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Children's books for Freedom Summer

One of several titles reflecting on Freedom Summer, on the 50th Anniversary.
One of several titles reflecting on Freedom Summer, on the 50th Anniversary.
Cover art by Brian Pinkney

Fifty years ago, America saw the culmination of a rise in political activism surrounding the Civil Rights Movement, in what has come to be known as Freedom Summer. In acknowledgement of that milestone, and of the role of writers, illustrators and researchers, here are three children’s books which make great resources for introducing that time.

For more information, see the following websites, or www.amazon.com to order:

Don't miss this interview with the artists of "Sit-In".! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgIMTkmzBck

https://www.lernerbooks.com/products/t/10902/9780761352556/ruth-and-the-green-book Links on this site enrich the story of how the Green Book came to be. See also links with the slide show.

http://bit.ly/1mSz7dh Link to Kitson Jazynka study of Dr King.

'Developed by National Geographic in close consultation with literacy education experts, this new series is one teachers, librarians, parents, and grandparents know they can trust to nurture every child's love of reading.'

http://bit.ly/1slhLcV Link to all the Superreader volumes. While many are about nature and wildlife, there are several biographies on the list.

Andrea Davis-Pinkney and Brian Pinkney team up to bring social justice issues to children's libraries.
Andrea Davis-Pinkney and Brian Pinkney team up to bring social justice issues to children's libraries. B. Ellor from cover art by Brian Pinkney

Andrea Davis-Pinkney and Brian Pinkney team up to bring social justice issues to children's libraries.

Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, William Smith and Clarence Henderson are featured as members of the sit-in protests at the Woolworth's lunch counters in Greensboro, N.C.  Others who began the work on Feb.1st, 1960 included Ezell A. Blair Jr., and David Richmond. Here is a record of the original appeal for picketers:   http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-postwar/6025  and a contemporary news item from day 2:  http://www.sitins.com/headline_sitdown.shtml

Ella Baker, then working for the NAACP, became involved with mentoring the students, and together they became SNCC.
Ella Baker, then working for the NAACP, became involved with mentoring the students, and together they became SNCC. B. Ellor from illustrations by Brian Pinkney

Ella Baker, then working for the NAACP, became involved with mentoring the students, and together they became SNCC.

Connections are made for the readers with other events and contributions to the Civil Rights struggle, making this book a valuable resource for further research as well as standing alone. A comprehensive bibliography is included.  No account of Civil Rights is complete without Ella Baker's tireless participation. She organized the conference at Shaw University which led to the formation of SNCC.

The lively watercolor illustrations bring emotional depth to the story.
The lively watercolor illustrations bring emotional depth to the story. B. Ellor from illustrations by Brian Pinkney

The lively watercolor illustrations bring emotional depth to the story.

The preparations made by the students to endure and resist the appalling abuse they received during the sit-ins cannot be underestimated.  Jackie Robinson is often cited for his courage and stoicism during his first groundbreaking year with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, and these students demonstrated the same heroic self control 17 years later.  That they later became founding members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is only appropriate.

Ruth and her parents set off to travel cross country by car.
Ruth and her parents set off to travel cross country by car. B. Ellor from cover art by Floyd Cooper

Ruth and her parents set off to travel cross country by car.

This is a remarkable fictionalized history of the Green Book, which was developed as a labor of love by Victor H. Green, (1892 - 1960) a Harlem NY postman.  Painful as the story is, it is beautifully told, with an authentic feel for the voice of  Ruth, and her thoughtful observations.  Going from the relative safety of Chicago into the Jim Crow South was not for the faint of heart.

"Ruth and the Green Book", by Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss
"Ruth and the Green Book", by Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss B. Ellor from illustrations by Floyd Cooper

"Ruth and the Green Book", by Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss

Starting in 1936, Victor H. Green compiled a constantly growing list of places where African American travelers would be welcomed.  See his Wikipedia profile here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_H._Green

Interestingly, Esso gas stations were known to be always helpful, and it was here that Ruth's family bought their guide, which helped them reach their relatives in Alabama safely.

A friendly garage and rest stop en route to Alabama.
A friendly garage and rest stop en route to Alabama. B. Ellor from illustrations by Floyd Cooper

A friendly garage and rest stop en route to Alabama.

The popularity of the guide grew continually, as more sites were added. Travel could be more manageable, the more comprehensive it became.  CNN interviewed the author and several people connected to the Green Book in a news report from February 2011: http://cnn.it/1mfjiZQ   

 "Dr Martin Luther King Jr.", from a series of informational texts on a wide range of topics.
"Dr Martin Luther King Jr.", from a series of informational texts on a wide range of topics. B. Ellor from the cover of 'Kids National Geographic'.

"Dr Martin Luther King Jr.", from a series of informational texts on a wide range of topics.

In deference to the importance accorded to non-fiction texts in Common Core, this biography of Dr King Jr. comes from a fine series of informative books on many topics where National Geographic has an undoubted edge.  Designed as leveled readers for children, from simple texts to greater fluency, the resources and format of this book are heightened by the use of excellent photographs and a sense of immediacy.

Dr King's powers of oratory and persuasion were crucial to the success of Civil Rights.
Dr King's powers of oratory and persuasion were crucial to the success of Civil Rights. B. Ellor from photos in the National Geographic Kids Biography.

Dr King's powers of oratory and persuasion were crucial to the success of Civil Rights.

The book contains topic headings which outline the historical context, name the major personalities, describe the uniqueness of Dr King's gifts, yet ground him in a time, place and family which enrich his portrait.  In other words, a fine example of the traits of informational text for a young audience, thorough, accurate, yet not overwhelming.

Informational text from "Dr King Jr."
Informational text from "Dr King Jr." B. Ellor from cover art by Floyd Cooper

Informational text from "Dr King Jr."

A visually appealing format for a variety of useful, interesting facts about the Rev. Dr King Jr.  Who knew that his father changed both their names from Michael to Martin Luther in 1934?