Kiddosphere: Teachers Rock! Books for World Teachers Day

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Hopefully, everyone has at least one teacher that has inspired and influenced their lives. Teachers can bring history to life, introduce awesome books to their classes and cultivate a love of science and math. In honor of World Teachers’ Day (October 5), let’s take a look at some top-notch children’s books about teachers and the influences they have on their students.

The Art of Miss Chew is one of my top favorites on this list. Trisha may have trouble academically, but she is a gifted artist. When she gets accepted into Miss Chew’s advanced art class, she meets a teacher who is not only artistically talented, but also a dedicated advocate for all her students. Like many of Patricia Polacco’s stories, this is based on her personal experience.

Luis Soriano is a Colombian grade school children who created an innovative and successful way of bringing books to Colombian children–via a team of donkeys! Biblioburro: A True Story From Colombia is an endearing and inspiring tribute to this dedicated teacher.

Canadace Fleming is best known for her fascinating nonfiction books, which might be why her two novels set at Aesop Elementary aren’t as well known. The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary (and its sequel), follows a class of fourth (and later fifth) graders and their teacher, Mr. Jupiter, as they encounter everyday situations and problems. As you can guess, there’s an Aesop element to the books: each chapter is a self-contained story with a moral lesson at the end. Lessons are definitely learned, but it’s not through plodding “teachable” moments; this has both heart and humor.

I love sports history. Sports history includes a multitude of thrilling and inspirational stories of ingenuity, hard work, teamwork, social advancement in civil rights and individual achievement. Take James Naismith–a physical education instructor who inherited a YMCA class of unruly young men fed up with being perpetually stuck indoors due to a harsh Massachusetts winter. Naismith was given 14 days to create an energetic indoor game for the boys that didn’t take up too much room and emphasized fair play and cooperation among players. And thus, basketball was born, albeit with a soccer ball and peach baskets. Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball is a rollicking tale of a creative and determined teacher who paved the way for an internationally popular sport played by 300 million people.

Lailah is finally old enough to fast during Ramadan, but as a new student in a new country, she’s unsure and shy about how to explain it to her classmates. Luckily, Lailah has both supportive and creative help from her school librarian and a teacher, who also help her make new friends! Lailah’s Lunchbox is a sweet story about the importance of understanding and friendship.

If any authors need an idea for a biography project, a new biography of Mary McLeod Bethune (beyond the type typically produced for the school market) would be very welcome. Until then, Mary McLeod Bethune is your best bet for an sizeable biography of the noted educator and civil rights activist. Bethune was the daughter of enslaved African Americans and started field work when she was just five years old; as an adult, she started a private school for African-American girls and was an adviser to Franklin Roosevelt. Her long life was filled with dedicated work for students and the African-American community at large; definitely a person that needs to be rediscovered.

I often recommend Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller when patrons ask for historical fiction recommendations; as you can guess, it’s a fictionalized (and very moving) account of Anne Sullivan (Macy)’s early work with Helen Keller. Helen’s Eyes is an excellent biography of Anne Sullivan. Adults wanting a remarkable and comprehensive biography of both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan should read Helen and Teacher (sadly out of print, but Fauquier County Public Library has a copy!)

Finally, Teachers Rock is a cute and fun salute to the importance of teachers; while it’s an ideal “back to school read,” the sentiment that teachers rock is 100% year round!

For program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers, make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library


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