What Message Will You Leave Your Students With This Year?
BY JILLIAN HEISE
Thinking about #classroombookaday choices for May has me thinking about the end of the school year and the message I want to leave with students.
As a former eighth grade teacher, I was always very intentional about that last day read-aloud I wanted to share with students. What were those final words I wanted my students to carry with them that would inspire them for the years ahead? What was the final theme that would remind them to be their true selves as they navigated the treacherous social hierarchies of high school? No pressure! Ha!
I often used a book like Only One You. Over the years I’ve read enough other picture books to start a Goodreads shelf (that now has 53 titles!) for “grad send-off” books in the hopes that it wasn’t only eighth grade when these types of books could be useful.
Whether it’s sending PreK littles to the next grade, fifth graders off to middle school, high school grads off to college, or just sending kids to the next grade knowing I won’t be their teacher anymore, I think there is always a picture book that has the message I’d want those little (or not so little) humans to carry with them: Be the best you that you can be. Do what you know to be right and what feels true to your heart. Make a difference, make an impact, make a life that helps make others’ lives better. Don’t lose sight of who you are and the dreams you have.
That idea of being true to yourself may be different for every student I have ever had the privilege to teach. But I most want to remind students, in these last weeks of the school year, through the books I choose to read aloud, that “being you” is a good place to start. With all of that in mind, I selected these 20 picture books to recommend this month because they all have a sense of “you do you” to them, supporting various identities and encouraging kids to be themselves and to go out and do good in the world.
Because picture books can do that. They can help kids see themselves and see others and see ways to be. That is their true power. I’m reminded that “Literature does more than change people’s minds; it changes people’s hearts. And people with changed hearts are people who can move the world.” (Rasinski & Padak, 1990, as cited in Cai, 2002, p. 19)
At the end of the year, I want to leave my students with hearts that are open to all and to love themselves as they go out to make their mark on the world. And I end with the hope that of all of those daily picture books we’ve shared through #classroombookaday, at least one will stay with them in their hearts reminding them that who they are is enough.
Jillian Heise is a Grade K-5 Library Media Teacher in southeastern Wisconsin. She previously taught Grades 7-8 ELA in the Milwaukee area for 11 years and is board certified. Jillian is a passionate advocate for student choice in reading and the power of shared stories through #classroombookaday picture book read-alouds. She brings her literacy expertise and knowledge of books to her role as Chair of the WSRA Children’s Literature Committee. You can find Jillian talking books and education at Heise Reads & Recommends and on Twitter at @heisereads.
Read all Jillian Heise #classroombookaday articles on Follett Community.
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