Today’s guest blog post is by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on the importance of ensuring all educators and students have the books they need for back to school.
The fresh, expectant face of each child looking up at you, their minds like the pages of a new book—waiting to be opened.
Teachers and school staff are in the business of opening minds, and there is no better way to do just that than through reading. Books are portholes to vast, new and different worlds—and, together with First Book, the AFT has put 2 million of those portholes into the hands of students in need.
I am proud to say that, in the three years that the AFT has partnered with First Book, every AFT membership division has gotten involved in communities across the country. We helped to create a library at St. Mary’s Orphanage in Mobile, Ala.; we distributed thousands of anti-bullying books at public school assemblies in Cleveland; we handed out bilingual and Spanish books to students and families at soccer tournaments in Texas; and much more. One of my favorite First Book stories is about a school bus driver in Houston who started a mobile library on his bus to encourage reading outside of school.
Another example is Share My Lesson, the free online platform developed by the AFT and TES Connect to bring educators together to access and share high-quality teaching resources. And now Share My Lesson has teamed up with First Book to provide resources and tools to complement First Book books.
So as the school year gets underway in millions of classrooms across the country, the AFT and First Book aim to ensure that all teachers and school staff have the books they need to open their students’ minds.
I’ve included a list of a few of my favorites, many of which are from the AFT Collection on the First Book Marketplace. I hope that they will help ignite a lifelong joy of reading.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
All children will enjoy the story of the hungry caterpillar who ate his way to becoming a butterfly.
(For early childhood educators and parents looking to pair specific skills and activities with books to enhance learning and growth in a child’s earliest years, be sure to check out the AFT’s Transitioning to Kindergarten resources and our Mind in the Making section.)
Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin
Every budding unionist can learn something from Farmer Brown’s cows, who not only know how to type but also understand the power of collective action. An audio book on CD is included.
Families by Susan Kuklin
Children from 14 families make up the tapestry of this delightful book, which shows the diversity of families in America today. From mixed-race and immigrant families to families of gay and lesbian couples and families with children with special needs, this book celebrates one and all.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
The story of Melody, who refuses to be defined by her cerebral palsy, will change the way that any reader, young or old, looks at or thinks about a person with disabilities. The author, Sharon Draper, is a former AFT member from Cincinnati who has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking prose.
145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers
Set in my hometown of New York City, this collection of stories chronicles one block of the greatest city in the world. From Benny, a fighter on the way to a knockout, to Angela, who starts having prophetic dreams after her father is killed, the characters of 145th Street pull readers in and keep them through every page.
Work with children in need? Sign up with First Book to access these great books and resources!
Randi Weingarten is president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early childhood educators.