What It Means to Be a Hero
Anyone of us might be a hero. The students in your schools might change the world one day, and it may begin with a book.
In Giant Steps to Change the World, Spike Lee and his wife, Tonya, have created a book with illustrator Sean Qualls, that is designed to inspire and intrigue. They refer to the heroic accomplishments of several people without naming them in the text, though they are fairly easily matched up to the names in the end pages. In the hands of a capable teacher, this book could serve as a great way to get discussion rolling in a social studies classroom.
President Obama’s first children’s book, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, looks at thirteen Americans who have the qualities he would like to see in his daughters. The diverse group includes Jackie Robinson who exemplifies courage, Georgia O’Keeffe for creativity, and many other men and women of various backgrounds and accomplishments. The result is an inspirational book that may open a discussion about citizenship or serve as a way to introduce an assignment in which kids write about their heroes.
Underground proves that you don’t need a lot of words to tell a powerful story. Each spread is dominated by dramatic illustrations with only a few well-chosen words. The author’s note provides the historical context and opens a discussion of the meaning of freedom during the time of the Underground Railroad and beyond. He closes by dedicating the book to a woman who runs a social organization to help people in need. He describes this woman as a hero helping people reach freedom.
If I were looking for a hero, I might choose the people of Samso Island in Denmark, who were inspired to work together to accomplish something truly heroic: to become almost completely energy independent. Energy Island is a great cross-curricular choice as it highlights the social studies aspect of community and change in a far-off land, and the sidebars throughout present the science of renewable energy and climate change. An inspiring choice!
Energy Island by Allan Drummond. 2011.
Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee. 2011.
Of Thee I Sing : A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama. 2010.
Underground by Shane Evans. 2011.