Author Study

TRY AN AUTHOR STUDY OF CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD

Carole Boston Weatherford is the award-winning author of more than three dozen books for young people. Her books blur the lines between the genres of poetry, biography, nonfiction and historical fiction. Her books often tackle tough subjects that spark curiosity and critical thinking.  Various titles link to language arts, social studies, science, mathematics, music and art. Here are some suggestions for an author study.

  1. An author study may be conducted as a classroom activity or as a schoolwide read. Decide on an approach. Weatherford writes for all ages and about thought-provoking subjects even in picture books.
  2. Compile a booklist. Select the titles to be read. Focus on a few books, a specific genre or a theme. Choose from Weatherford’s poetry, biographies, nonfiction and/or historical fiction. Recurring themes include jazz, sports, the community, civil rights, and African-American history.
  3. Integrate the books across the curriculum. Make connections not only to language arts, but also to social studies, science, math, art and/or music.
  4. Weatherford’s  literary mission is to mine the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles. Her books have won scores of national and regional awards. Baltimore-born and -raised, the New York Times best-selling author now calls North Carolina home.
  5. Explore Weatherford’s background in Something About the Author. View interviews on youtube (under North Carolina Award), and on readingrockets.org (under video interviews), and Kennedy Center Performing Arts Series (in archives).
  6. Hear podcasts of Weatherford reading poetry or essays on NPR (Rosa Parks & Negro League baseball), WBGO (Becoming Billie Holiday), WICN (Becoming Billie Holiday), WFDD (Voices & Viewpoints). See links under MEDIA.
  7. Try the lesson ideas below and under RESOURCES.

      

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins. Ill. by Jerome Lagarrigue

A ten-year-old fictional eyewitness experiences a key event in the civil rights movement. North Carolina Juvenile Literature Award

Lesson plan and activities

View and hear primary sources at www.sitins.com.

Draw protest signs. Create a civil rights wall of fame. Send home bookmark/discussion guide for families. Invite elders to share memories of the segregation or civil rights eras. Stage this readers theater. Sing protest songs.

Banana split recipe bookmark

Birmingham, 1963

A fictional ten-year-old narrator witnesses a seminal event in the Civil Rights Movement. Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, Jefferson Cup, Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor

Themes: segregation, civil rights movement, hate violence

Sing or write protest songs. Create a Civil Rights Wall of Fame. Write acrostics with “freedom.” Order a free DVD: The Children’s March or Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks. Do a WebQuest: www.thekingcenter.org; www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow. Write autobiographical poems after “In Memoriam.” Send home bookmark/discussion guide for families. Invite elders to share memories of the segregation or civil rights eras. Present a choral reading of the poem, incorporating the hymns and spirituals mentioned in the text. Primary sources: http://www.bplonline.org/resources/Digital_Project/SixteenthStBaptistBomb.asp

The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights, Ill. by Tim Ladwig

 A free verse poem chronicling how faith inspired the African-American freedom struggle.

Reading and activity guide

      

Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People

Poems span 400 years of African-American history and culture, celebrating famous figures and unsung heroes. North Carolina Juvenile Literature Award

Hold an open mic. Research historical events and figures mentioned in poems. Record poems as podcasts. Read a poem a day for a month. Have a soul food lunch. Make baskets and/or quilts. Research black heroes and write tribute poems. Mix poetry, music, historic images, and shadow play or pantomime to dramatize poems. More lesson ideas.


Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, Ill. by Kadir Nelson

Harriet Tubman’s spiritual journey on the Underground Railroad unfolds through a series of conversations with God. Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Award, NAACP Image Award

Reading  and activity guide

Dear Mr. Rosenwald, Ill. by C. Gregory Christie

A sharecropping community builds a school to improve their children’s future. SCBWI Golden Kite Honor

Themes: sharecropping, segregation, Rosenwald schools, Booker T. Washington

Write poems in the voices of sharecroppers or Rosenwald School students. Write a thank-you letter or poem. Write a dialogue between Mr. Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington. Find average incomes and product prices from the 1920s. Design a floor plan for a dream school or home. Make rock candy. Host an open mic where students read poems from the book, as well as original poems related to themes in the book. Send home bookmark/discussion guide for families. Do a WebQuest: www.loc.gov/exhibits/brown; www.kansasheritage.com; www.nps.rov/bowa/index.htm; www.rosenwaldschools.com.

       

Sidewalk Chalk: Poems of the City, Ill. by Dimitrea Tokunbo

Poems celebrating urban life recall the author’s Baltimore childhood. Themes: family, community

Write playground rhymes. Make chalk drawings or poems on a sidewalk or paper. Hold a penny drive. Plant a rubber tire garden. Make cardboard box toys or inventions. Invite a speaker from an animal shelter. Guess how many pennies are in a jar. Show family photos. Conduct a favorite flavor ice cream poll. Serve sundaes. Hold a sidewalk chalk poetry festival. View pavement art.

Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane, Ill. by Sean Qualls

 A poetic riff on the jazz saxophonists early years in High Point, North Carolina, the author’s adoped hometown. Caldecott Honor, SCBWI Golden Kite Honor

View Coltrane performance footage on youtube. Use the reading and activity guide.

First Pooch: The Obamas Pick a Pet, Ill. by Amy Bates

The true story of how the first family decided on their dog.

View image of Bo at the White House Photo Gallery. Search this database to find the best dog breed for your family.

Jazz Baby, Ill. by Laura Freeman

 A jazz pat-a-cake that will get the youngest hep cats jumping to the beat.

Reading and activity guide

BIOGRAPHIES

       

I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer, Ill. by Eric Velasquez

Thrilling verse biography culminating with the 1909 North Pole expedition.

Write a diary in the voice of Henson, Peary, an Inuit guide, or Kokoyah.. Discuss whether the explorers believed in Kokoyah. Have teams calculate/research distances and supply needs for such an expedition.  Study the polar region’s climate and wildlife, especially endangered species. Read about the rest of Henson’s life. Write a recipe for a frozen treat honoring Henson or commemorating the expedition. Stage a readers theater based on the book. Create a gallery of Inuit-inspired art. Present posters about endangered polar animals.

   

      

Becoming Billie Holiday , Ill. by Floyd Cooper

 A fictional verse memoir in the voice of jazz icon Lady Day, tracing her first 25 years through 97 poems. For young adults. Coretta Scott King Honor

This is a great book to read during Women’s History Month (March) National Poetry Month or Jazz Appreciation Month (both in April).

Hear podcasts of poems on WBGO (archived under Becoming Billie Holiday) & WICN (archived under Becoming Billie Holiday)

Reading and activity guide

Event guide

Jazz Timeline & Discography

Sink or Swim: African-American Lifesavers of the Outer Banks

A true adventure about a lifesaving crew that swam through a hurricane during a heroic 1896 rescue. A study guide is included in the paperback edition. See lesson plans. Link the story to character education.

Leadership strategies that the lifesavers exemplified:

1. Teamwork works — sometimes when all else fails.
2. Train as if your life depends on preparation.
3. Learn to think fast and on your feet.
4. Keep your eyes on the horizon.
5. Risk changing gears.
6. Let your life be a lesson. Lend a lifeline to someone in need.
7. Keep your head above the waves. Rise above controversy.
8. Defeat doubt. Don’t get caught in the undertow.
9. Storms eventually pass.
10. Demographics are not destiny. Anyone can be a hero.

Obama: Only in America and Michelle Obama: First Mom, Ill. by Robert Barrett

Poetic biographies of the 44th president and the first lady.

Visit the White House web site for primary source information. Write letters to the president or first lady. What three questions would you ask the Obamas if you had a chance to meet them?

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