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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lee & Low Books: Globally Aware Picture Books

Here in New Jersey and in many other states across the nation, educators are encouraged to focus on 21st Century Skills, and with them, global awareness.

Teachers often lament, "How can I teach students about the world when they barely know about themselves, their families, and their own community?" I think this is answered beautifully through multicultural picture books, and one of the preeminent publishers of multicultural titles is Lee and Low.

I've been a fan for a while now; Ken Mochizuki, author of Heroes, Baseball Saved Us, and Be Water, My Friend (a biography of young Bruce Lee) publishes with Lee and Low. I recommend those three titles highly, but a fourth, Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story, is especially recommended to those readers of this blog who wrote in to thank me for the Holocaust books featured in a recent post. In this little-known true tale, Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara makes the difficult decision to help thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust through Japan, against his government's orders. This books truly speaks to children about doing "the right thing" for others, no matter how little we seem to share in common with them.

What I didn't realize (until visiting their website and reviewing other titles) was that Lee and Low's specialty is multicultural children's books. Once again my job as a teacher and a blogger of picture books is made easy because the site features well-written, in-depth teaching guides for their titles. For the above-mentioned Passage to Freedom, for example, you'll find an Author Talk as well as a Teacher's Guide available either on the site or as a separate pdf download. The Guide features readability scales, themes, a summary, before and after reading questions, writing activities, ESL ideas, and extension lessons across the curriculum. So even if you're not studying the Holocaust or World War II, this Guide would help you understand how to use in the book in several other meaningful ways with your class.

What else will you find at their site? Homeschoolers will find several project and fundraising ideas. Teachers and homeschoolers alike will discover ideas for teaching current events by visiting the Calendar page. And finally, unpublished writers of color can enter to win the New Voices Award, which recognizes promising new authors.

I look forward to including Lee and Low titles in my future posts, but for now, do yourself a favor and head to their site. You'll be impressed by the diversity of their titles, as well as the resources they offer teachers and parents.