Author Archive for Cara

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: The U.S. Constitution


Do you want to learn about one of the greatest symbols of democracy? The U.S. Constitution, written by Norman Pearl, introduces students to the foundation that the United States government is based on. It begins by having James Madison, a man who played a large part in the construction of the Constitution, lead readers on a tour. He discusses what the Constitution consists of, who made the Constitution, and all of the different parts that guarantee rights to the citizens of the United States.

In clearly defined questions and terms, Pearl lays out for a young reader the important parts of the Constitution and what they stand for. There is an entire page devoted to describing the different branches of government with bright and bold  illustrations that create an easy way for readers to visualize who and what make up these entities.

The articles divide the U.S government into three branches. Each branch has different powers. No one branch can become stronger than the others.

Pearl not only describes the freedoms that the Constitution guarantees for the adults of this country. He also talks about the rights that children are privileged to, such as the ability to go to school for free and a limit on the number of hours they can work.

This book is very well labeled for students to find exactly what they are interested in or looking for. The print is large and easy to read and the illustrations do not get in the way of the information being addressed. The last few pages even give additional resources for students who want to learn more,  extending the knowledge they have already gained from this very informative book.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to explain the purpose of rules and laws, and that the government protects the rights and property of individuals. It could also be used to explain that the basic purposes of government are to make laws and carry them out. (3.10) This book could be used to explain the importance of the basic principles that form the foundation of a republican form of government by describing the individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.(3.11)

Additional Resources

Book: The U.S. Constitution
Author:  Norman Pearl
Illustrator: Matthew Skeens
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Publication Date:2007
Pages: 24
Grades: 1-4
ISBN: 1-4048-2646-7

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: How We Learned the Earth is Round


Have you ever wondered how it was discovered that the world is round? How We Learned The World Is Round, written by Patricia Lauber and illustrated by Megan Lloyd, explains the different stages of thought that existed about the size and shape of the earth throughout the ages. It begins with the idea that people thought the earth was flat. Lauber explains the reasons many people thought the world was flat, as many children may have some of the same thoughts. The book goes on to discuss the findings of the ancient Greeks and their ways of justifying that the world is actually round. With the study of the skies, the moon and the sun, they were able to determine the earth’s shape. Lauber even offers a simple hands-on experiment for students to be able to test the discovery for themselves.

Lauber describes another discovery that the Greeks make that helps later generations of European explorers learn for themselves that the earth is not flat. This discovery happens to be the size of the earth. Lauber gives illustrated examples of early maps for students to visualize the earth as the explorers did. Introduced next are the reasons for the discovery of the Americas.

Christopher Columbus wanted to sail west to the Indies. He read what the Greek geographers had said… On his first trip, Columbus found land just where he expected to. He thought it was the Indies, but it was not.

This book would be a great way to begin a discussion about the findings of Columbus and other explorers. It illustrates monumental discoveries of their time with the lack of technology we have today. It also gives easy ways for children to understand the reasons that the world is round through experiments and illustrations.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to explain the contributions of ancient Greece and how they have influenced the present world.(3.1) It could also be used to identify the reasons for exploring the Americas, the information gained, and the results of the travels.(3.3)

Additional Resources

Book: How We Learned The Earth Is Round
Author:  Patricia Lauber
Illustrator: Megan Lloyd
Publication Date: 1992
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 2-4
ISBN: 0-06-445109-7

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: This Is the Way We Go to School


How do children around the world get to school everyday?  How do these means of transportation differ from the way you get to school?

This is The Way We Go To School, by Edith Baer, depicts the different regions of the globe by the way that the children who live in these regions make their way to their schools every day. These different means of transport reflect the regional climates and physical features of the environment. Some children walk, some take the trolley, while others go by boat or skis.

And the famous Metro line suits Igor and Ilyana just fine. Go by Copter? By Skidoo? Somewhere, sometimes, some kids do.

Not only does the book explore different regions of the world and ways that people get around in these places, it also explores different cultures of the regions. The children who are presented have  names that are common in the areas that they live. Illustrations of children show them performing acts that may help students learn some of what life may be like for students that live in these countries. At the end there is a page that tells which country each child lives in. On the last page there is a map for students to connect the country with its proper place on the map, providing a greater image of where students are in the world and how far or near they are geographically to the students they have just read about.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to show students  a simple map where they can describe places referenced in stories and real-life situations(K.4). It could also be used to describe the location of his/her community, climate, and physical surroundings and the way they affect the way people live, including their transportation.(1.6)

Additional Resources

Book: This is the Way We Go To School
Author:  Edith Baer
Illustrator: Steve Bjorkman
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 1990
Pages: 35
Grades: K-2
ISBN: 0-590-43162-5

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Tortilla Factory


Would you like to learn how tortillas make their way to your dinner table?

The Tortilla Factory, by Gary Paulsen, is a perfect read-aloud for the classroom in order to teach young students the growth cycle of corn. Paulsen touches on all aspects of the process, from the planting of the seeds to the harvesting of the corn to the shipping of the baked dough. Students will be enlightened as to all the places the tortilla has been and all the people who have made it possible for the tortilla to be a part of the meal. The book portrays the mechanical devices needed,not only  to produce the tortilla, but to bring it to the places where it will be sold. Whether its planting the corn, mashing the dough or transporting the boxes of tortillas, all these different jobs are crucial to the final stop the tortilla makes, our stomachs. However, Paulsen makes it clear that this is a cyclical process, a never ending sequence that will continue as long as their are people to make it happen.

…eaten by white teeth, to fill a round stomach and give strength to the round hands that work the black earth to plant yellow seeds…

With very few words on the page, and simple, earthy, painted illustrations, this read-aloud makes for a great introduction to learning about economics. The process depicted is universal and can be applied to a wide range of agricultural products like berries or chocolate.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to explain the differences between goods and services and describe how people are consumers and producers of goods.(1.7)

Additional Resources

Book: The Tortilla Factory
Author:  Gary Paulsen
Illustrator:Ruth Wright Paulsen
Publisher: Voyager Books/ Harcourt Brace
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 26
Grades: 1-3
ISBN: 0-15-201698-8

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Down Comes the Rain


Have you ever wondered where raindrops come from? Do you want to learn how they form?

Down Comes the Rain, by Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by James Graham Hale is an informative and brightly colored approach to learning about the life of a raindrop. The book begins simply by stating where raindrops come from: clouds. Children will learn that clouds are made of tiny drops of water that have gone through many phases before they reach the earth. These phases are described by examples of everyday activities children can observe, such as the evaporation of water as clothes dry outside on a line in the sun. Children will learn all the different places that this water in the air comes from and then finally, why it falls to the earth.

In these high, cold clouds,water vapor changes to droplets, and the droplets change to drops. The drops freeze into ice.

 The book then transitions and teaches about hailstones and their creation. This type of weather may be fascinating to a child because it is so rare. In recapturing the child’s interest, the author is again reinforcing the stages that occur in order for it to rain. At the end, there is a recap of all that was covered in the book. The bright and busy pictures and the way that some of the text reads like a comic book, create a more exciting approach to learning about rain.

Curriculum Connections
This book may help a child observe the weather in his/her everyday life (K.8). The student will understand basic types, changes, and patterns of weather (2.6). The student will understand the processes involved in the water cycle (3.9). The student will investigate certain weather phenomena (4.6).

Additional Resources

Book: Down comes the Rain
Author:  Franklyn M. Branley
Illustrator: James Graham Hale
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 32
Grades: 2-4
ISBN: 0-06-445166-6

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: An Egg Is Quiet


Have you ever found an egg in your backyard? Do you want to find out more about eggs and the creatures they protect within them?

An Egg is Quiet, illustrated by Sylvia Long and written by Dianna Aston,  portrays the life of an egg and all of its many characteristics.  The book describes not just one type of egg, but an array of animal eggs and reflects on their unique differences while reminding the reader of their similarities. The depictions of the eggs themselves in the beautiful water color illustrations are ideal in learning sizes and shapes and textures of each individual egg. Every egg is always labeled so that the reader knows which creature is waiting inside the egg until the time that the egg breaks and is no longer “quiet”.

We even find out why eggs have the shapes, colors and textures they do. It is because they need them to survive. They blend in or use “camouflage”. In this quotation from the book, we find out where the egg lives and why its shape is important.

“Sea turtles dig a hole in the sand and lay up to 200 soft, round eggs. Round eggs fit together nicely in tight spaces.”

At the end of the book, there are diagrams showing the different stages of growth inside the egg. We find out how the egg takes care of the creature inside it. Finally, the creature hatches and the last page depicts colorful pictures of the animals that spring from their egg homes.

Curriculum Connections
This book may help a child understand the life cycle of animals and how these offspring are different from what the mother looks like at first(K.6). Children can also learn that a creature has needs, even within the egg, in order to grow(1.4). Children will learn about the physical characteristics animals needs to survive(1.5) and how camouflage works (3.4). Finally, children can investigate changes in the life cycle (2.4).

Additional Resources

Book: An Egg is Quiet
Author:  Dianna Aston
Illustrator: Sylvia Long
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 26 pages
Grades: K-2
ISBN: 0-8118-4428-5

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Perk Up Your Ears


Have you ever wondered why when you plug your ears, you cannot hear as well? Learn why and how your ears allow you to hear sounds and have fun while doing it.

Perk Up Your Ears by Vicki Cobb cannot only be used as an educational way to learn the mechanisms or the ear and how they produce sound. It is also a fun-filled, activity based book that will have kids on the go from the very beginning. Let’s face it, even the front cover entices you to take a peek inside for those people who judge a book by its cover. The catchphrase on the front says it all. “Discover your sense of hearing.” Not only will kids read and learn, but they will investigate and experiment with the ways in which sounds are produced using ordinary objects found in the home or classroom.

“The outer ear is made up of the pinna and the ear canal. The end of the canal is closed by a very thin “skin” called the eardrum. Sound strikes the eardrum and makes it vibrate. You can see how this happens if you stretch some plastic wrap tightly across the top of a bowl. Imagine that the stretched plastic wrap is your eardrum. Sprinkle some grains of sugar on the stretched plastic wrap drum. The sugar will dance up and down as the drum vibrates.”

The excerpt above is an example of the method the author uses to make the lesson information more tangible. The language of the book at times may seem a bit over the top in explaining the workings of the ear, but Vicki brings it back down to a child’s level by following it with an interactive approach. She discusses sound as energy and diagrams the structure of the inner ear. She also lists the parts of the outer ear and fun ways to understand how the entire ear works together by having the child use other senses, such as touch and vision, to understand concepts. Cobb even gives ways to check one’s own hearing and that of others. She gives tips about maintaining one’s hearing health and the ways in which harm may be done to it.

The bright and witty illustrations of Cynthis C. Lewis in this book will have kids mesmerized. The funny cartoons and eccentric art are another way for kids to be engaged in this book. Cobb definitely makes a point to ensure that this learning process is fun.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to help students seek, find, take in and react to information about the sense of hearing and its sensory descriptors (K.2). It may also help students learn to conduct investigations in which differences in physical properties are observed using the senses, simple tools are used to enhance observations, simple experiments are conducted to answer questions, inferences are made and conclusions are drawn about familiar objects and events.(1.1)

Additional Resources

Book: Perk Up Your Ears
Author: Vicki Cobb
Illustrator: Cynthia C. Lewis
Publisher: The Millbrook Press, Inc.
Publication Date: 2001
Pages: 29 pages
Grades: 1-5
ISBN: 0-7613-1704-x