Each year as we welcome students back to Northside we build community around a common school-wide book that unites us in story in a campaign we call NES READS. This year's book selection was POET: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, written and illustrated by Don Tate (click here to view book trailer). As part of this year's campaign we brought in this award-winning author/illustrator to connect with our kids thanks to a grant our library received from the Chapel Hill Public School Foundation. Each classroom teacher received a copy of this book to share with students the first week of school in preparation of this visit.
I chose this story for many reasons. The ties to local history, the theme of perseverance that winds through the story, and the lasting message for readers in that words are powerful. It's the story of George Moses Horton, the first published African-American in the south. But it tells of his experience teaching himself how to read, learning to write on his own, and then going on to become a published poet, all the while being enslaved on a local farm in Chatham County. The beauty of this story is the message readers are left with on the last page of text in which the story reads, "George's love of words had taken him on a great journey. Words made him strong. Words allowed him to dream. Words loosened his chains of bondage long before his last day as a slave."
We incorporated this story into many aspects of this year's opening for both students and staff. Teachers shared the remarkable story of themselves as part of a hallway display and Ms. Sharpless got staff excited about starting and sharing our remarkable teaching and learning journey this year. All students created mini posters sharing their remarkable selves as part of the library orientations wherein we also talked about the importance of sharing their own story as they grow as readers and writers and the power their words can have when they share with others. Ms. Keane was also been busy in the Art Studio having students create remarkable self-portraits in their first art classes of the year. The buzz around school about what kids are going to be doing to share their remarkable selves this year is exciting and I can't wait to see what creative things are yet to come.
Staff display in the hallway mirrored after the book cover of Poet
Principal Sharpless and Don Tate
First Graders share Remarkable Self Rainbows
2nd Graders continue to "extend the pen" They all wanted to draw with Mr. Tate.
3rd Graders describe the remarkable shades of their skin through self-portraits.
4th Graders describe their Remarkable selves through poetry.
I Am From poems decorated the hallways at Northside.
We were his first school visit as he toured to promote he newest book, and what a visit indeed! He had such wonderful things to say about our school, our kids and our community. He led three sessions with Northside students and in each began by reciting a humorous poem written by Jack Prelutsky.
He provided background on his life and how he came to be an author and illustrator describing how he wasn't always strong at reading and writing, but he had a knack for drawing. He shared pictures he drew throughout this childhood and then lent the pen to our own students to share in a drawing experience.
I believe it's a necessity for our students to be able to see themselves in the books they read, but I also think it's important that they see themselves in the person behind the words and pictures of the books they read. Don Tate was able to provide that reflection for many of our students and he has new fans across our school. So thank you Don Tate for reaching our readers in a way that only you could have done. You created an experience for our students they are sure to remember. And as they echo requests for books "by Don Tate" I have to smile and reply, "Would you like to be on the hold list?"