Holly Valentine | February 2021

C.A.T.C.H. a Spark!

Introducing: CATCH a Spark

Very often, when I need to escape the world for a bit and remind myself of the magic and possibilities that exist, I head to my favorite neighborhood bookstore. Even when I travel, it’s still front of mind: I always look to see where the closest independent bookstore is, or ask the locals where I should be sure to go.  Upon arrival, I turn off my phone and get ready to immerse myself in the colorful, enchanting world of literature. 

The power of children’s books, in particular, never ceases to amaze me, whether they are picture books or chapter books. They range from having quiet simplicity with peaceful messages, to jaw-dropping illustrations that inspire so much meaning and creativity. Even though I start the journey as an escape for myself, with each book I read I find myself thinking of people I know, both students and adults. Each time I add to my ongoing, massive lists of titles to purchase, titles to gift, and titles to share.

Access points

Access points. We all have them. They provide windows into larger ideas, sparking our creativity, imagination and thinking. 

Our students need so many access points, most often because they simply don’t have the background knowledge and experiences that will allow them to approach a task. But they also need to be reminded of the power of possibility, and that magic does exist. Perhaps it is in the toughest of times we all need that reminder most often. Children’s literature can open so many access points for our students. 

No matter how busy a daily schedule gets, the one thing I will never give up each day is read aloud time. This is such treasured time. No matter their own personal stories, all students in the room find themselves on the same playing field as we all experience character journeys together. And what better sound is there than stopping at a ‘good part’ and hearing the resounding scream of “Nooooo! Don’t stop there!” 

Children’s literature opens the door not only to common experiences, but to important themes, topics, content and inquiry, much the same way as the arts do. Combine them both and you have pure gold. 

Stop and think

What are your favorite “must share” titles each year? The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane?  Mr. Lemoncello’s Library? The Junkyard Wonders? The Invention of Hugo Cabret?

We all have our tried and true favorites, but the world of children’s literature is rapidly growing and changing, making it so hard to keep up with everything new. It can be overwhelming and as a result, we may often just stick to our favorites. 

We are here to help! We are launching a new series to bring you some of the best in children’s literature that will help spark both creativity and creative thinking. For each book chosen, we invite you to CATCH a Spark. We will provide you with five access points and engaging connections to help spark discussion, creativity and engagement among your students: 

C – Context

What is the context of the book and what content is represented? Where in your curriculum can the book fit for your students?

A – Arts

How are the arts represented in the book? What should you be pointing out to your students? What are the sparks of creation from the authors and illustrators that will inspire your students?

T – Themes

What are the overarching themes in the book? We know how helpful these can be to connect all the different pieces of your curriculum and to foster SEL connections. 

C – Create

We will provide sparks of ideas for student engagement and personal connection to the book. You could develop these into short one day lessons or fuller units that become interdisciplinary. When we learn from characters first, we are able to more easily turn to ourselves and our own lives to engage in meaningful tasks. 

H- Heart Words

Every book has powerful words and quotes that make us stop and think. Words that touch our hearts. Heart Words. We will share a few of our favorites from each book, ready for you to post and spark discussions. Perhaps you will share them even before entering the world of the story to set a purpose for reading.

DOWNLOAD ALL FOUR

There will be a mix of picture books and chapter books, both new and treasured books, with titles ranging in level for grades K-8. 

Our first set includes a time-travel adventure chapter book, an inspiring book of poetry and prose related to today’s hot topics, a pep talk to a young dancer, and a heartwarming biography that will hug your heart and embrace everyone’s uniqueness. These books are all a wonderful entry into February – a month where we celebrate love, kindness, and the contributions of countless African Americans. 

Be willing to listen, think, discuss and create!  Open your minds and hearts to the sparks you will find in children’s literature, and get ready to be astounded by what these titles will spark in your students.

Ready? CATCH!!

About the Author

Holly Valentine is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the Institute for Arts Integration and Steam. Prior to joining the Institute, Holly worked as an Arts Integration and Classroom Teacher for 20 years in a suburb of Rochester, NY. She is a certified Arts Integration Specialist and has served as an Arts Standards Writer for the New York State Education Department. Holly has been a recipient of the NYC Broadway League's Apple Award for her work in Arts Education. She also serves as the Director of Education for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, where she has created nationally recognized programs and develops standards-based curriculum for touring Broadway shows in order to bring the theatre to classrooms and classrooms to the theatre. Holly holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Psychology as well as a Masters degree in Education from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY,  where she currently lives.