Monday, March 2, 2015

Bring New Children's Books to Life with Crafts and Games

March 2 - Today's post contributed by Penny Peck

Many children prefer to learn with hands on activities, so crafts and games are a great way to celebrate women in history.  Instead of sounding like a history lesson, this interactive format can attract a wide age range of children who will enjoy the crafts and art projects, as well as some fun games. Today, I am going to outline some simple do-it-yourself programming ideas tied to new children’s books on great women and their accomplishments.
The books and related activities are divided by age appeal, so you can use an activity with the appropriate grade level. For example, you can use books for young children in a storytime, along with the suggested hands-on activity, or use one of the books for tweens in a book discussion group who would also enjoy the related project. If a class comes for a library tour, you can read one of the short books suggested for that grade, or do booktalks if the class is 4th grade and up, and offer one of the activities that relate to those books.
You can also offer just one of these activities as a “passive program.”  Just set up the supplies for one activity, along with a poster outlining the instructions, for parent and child to do together at a library table.  These activities can also be adapted to the classroom, bookstore, or museum, since they fall into the type of “living history” activities that are so popular.  
Here are several books and a hands-on activity relating to each, which would be a great focus for a Women’s History program.
Books for Grades 4-8:

Conkling, Winifred. Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery. Algonquin, 2015.

    Born a slave in 1782, Edmonson dreamed her children would be free. Filled with illustrations and sidebars, this history of their escape on a schooner in 1848 is an empowering look at an unknown true story. For a related activity, make paper quilt blocks similar to those thought to be used on the Underground Railroad: .  
Draper, Sharon M. Stella by Starlight. Atheneum, 2015.

    Stella uses writing to help her cope with the challenges of being an African-American girl in 1932 in North Carolina. Combining both sobering issues like segregation with humorous incidents like a Christmas pageant, this thoughtful novel will inspire readers to try their own hands at writing. Make journals out of cereal boxes: .

Gherman, Beverly. First Mothers. Clarion, 2015.
    Short sketches of the U.S. Presidents’ mothers are the focus of this engaging collective biography. Watercolor and pencil illustrations bring these important figures to life – perfect for Mothers’ Day! For an activity, children can make Mothers’ Day cards for the important women in their lives: .

Grimes, Nikki. Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts. Orchard/Scholastic, 2015.
    One-page vignettes describe the fictional friendship of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, with factual information that shows the shared goals of these two women would have made them fast friends if they had met. Dramatic illustrations by Michelle Wood add to the enjoyment.  For an activity, have readers write a letter to a famous woman they would like to meet, including elected officials, sports figures, entertainers, scientists or astronauts, or business leaders: .

Kanefield, Teri. The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement. Abrams, 2014.
    Barbara Rose Johns is no longer an unsung hero in the Civil Rights movement, thanks to this book packed with photos and interesting information. In 1951, Johns led a walkout of her segregated high school to protest unfair conditions. For a related activity, readers can do something to benefit their own schools, including holding a book drive for the school library: .

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil. Little Brown, 2014.
    Set in Darfur about ten years ago, this novel in free verse describes the life of a 12-year-old girl and her experience in a refugee camp. Amira dreams of going to school to learn to read and write, something her traditional mother doesn’t support. Celebrate this true-to-life novel by making sandpaper art. Using crayons, draw on coarse sandpaper to create pictures of animals, scenery, or people.
Books for Grades 1-3:

Fern, Tracey E. Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud. Farrar, 2014.
  Prentiss was the navigator on the Flying Cloud, a ship that made a record-breaking voyage from New York City to San Francisco in 1851. This picture book biography brings that achievement to life. Children can make a ship model following these instructions: .

McCully, Emily Arnold. Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story. Farrar, 2015.
    Lizzie Murphy became a professional baseball player in the early 1900’s, and is the star of this picture book biography. Murphy’s life is an excellent example of a person standing up for herself against prejudice, doubt, and opposition. For a related activity, offer these baseball word search puzzles: .

Editors Note: Emily Arnold McCully will be our featured contributor on March 6th!

Paul, Miranda. One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. Millbrook, 2015.
    In the 1980’s, Isatou Ceesay noticed that discarded plastic bags were harming the environment and animals in her native Gambia, so she came upon a solution. She crocheted strips of the plastic bags into purses to sell! Have tweens create their own bookbags by weaving strips of plastic bags:

Tonatiuh, Duncan. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. Abrams, 2014.
    In both the straightforward text and the dramatic, stylized illustrations, readers will learn about the court case that integrated California schools in the late 1940’s. The Mendez family fought for all children to attend local schools at a time when segregated “Mexican” schools were the norm. For a related activity, children can make some authentic Mexican crafts such as papel picado: .
Books for Preschool – Kindergarten:

Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious. Readers to Eaters, 2014.
    This picture book biography celebrates Berkeley restaurant-owner and chef Alice Waters, who founded the Edible Schoolyard Project to promote healthy school lunches. One activity could involve growing a library vegetable garden if you have the space. Or, have children decorate flower pots planted with carrot seeds for their own home mini-gardens: .

Spires, Ashley. The Most Magnificent Thing. Kids Can Press, 2014.
    In this picture book, a girl attempts to make a “magnificent thing” with unsuccessful results, until she learns to plan her project. Readers will take away the notion that invention takes several attempts as well as solid planning. For a related activity, use up all your leftover craft materials and recyclables and allow children to make their own collages, sculptures, or art projects: .

Penny Peck has been a children's librarian for over 25 years; before that, she was Snow White and Mother Goose at Children's Fairyland in Oakland, ran a nightclub, worked as the wardrobe mistress for the Berkeley Ballet, and was an agent for a standup comedian. Her experience includes performing thousands of storytimes, leading hundreds of book club discussions for students in grades 4-12, conducting hundreds of school tours and assemblies, and reviewing children's books and media. She is editor of "BayNews," the newsletter for the Association of Children's Librarians of Northern California,  Since 2002 she has been a part-time instructor at San Jose State University, specializing in classes on youth and teen services and programming, and has written three books on children’s services, published by Libraries Unlimited, including Crash Course in Children’s Services: 2nd Edition (2014), Crash Course in Storytime Fundamentals: 2nd Edition (2015), and Reader’s Advisory for Children and Tweens (2010).

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