March is Women’s History Month. It is a time to learn about the bold and brave women who made a difference in America. Women make history every day. For far too long, women did not show up in history books. Accomplishments went unnoticed. Today, their achievements are more visible thanks to Women’s History Month.
We can learn about remarkable women by reading picture books. The 5 picture books mentioned below include lesson ideas.
Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman
“What if everyone’s voice was heard by the people making our laws?” This is a question posed by Representative Sharice Davids in her book Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman. Sharice Davids talked a lot as a child. With time, Davids learned to listen, too. Listening deepened her connections with others. Good conversations helped Davids learn more about the people around her.
Davids’ story is an inspiration for those who are afraid to use their voice. Readers learn the power in finding support and speaking up to make a difference. When we share our unique perspectives, we give others an opportunity to learn more about an issue. It takes courage to share a different point of view, but it can lead to valuable change.
The creators of Sharice’s Big Voice are both Native Americans. The illustrator, Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, is an Ojibwe Woodland artist from Barrie, ON and a member of Wasauksing, First Nation. The back matter includes notes and information about the Ho-Chunk.
Watch Representative Sharice Davids read her book produced by Pride and Less Prejudice. Pause at the 9 minute 49 second mark. Ask learners to consider what the author wants readers to know about the next two pages. Watch Davids read up to the 10 minute 22 second mark. Invite learners to share what they notice in the illustrations. Ask why it’s important for lawmakers to hear different perspectives when making laws.
Describe a problem in your school library that involves learners. Learners might struggle with settling into a lesson or transitioning. Tell learners that you want to create a class rule that will make instruction better. Explain that their input is important in developing a rule that solves the problem. Listen to different ideas. Work together to create a rule that benefits all. If there is time, practice the rule. Reflect on the experience by asking learners how it feels to be a part of the rule making process.
Her Epic Adventure: 25 Women Who Inspire a Life Less Ordinary
“Imagine a great adventurer.” This is how Her Epic Adventure: 25 Women Who Inspire a Life Less Ordinary begins. The author, Julia De Laurentiis Johnston, invites readers to imagine an adventurer. She asks questions to help readers add details to their mental picture. Finally, Johnston asks readers if their brave adventurer is a woman. This question awakens readers to consider their unconscious bias about women and the outdoors.
Johnston explains how society recognizes men as adventurous, but not women. Women continue to challenge the misconception today. Her Epic Adventure highlights 25 bold women with captivating compositions by Salini Perera. Each double-page spread features one woman. The layout contains illustrations, a quote, a brief biography, and interesting facts. These elements capture the readers’ attention.
Read a few stories from the book. Ask learners to notice how the author and illustrator presented the information. Invite learners to share one thing they learned by reading Her Epic Adventure.
For a longer lesson, ask learners to make note of their favorite text feature. They will illustrate a remarkable woman by using the text features modeled in the book. Visit the Women Heroes page on the National Geographic Kids website for inspiration. Invite learners to create a page for Her Epic Adventure about their hero.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré
Given the current turmoil with book bans, it’s important to recognize the great work of school librarians who bring diverse stories to life. In Planting Stories, we learn about a creative librarian who made an impact.
Pura Belpré moved from Puerto Rico to New York City in 1921. She found work at the public library as a bilingual assistant. Belpré wanted to share folktales from Puerto Rico, but the stories were not in the collection. This did not stop Belpré. First, she told the tales in both English and Spanish using handmade puppets. Later, she wrote books about the stories. Belpré was enthusiastic about her work. She wanted everyone in the community to feel included in the library.
Prepare for the lesson by gathering folktale books. Introduce the story by asking learners what they suppose the title might mean. Explain that their job is to look for clues about planting stories while you read. End the story by asking how Pura Belpré planted stories. Follow up by asking why it was important for the community to hear and read her folktales.
Ask learners what they know about folktales. Invite them to name their favorite stories. Explain that a folktale can inform people about different places and cultures.
Divide the class into groups. Give each group a few folktale books. Ask learners to explore the folktales and look for clues about different places and cultures. Invite learners to compare and contrast the different stories.
A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights
In A Lady Has the Floor, author Kate Hannigan shares the biography of Belva Lockwood. In the mid 1800s, Lockwood noticed that girls did not speak in class. Only boys could stand up and present information. Lockwood knew this was wrong. She advocated for change. When Lockwood saw something that was unfair, she fought for justice.
Readers will connect with the theme of unfairness as they experience it every day. The interesting illustrations by Alison Jay will transport readers back in time. The images have an old feel to them. The crackled texture and style of clothes give clues that the story took place a long time ago.
Who has the floor when you teach a lesson? Does one person do most of the talking? Find out by recording a lesson. Watch the replay with learners. Invite everyone to notice the discussion. Some may notice that a few people do all the talking. Others may notice how some aren’t engaged in the discussion.
Ask learners to share ideas on how to make sure everyone has a voice in a lesson. Practice the suggestions. For more ideas about guiding conversations, read Teaching Talk: A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation by Kara Pranikoff.
Read Tom Bober’s Knowledge Quest post for a lesson using primary sources with the book.
It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
What was your favorite picture book as a child? Did the book feature a character of color? If so, we can thank illustrator Gyo Fujikawa. She fought to include children with different skin colors in her picture books.
In the story It Began With a Page, we learn about the first illustrator to include diverse children in picture books. Fujikawa wanted all children to see themselves in her books. When she was little, no such books existed. This made Fujikawa feel invisible and alone. She didn’t want her readers to feel that way, too.
Fujikawa met resistance about her multi-racial books. She insisted that these books mattered. She was right, and her books were a hit.
Prepare for the lesson by reading In Praise of a Scholarly Force: Rudine Sims Bishop. This article, by Violet J. Harris, explores Bishop’s description of books as windows and mirrors. Highlight the main points of the article with learners.
Ask learners to illustrate the cover of their favorite book. Invite them to label the book as a window or a mirror. Then, ask learners to write what they learned about themselves or the world by reading the book.
How are you recognizing Women’s History Month with picture books? Please share in the comment box below.
Author: Maureen Schlosser
Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
Skillshare Teacher: https://skl.sh/3a852D5
Categories: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
I suggest A Voice for the Everglades: Marjory Stoneman Douglas by Vicki Conrad (2021). This is a picture book biography of the woman who fought for the survival of the Everglades and her efforts helped to establish a national park.
Thank you, Karen! The book looks great! I have it on my list to purchase now.