The classrooms shown in this clip and throughout this video library use a number of different texts. Those listed below are mentioned in this video. The remaining videos in this library may feature additional texts. Refer to the appropriate sections of the library guide for additional information about the texts used in each classroom.
Often the students in these classes are asked to make their own reading selections. They may be given complete free choice as in Ms. Teklu's class, or they may choose from a selected list as portrayed in Mr. Hoonan's, Mr. Thompson's, and Ms. Rowley's classes. When choosing or recommending books for students, all the teachers profiled here seek titles that will engage students and challenge them in some way to think about their own lives and about the world they live in.
Sounder by William Howard Armstrong
This Newbery Award-winning novel portrays the lives of a family of poor southern sharecroppers. To feed his family, the father resorts to stealing food and is hauled off to jail for stealing a hog. During his capture, Sounder, a coon dog that the man has raised since he was a pup, is shot and disappears, reappearing later tattered and emaciated. The son is forced to take on a man's work to help support the family. He searches for his father who has been sent to do hard labor, eventually finding him. After being maimed in an accident, the father eventually returns before he dies.
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Set in the early years of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, this novel tells the story of 11-year-old Parvana who has rarely been outdoors since the Taliban gained power in her country. Barred from attending school, shopping at the market, or even playing in the streets of Kabul, Parvana is trapped inside her family's one-room home. After the Taliban arrests her father and takes him to prison because he is a scholar, Parvana realizes that with her older brother dead, she has to become the "breadwinner" supporting her mother, two sisters, and baby brother. She disguises herself as a boy and earns money by providing a reading service for illiterates.
Just Juice by Karen Hesse
School lessons are a mystery to nine-year-old Juice, who simply cannot manage to understand numbers, letters, and reading, although she likes to explore and learn and has a talent as an apprentice metalworker in her Pa's makeshift shop. In spite of her family's persuasions, Juice avoids school as often as possible, choosing instead to work with her father who has been laid off from his work at the mine. Pa keeps it a secret that he can't read either, and because he can't deal with the official papers regarding past-due taxes, the family could lose their house. When her diabetic mother gives birth, Juice is the only one home. She forces herself to read the sugar monitor, does so properly, and saves her mother's life.
"As I Grow Older" by Langston Hughes
In this frequently anthologized poem by Langston Hughes, the speaker talks about how he lost the dreams of his youth and appeals to his hands to break through the darkness and smash the night so he can recover the power of that dream.
Cold and Hot Winter by Joanna Hurwitz
In this sequel to The Hot and Cold Summer, best friends Derek, Rory, and Bolivia are reunited during Bolivia's week-long visit to her great-aunt and great-uncle over the Christmas school break. The three fifth-graders play games, ice-skate, and build snow people (which they move from one house to the other in the dead of night). Things begin to disappear-Bolivia's new Swiss army knife, Derek's hamster and the money from his bank-and their friendship is tested by mistrust, especially when Derek's suspicions of Rory's dishonesty threaten to tear the trio apart.
The Color of My Words by Lynn Joseph
Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa Hèrnandez wants to be a writer so much that when she has no paper she takes her brother's notebook and fills it with her words. From a lofty perch high in her gri gri tree, she looks over her small seaside village in the Dominican Republic, oblivious at first to the developing political turmoil of her island nation. First she must confront more personal issues her parentage and what it means to be part of a family and a community. Gradually she comes to understand the power of her words in a country where words are often feared. When the government tries to steal the villagers' land, Ana Rosa's writing is what enables her to transcend the tragedy of her beloved brother's murder.
Rascal by Sterling North
Set in a small Wisconsin town during World War I, this Newbery Honor Book presents a first-person account of North's boyhood and his relationship with a raccoon he discovered as an abandoned kit. For a year Rascal and North's good-natured St. Bernard, Wowser, bounce from one adventure to the next. Trouble with neighbors over the raccoon's antics forces a reluctant North to cage him. When the raccoon reaches adulthood and is able to fend for itself, North sends him safely back into the wild.
A Family Apart by Joan Lowery Nixon
Based on the true history of the Orphan Trains (which ran between 1854 and 1929 and transported 100,000 children to the west for resettlement and adoption) this book follows Frances May Kelly as she and her five brothers and sisters are sent west to new homes. Recently widowed, their Irish immigrant mother tried to support her children by working nights cleaning in an office building. When her older son Mike is arrested for stealing, the mother realizes she can no longer keep her children safe and decides to send them away. Frances cuts her hair and dresses as a boy in order to protect her younger siblings and enhance her chances of adoption. She anguishes as her brothers and sisters are sent to different homes but settles in under the care of Jake and Margaret Cummings. Accidentally she discovers two runaway slaves hiding in the barn and realizes that her new home is a link on the Underground Railroad. Eventually it is up to her to enable their escape to the next way station.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Jeffrey Magee's parents are killed in a trolley accident when he is three, and he is sent to live with his Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan. His aunt and uncle won't speak to one another, using Jeffrey as their go-between. After eight years, Jeffrey has had enough. He screams "Talk to each other!" and runs away literally. He runs, searching for a real home, eventually ending up 200 miles away in the town of Two Mills, a community divided by race into an East and a West End. Jeffrey becomes "Maniac Magee," a legend in the town a boy who can outrun dogs, hit a homerun off the best pitcher in the neighborhood, and untie the knot no one else can undo. In his search for a place to belong, he begins to unite the town by forcing at least some of the Blacks and Whites to know each other.
Dangerous Skies by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Growing up together, Buck Smith and Tunes Smith's families share generations of connected history on Virginia's eastern shore. However, their youthful companionship changes when Buck, the son of the white farm owner, and Tunes, African-American daughter of Kneebone Smith, find the floating body of a migrant worker. Twelve-year-old Buck is horrified when Tunes becomes a suspect. Sure that the real killer is prosperous, respected Jumbo Rawlins, Buck urges Tunes to tell her side of the story. Instead, Tunes disappears. Buck finds her and is horrified to learn that Rawlins has been abusing her physically and sexually. Although Tunes doesn't think her word will be believed against that of a prosperous white man, Buck's naïve belief in justice persuades her to come out of hiding. As predicted, she's arrested and tried while Rawlins remains untouched. Though not convicted, Tunes moves away and drops out of Buck's life forever.
You can access additional resources related to this video clip's texts in the Additional Resources section.