughtfully crafted picture book biographies—a major CCSS objective. They are, in addition, entryways into discussing character and values—two topics that are essential to civic learning.
Discussing Goals, Actions, and Characters Traits
The subjects of Jeanette Winter’s biographies work hard to pursue their goals. After reading several of these biographies, have students work with a partner or small group to discuss each person’s goal, what that person did to achieve that goal, and what character traits the person displayed. Here are four books to use to get you started:
Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/ Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan
Malala resisted the threats from the Taliban in order to pursue her education.
Iqbal resisted the powerful factory owners who wanted to keep him chained to a loom all day in order to pay off his parents' $12 debt. Both children were shot, and only Malala survived and continues to speak out.
Nasreen’s Secret School
Even though the Taliban in Afghanistan wanted to prevent girls from going to school, Nasreen's grandmother takes her to a secret school. During harsh and dangerous times, she shows the power to resist and defy authority when necessary.
Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia
Luis Soriano loves books, but when they begin to fill up his house he knows he must do something. He has an idea. He purchases two donkeys, builds two crates to carry the books, and makes a sign--BIBLIOBURRO. Each week he travels by donkey to a distant village, bringing books to children who have none. Not even a bandit can stop Luis.
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
As war approaches, a brave librarian and her friends save 30,000 books by taking them to their houses. Fortunately, the books are saved although the library is bombed.
Use the chart below to record the details about the subject of each true story.
Person Goals Actions Character Traits
Alia Muhammad Baker, chief librarian of Basra's Central Library
I read an article recently that made the point that unless otherwise directed, children will read history to understand the message, but not to critique it. That’s where we teachers step in. We can shine a spotlight on the process of thinking about what we read. We also focus on the best way to act when conditions are challenging or even worse—harsh and oppressive.