Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Mirrors and Windows

BOOK COVER SHOWS MULAN WEARING ARMOR ATOP A HORSELast year, my second grader came home one day and started telling me about Malala. Her teacher had used a biography of the recent Nobel Prize winner as the example book at the beginning of their biography unit. This week, my now third grader came home with assignment inspired by The Ballad of Mulan by Song Nan Zhang as they discuss perseverance and challenges. And there you go — it can be just that easy to begin to incorporate diverse books into a curriculum. The assignment reads:

Dear Parents,

This week we have been reading the folktale The Ballad of Mulan. In the story, Mulan overcomes stereotypes, proving that women can also be strong and courageous in war. Throughout the unit, we will be talking about overcoming challenges.

Have your child conduct an interview with a woman in their life who has overcome a challenge, obstacle, or broken barriers. Think of a family member, grandmother, aunt, teacher, or role model who has overcome something throughout their life through determination and strength. Think outside of the box and look around, you will be surprised how many women have overcome some sort of challenge throughout their life! The questions on the following page should be used to guide the interview, any other questions that come up through conversation are always encouraged! After the interview they can draw a picture of their special woman.img_20160927_220445

I’m so pleased that all of the kids in my daughter’s grade are being introduced to heroic figures from around the world, that they’re being inspired to connect a book to the world around them, and that they’re encouraged to take another look at the women they know, learning about and acknowledging their challenges and triumphs. Not only that, but they’re looking to a the attitude and accomplishments of a woman from Chinese history (and not even the Disneyfied version of it) as their inspiration. Books are mirrors, they are windows, and here they are both. My daughter knows women who have overcome poverty, loss, childhood abandonment, language barriers, abuse, discrimination, and more. This weekend she’ll get to sit down with some of them and hear their stories. And so will the boys in her class.


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