Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson
It’s difficult to narrow my comments about Carter Reads the Newspaper to a short blog. If you asked me the title of my #1 coaching book, this is it. This book has a lot: picture book biography, amazing book for black history month, narrative arc, and author’s craft. In third grade, I read this book throughout the nonfiction and literary essay units.
Carter Woodson, a man from humble beginnings, the son of former slaves, grew up on a small farm going to school just four months of the year. Farming to help his family get by, he read the paper to his illiterate father who was interested in politics and economics. Later as he followed his brother to the mines, he read to his fellow miners stories of civil war veterans and current events. The first son of former slaves to graduate from Harvard, Mr. Woodson went on to receive his PhD in History. During that work, a professor contended that ‘black people have no history’. This line sent my audiences up in arms, perhaps much the way, Mr. Woodson himself was enraged. He set himself up to document black history and was instrumental both in the establishment of what would become Black History Month and documentation in many examples of black history including many lessor known figures. I’ve written previously about using this book for assessment in nonfiction reading. Pairing this book with a nonfiction text on the origins of Black History, it makes a powerful and meaningful assessment text.
Early in the school year I shared this biography of Carter Woodson asking friends in fourth grade two questions. How would I feel if I were this person? What would I do if I were in this situation? Here is what their teacher shared in a tweet that week.
Here is a screenshot of some of those endpapers. So many figures to introduce to our students.
Many students ask me why there is a black history month and why there wasn’t black history. Mrs. Arnold, our ELE director and assistant principal shared this simple introduction to Black History (Month) from the Mama Knows it All blog
Did you know that February is Black History Month?
Do you know what that means? (Don’t push them. If they don’t know, it’s okay.)It means that we are going to spend time remembering the ways that African-Americans helped our country to grow and be great. A lot of times, in books, movies and on t.v., people forget to talk about how African-Americans worked to build America, too, so we have this month to make sure we can remember. I’m going to read some books to you about Black history, and we’re going to watch some movies, too. Black history is our history, too.
This week during our introduction to literary essay in third grade, we contemplated the character of Carter Woodson. As a group we settled on Carter being a helpful individual, helping read to his father and later fellow miners, helping in the fields as a boy, and helping promote black history to benefit all.
As one of my young third grade writers wrote this week,
Carter Woodson was a trailblazer. He went were no one had gone and made his own way, a way he believed in.