Words Alive 2019-2020 Sneak Peek!

By Omar Jawdat, Blog Intern

The new school year has begun, which means  Words Alive’s Adolescent Book Group and Read Aloud Program are back! We are excited to have our volunteers engage with students in the classrooms while reading books out loud and talking about them together. In both programs, our curriculum focuses on a diverse range of popular stories that students can see themselves in and connect with. Here is a sneak peek of just a few of the books that we’ll be reading in the program this year! 

Read Aloud Program: Our Upcoming Curriculum

An image of three of our RAP books:  Trick-or-Treat: A Happy Hunter’s Halloween, Dinosaur Bones,  and  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

An image of three of our RAP books: Trick-or-Treat: A Happy Hunter’s Halloween, Dinosaur Bones, and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Although children’s books are usually shorter, we want to make sure that each student gets the opportunity to absorb the values of these books, so they can learn from the text and dedicate themselves to truly appreciating all the different books that are brought to them. Rather than merely reading through one book and moving onto the next, our volunteers bring the books to life by asking questions before, during, and after reading aloud to encourage students to participate. This will also help students gain an interest in reading in and outside the classroom. The enjoyment of reading a good book is a valuable aspect in a student’s life, and will help their reading skills in the future. It will also help children develop cognitive language and social-emotional skills. 

October is Halloween month! Which means we will be reading the book titled Trick-or-Treat: A Happy Hunter’s Halloween. The book will introduce students to the creativity of poetry, as it is composed of 15 poems, each with unique Halloween celebrations with bright and colorful illustrations. During reading, our volunteers help students point out words that give the poems that scary Halloween feeling, as well as which lines have rhyming words, how each poem is different, and the emotions behind them. This allows children to learn about alliteration and rhyming patterns. Students are also given the chance to create their own silly alliterations and share their Halloween costumes with their peers.

Volunteers will also be introducing and reading the book Dinosaur Bones. This book will bring the dinosaurs back to life, with Bob Barner’s lively rhyming text and curiosity induced information about dinosaurs. Through paper collages, the book also contains vibrant illustrations of dinosaur bones that can be found in museums. Students will engage with several questions about the variety of dinosaurs, identifying and differentiating them by name, size, weight, and appearance. This will also help children develop an understanding of history (time periods and timelines), and they will learn new terms, as well as other interesting facts! Dinosaur Bones will spark a child’s inner scientist, and make enthusiasts roar with delight.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the story of a boy named William Kamkwamba, who’s village has been struck by a terrible drought, causing his family and his village to lose all their crops, resulting in having nothing to eat. Through exploring the science books in his village, William found the solution, which was to build a windmill that would bring electricity back to the village, and helps his family pump water to farm the land again. This book inspires children, as well as evokes perseverance, and teaches kids new terms/words, such as “drought” or “windmill”, for example. Students will also be able to learn about the different environments that other kids live in, showing how their lives are different than ours.

Adolescent Book Group Program 

An image of three of our ABG books:  A Very Large Expanse of Sea ,  The Poet X , and  Hey, Kiddo .

An image of three of our ABG books: A Very Large Expanse of Sea, The Poet X, and Hey, Kiddo.

Our ABG program serves teenagers from alternative schools who have gone through adversity such as violence, teen pregnancy, and homelessness. Our Words Alive volunteers provide teens with engaging book discussions, writing workshops, and projects that help bring books alive. 

Hey, Kiddo by Jarret J. Krosoczka is one of the books that will be introduced to the classroom for the first time this year! Expressing the unfortunate circumstances of troubled families, Hey Kiddo tells the story of a young man, Krosoczka, who lives with his grandparents, due to his mother being an incarcerated heroin addict. Not knowing who his father is, Krosoczka seeks to find him, while also facing problems with his mother, his daily livelihood, and making it to become an artist. This book depicts the impact of change in one’s life, as many teens struggle to find themselves in identifying who they truly are. This book also explores themes of addiction, abuse, and growing up in a non-traditional environment. The struggling relationships between families and the overwhelming path that leads to achieving success are also impacting aspects of the book. Art is an inspiring theme in the novel, as it is the aspiring focus and profession that Krosoczka wishes to pursue.

Another story that will be presented to the classroom will be The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This fictional novel surrounds itself on the basis of racial identity, stereotypes, and the bonds between communities. The main character, Xiomara Batista feels neglected and unable to truly speak her mind in her Harlem neighborhood. All her heartfelt thoughts and inner emotions pour out into her notebook, where she writes and recites her words like poetic prayers. Xiomara lives in a religious environment, and falls into a deep crush on a boy named Aman. Students will be able to learn how to break free and have their own voice in life as well. The power of words is also emphasized with this reading, and will also encourage students to participate more in classes, extracurricular events/activities, and develop positive hobbies that they find interesting, or are passionate about.

Last but certainly not least, volunteers will be introduced to A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi. Another fiction novel, taking place in 2002. A year after 9/11, the story focuses on race, xenophobia, romance, relationships, and assumptions. Politically, it is an extremely sensitive time, especially for sixteen-year-old Shirin, a Muslim girl living in America. Shirin has to endure prejudice from people demeaning her as an outcast in society because of her religious and racial identity. She is also attacked for the hijab that she wears everyday, which even results in physical violence. Because of her circumstances, she must build protective walls, until she meets Ocean James, who really seems like he wants to get to know her. However, it will be difficult for Shirin to bring her guard down and develop a friendship. The aim of this story is to teach students to respect other cultures and backgrounds different from their own. Students will also learn about stereotypes and unfair treatment, as well as how to form friendships with different types of people, regardless of their religion, sex, or race.  

These books are only a few that we have previewed for a sneak peak into what we’ll be reading with students this year. These engaging themes, topics, diverse stories, characters, and texts are sure to get all of our students excited and interested in reading, as they learn and discover new things this school year!