Focusing on social issues with reading

Guest Blogger
Jan 02, 2013
Fourth-grade teacher Laura Murray is back with more greatStoria ideas! She first showed us a parent’s peek into Storia, followed by a piece on the “notes” and “highlights” functionality of Storia and then a spotlight on using Storia to teach mysteries and clue-solving. Today, she’s taking a more serious tone, talking about how reading about social issues can help kids deal with issues they’re facing. Thanks, Laura. The recent tragedy in Connecticut really hit home with me as a teacher and as a parent. It is truly mind-boggling and disheartening to know that children have so many issues, thoughts, and negative life experiences to deal with on a daily basis. Although I didn’t have a picture-perfect childhood, I don’t ever remember having to deal with many of the issues that students are faced with today. Luckily children’s authors continue to write about issues that are affecting our children. With some guidance during reading, hopefully these types of books can help children manage their emotions and deal with some of the curve balls that life throws at them. In my fourth-grade classroom, we study books that deal with different social issues. They are sometimes hard topics to discuss but are important nonetheless. Storia offers a nice selection of books that cover a wide range of social issues such as poverty, death, bullying, and illness, just to name a few. If your child is reading books that center around social issues they can be thinking about and jotting notes about the following: In the beginning… Identify the issue of the book by naming a condition in which the characters live (divorce, grief, bullying, fitting in, poverty, discrimination, racism, homelessness, loneliness, abuse, illness, etc.). Differentiate between the issue and the problem by asking if the condition can be solved. If it can, it’s a problem. If it can’t because it is something that has always existed outside the characters, it is an issue. Think about the issue and examples of it in the real world, and what you know about it. Based on your knowledge of the issue, think about the kinds of problems the characters might face. In the middle… Name how the issue is beginning to change the characters in the story. Find text evidence that shows the issue is affecting the character. Find places in the book that show the character is changing. Identify how the issue is affecting the relationships between characters In the end… Think about how the issue changed the character. Think about how the character changed the issue. Think about what the author wants us to learn about the issue in our world. Think about how the issue is relevant to our lives and what lessons we can learn from the book. Some topics are really hard to broach with students and our own children, but literature may be able to help open discussion in your family. It is important to help children identify their emotions and what is causing them. It is also helpful for them to learn how to express their thoughts on difficult topics. Children need to know that their feelings and thoughts are valid and accepted. These may be the not-so-fun moments of parenthood or teacherhood, but they are sometimes the most important. Happy Reading!