BiblioBlog: BWS Library Blog February 2020

BiblioBlog: BWS Library Blog February 2020

Written by Catherine Marquardt

We began Black History Month in January and then jammed the shortest month of February with a massive display of new books acquired over the year that are about African Americans and written or illustrated by African Americans. It was a real celebration!

Bishop Walker School 4th GradersOur oldest scholars did research of important Black historic leaders and cultural icons using the Internet and books from our very full shelves of biographies. The Blacks in Wax presentation allowed 4th graders to demonstrate their knowledge of these key figures such as our own Bishop John T. Walker and a Tuskegee Airman and Michael Jackson.

With the younger students we started the month with African Folktales. A special guest storyteller introduced the trickster Anansi and Ghanaian techniques of gathering the audience into the tale with call and response. We were so lucky to have Sandi Hannibal, an experienced teacher and Librarian, lead us on a journey back to African roots. Non-fiction books on African animals supplemented our knowledge. The folks from St. Columba’s brought the Reading is Fundamental program to BWS. They read aloud African folktales to K-2, letting each boy choose a favorite folktale or graphic novel to take home.

BWS Volunteer with Students

Many new biographies and African American history books spilled off the shelves for all the grades. Historical fiction such as The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis could be matched with history books covering the Civil Rights movement and its heroes. We discussed the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy, now written in a young adult format. Some 5th graders were particularly interested in books about the new Legacy Museum covering the long-term cruelty of slavery in America and the photo book about the Peace and Justice Memorial in Montgomery in remembrance of all those who were lynched in this country. In addition to the 900’s for history, Section 323 in the Library holds many books on the Civil Rights movement.

Library Books

A special session went to Thurgood Marshall and how he fought for his education and then fought for justice. As a side note, Marshall had a talent of telling a good joke, even as a boy. We happen to have a good joke book section of the Library found in the stacks with a number 402. BWS scholars were found honing their oral advocacy skills by telling jokes to one another.

Library Books on Piano

Kindergarten through 2nd also explored a huge collection of picture book biographies about African American heroes of all ages. We used owls to role-play such stories as Henry Box Brown’s journey from slavery to freedom in Philadelphia. And our little owlet satFirst Graders with Owlett at a singular desk just like Ruby Bridges sat alone in her classroom. Undefeated by Kwame Alexander is a powerful read-aloud that lifts the soul with words as Kadir Nelson’s stunning illustrations fill the heart. This book won both the Coretta Scott King Awards for author and illustrator as well as the Caldecott award for best Picture Book of 2019.

Then we followed a cascade of African American leaders, thinkers, artists and athletes who broke barriers and contributed mightily to this country. The young boys particularly were intrigued by Arctic explorer Matthew Henson who grew up right in the District and ended up planting the American flag at the top of the North Pole. Geography, climate and Inuit culture studies complemented that study.

Present day scientists and explorers from the African American community are featured in Library Booksseveral books on astronauts. One of our students recognized a photo of Charlie Bolton, the class Lunch Buddy, on the cover of a book about NASA. Heroes right here in our midst!

Of course, athletes and musicians were the most popular people for these boys to read about. A very comprehensive history of The Negro League encapsulated the struggle and ultimate athletic power of African American baseball players from the 1880’s all the way to the 1940’s. Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron got their start in this league. Players toured the world and introduced baseball to Japan in 1927. Musicians from the Harlem Renaissance all the way to Hip Hop and Rap fill our shelves. The youngest boys first read and then sang a book called Happy by Pharell. Singing the words of a book is a great road toward literacy. And fun!

Finally, we ended the month with an author visit at the Library of St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes. The graphic artist Jerry Craft was celebrating his most recent book, The New Kid. He had just won the Coretta Scott King Award for best author and won the Newberry award for best novel. This is a man whoJerry Craft didn’t like to read when he was a kid.

He told the boys about how he came to read more and more as he discovered comics and then made his own comics, Mama’s Boyz. He spent over an hour talking to our mixed classes of 4th and 5th graders. Just when we thought it was over, he walked to a large pad of paper and started drawing. It was an art lesson for those who thought they could never draw anything. No excuses, Jerry Craft taught us the tricks of the trade. And, he ended by showing us how to draw a perfect circle for Charlie Brown’s head…practice thousands of times and you’ll get it.

We Librarians created a wall mural of winners of the Coretta Scott King Awards which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Look for the copper and silver medallions that indicate the best African American writing and illustrating published that year. Jerry Craft and Kadir Nelson won!

Library Wall with CSK Awards