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An A From Miss Keller - Patricia Polacco, Patricia Polacco

The book, An A From Miss Keller, is written by Patricia Polacco and is based off of true events that happened when Polacco was growing up. The main character of the work, Patricia, is nervous about starting in Miss Keller’s writing class because she has heard terrible rumors about this woman. The question remains throughout the book: is Miss Keller really a bad teacher or is she a good teacher who is just tough on her students? A book like this would be great to use towards the end of the school year to talk about next year’s teacher with your students. Sometimes students like to listen to the rumors circulating through the school; but until the students actually meet the teacher, they should never judge someone based on someone else’s words. I read this book to the kindergarten class I am currently observing, and it made them so appreciative of the teacher they currently have. I also pointed out to them that throughout their time in school, they may have teachers who are hard on them because they expect them to work up to their full potential. This does not make them a bad teacher, but rather one who truly cares about their future. By the end of the story, the students believed that Miss Keller was actually a great teacher, but maybe she could have been a little nicer to her class. This book’s Lexile reading level is 700L. If you read this book at the beginning of the school year, I think a great activity for this book would be to read it aloud to the class, and then students could do a journal write on the expectations of their teacher. I think teachers should be open to considering how students want them to act throughout the school year. Obviously, you should never be too easy on students to where it seems like you do not care, but we should never be as strict as Miss Keller to where our students are fearful of being in our class!

Thank You, Mr. Falker - Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco's book, Thank you, Mr. Falker, holds a very special place in my heart as a future teacher. The book is based off of true events that took place in the life of Polacco, herself, growing up. It addresses criticial issues seen in schools across the world, such as bullying or reading difficulties. Trisha, the central character of the story, craves the sweet knowledge of how to read, but she is different than most students. She suffers major difficulties in reading and begins to fall behind all of the other students. About midways through the book, she loses both of her grandparents, who were her biggest supporters in the work. The other students also begin to pick on her, calling her dumb for not knowing how to read. When her grandparents pass away, her family decides to move. For Trisha, she hopes this will give her a new opportunity to not be bullied; however, things are much worse at her new school. A boy in her class, Eric, is relentless about degrading her in class. It's not until the school gets a new teacher, Mr. Falker, that Trisha is able to see hope in the future of her reading. This book covers a diverse amount of topics that should be addressed within the classroom. Its lexile reading level is AD650L, and it can be read by most students who are ages six through nine. Honestly, I feel as though this book should also be read in the middle and high school setting. This presents a way for teachers to talk about bullying within the school and in the classrooms. Aside from bullying, this book allows the teacher to talk openly about how all students are different when it comes to reading. Some students can be considered advanced readers, and others are considered struggling readers. The teacher can highlight this very aspect by simply reading about the classrooms that Trisha was in throughout the story. The teacher could also use this book to talk about how some students can suffer loss within their families. Students could have a death in their family, or maybe they are having to move schools and make changes. This book is full of endless opportunities to talk about these issues within the classroom. In my classroom, I would definitely want to use this book to address bullying. I would read the book with my class, and then students could organize either group skits or maybe even a class skit to show the implications of bullying in school.

Tikvah Means Hope - Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco's story, Tikvah Means Hope, is based off of true events that occurred in her hometown in Oakland, California. The story begins with the characters of Justine and Duane who help their neighbor, Mr. Roth, build a sukkah, which is a little hut that Jews would build to commemorate their harvest festival. After they have finished building their sukkah, the characters go to the market to buy food for their festivities. Upon returning to their homes, they find that a firestorm has destroyed their neighborhood. All is lost except for Mr. Roth's sukkah, which is a miracle! Everyone is absolutely devastated, especially since they cannot find Mr. Roth's cat, Tikvah. Luckily, she finally appears after surviving the devastating fires. This presents hope to all of the people in the neighborhood. This book's lexile level is 590L, and is recommended for children between ages five to eleven. This book would be great to talk about fire safety in the classroom and even religious diversity. Students would benefit from hearing how quickly fires can destroy homes if you are not careful. This book shows that tragedies can always happen when you least expect it, but I like that it shows how the neighborhood worked together to restore what they lost. Until reading this book, I never knew what a sukkah was, so I think presenting this book would be a great way to show students how different cultures can be!

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes - Eric Litwin, James Dean

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes tells the story of Pete, a blue cat, who is starting his first day of school. Eric Litwin, the author, highlights many different places in the school that Pete has never been before such as the library, the lunchroom, and the playground. All of these locations could be places that students could find intimidating on their first day of school, but Pete is one cool cat who does not worry! Litwin incorporates a song into his book that is catchy for young readers to listen to. Believe me, it will be stuck in your head all day long! This book would be great to read on the first day of school to a kindergarten class, or preschoolers getting ready to begin kindergarten. You could even lend a copy to a new student in your class who may be feeling anxious about their first day and being in a new school setting. The book's reading level is for kindergarten and its lexile level is AD600L. Pete is the perfect example of how all students should feel on their first day at school: excited to learn and full of confidence!