October 08
5 - 12
Author & Text

Faith Ringgold began her career as a painter, and is best known for her painted story quilts, which combine painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling. Her first book Tar Beach earned a Caldecott Honor Award, as well as the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration. Ringgold has written and illustrated 11 children's books, addressing issues of race, African American history, and civil rights.


Use Ringgold's books as a springboard for a discussion of race, gender, and civil rights-both current and historical. Then invite your students to write and illustrate original picture books based on these issues.

  • First, have students brainstorm, select, and research a specific event or topic, such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic speech or the Underground Railroad.

  • Then have students plan and write an illustrated story using the interactive Flip Book. The Flip Book allows students to create up to 10 pages and provides text, drawing, and background editing tools. See the Flip Book page for more information about this tool.

When their books are complete, students can be invited to take turns reading them to the class.


Faith Ringgold was born on October 8, 1930.

Faith Ringgold's homepage provides an author biography, a questionnaire about race, an author interview, and other related resources.


This resource from Scholastic provides a biography of Ringgold, as well as a link to a booklist.


This resource focuses on Ringgold's work as it relates to racism and gender inequality.


Random House provides this teacher's guide for Tar Beach, which includes book and author information as well as teaching ideas.


PBS offers information about Ringgold's painted story quilts.


March 17
1 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

The Irish have observed St. Patrick's Day as a religious holiday since the island's conversion to Christianity in the early Middle Ages. The first St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City took place on March 17, 1762, giving the Irish soldiers serving in the English military the opportunity to reconnect to their roots. Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of varied backgrounds around the globe.

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day by reading Irish folk tales. It is the perfect opportunity to learn about Irish heritage. Have a selection of books available in class or bring students into the school media center to select an Irish folk tale. Tales are also available online from the Open Directory Project. Then have students read independently, in small groups, or as a class.

After reading the story, have your students use the ReadWriteThink Story Cube tool to create a graphic organizer. Older students can use the ReadWriteThink Literary Elements Map to map story elements. Have students print out their graphic organizers and share them with the class. After finishing this activity, treat your students to some Irish soda bread while they listen to Irish folk music.

Extend the activity by having students read additional Irish tales and compare them to other traditional folk tales with which they are familiar. What characteristics are unique to the Irish tales? Brainstorm common characters, settings, or themes found in the Irish tales. Students can then write their own tales in the Irish style.

Today is St. Patrick's Day.

Part of America's Story from America's Library, this site invites elementary students to read about the history of St. Patrick's Day from primary sources. Students can explore Irish folk songs and view historical photographs.

This History Channel website explores the culture and background of St. Patrick and St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The site's interactive map offers information on different parts of Ireland and beautiful photographs.

Resources offered on this official website of the Irish government include an extensive photograph collection of well-known locations in Ireland as well as information on culture, sports, the land, the people, and the economy.

This National Geographic News article focuses on some of the St. Patrick's Day traditions that are not actually Irish.

May 01
K - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Get Caught Reading is a nationwide public service campaign launched by the Association of American Publishers to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read. May is officially Get Caught Reading month, but the celebration lasts throughout the year. Get Caught Reading is supported by hundreds of celebrities, including LL Cool J, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, and the newest addition, Olivia the Pig.

Celebrate Get Caught Reading Month with a reading-related service project. Try one of these activities with your students:

  • Plan an intergenerational reading day. Invite seniors to visit your school, or arrange a trip for your students to a local senior center. Have students select books to read to adults, and invite adults to share a favorite story with students. Extend an ongoing invitation to guest readers, perhaps on a monthly basis.

  • Organize a book drive to collect new or nearly new books to supplement your classroom or school library, or to donate to families or a local children's hospital.

Be sure to have a camera on hand to "catch your students reading" on film throughout the month. You can also have students organize a community "Get Caught Reading" campaign by taking photos of members of their families and community figures (firefighters, grocers, local police officers, etc.) caught reading, and creating a school display.

May is Get Caught Reading Month!

The Get Caught Reading website offers resources for teachers, librarians, and kids. Look for literacy fact sheets, artwork, and information on getting involved.

The Northwest Territories Literacy Council offers this reproducible guide to Get Caught Reading. Included are ideas for promoting this and other literacy programs, as well as reproducible bookmarks and posters.

Reading Connects offers this page, filled with suggestions for promoting reading at school.

KidsReads.com helps kids select books that appeal to them by offering kid-friendly reviews and information about children's books and authors. The information is searchable by author, series, and special features. The companion site Teenreads.com focuses on young adult literature.

August 09
3 - 8
Author & Text

Seymour Simon has written 200 books for children, on a wide range of topics such as anatomy, astronomy, geology, animal life, and weather. More than half of his titles have earned praise from the National Science Teachers Association. Simon's books have made science fun for children, through a combination of clear, easy-to-read factual information and beautiful photographic images.


Have your students select and explore a scientific topic in detail using Seymour Simon's nonfiction science books. Students then use what they learn to write original poetry on the topic.

  • Begin by reading a selection of Simon's books with the class and then having each student select one. Students can also explore Simon's books independently before making their choices.

  • After students have selected a book and read it, have them create a list of important ideas, details, facts, and vocabulary from the text.

  • Ask students to conduct additional research into the main topic of the book they selected. Students can use the Internet, if available, or the library. Have students use their research to add to their lists.

  • Finally, have students visit the Acrostic Poems tool. Have students create an original acrostic poem using the list of words and topics they created earlier. Alternately, students can use the Acrostic Poems mobile app.


Science writer Seymour Simon was born in 1931.

Simon's official website offers information about upcoming books as well as science links and stories.


This Houghton Mifflin page features brief biographical information that is written for students. It offers a discussion activity using a Simon quotation.


This page from Reading Rockets includes film clips in which Simon talks about his books and his writing. The page includes links to biographical information and other resources.


January 08
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Elvis is known throughout the world as the "King of Rock 'n' Roll." Over one billion of his records have been sold. Elvis starred in 31 feature films as an actor, gave over 1,100 concert performances, and received numerous awards. Graceland, Elvis Presley's home, is the most famous home in America after the White House, attracting over 600,000 visitors every year. In 1970, Elvis went to the White House to offer his assistance to then-President Nixon in the nation's war on drugs.

Invite your students to tour the National Archives exhibit When Elvis Met Nixon, where they can read the five-page letter that Presley personally delivered to the White House, the story of the famous meeting (with accompanying photos), the agenda for the meeting, and the thank-you letter Elvis wrote to the President after the visit. 

After reading these primary documents, younger students can discuss the reasons Elvis wanted to meet the President; then, they can explore what would happen if a contemporary recording artist were to meet with the President today. Referring to the agenda for Elvis's meeting, have students work collaboratively to create an agenda for a contemporary artist. Have them use the interactive ReadWriteThink Letter Generator to write a letter to the artist suggesting a meeting with the President to discuss the problem of drugs, racism, violence, or another contemporary issue. More tips are available for use with the Letter Generator. 

Older students might explore the various ironies of the meeting in a discussion of Nixon's political motivations for agreeing to the meeting and Elvis's interest in being made a "Federal Agent at Large" who would fight drug abuse and the Communist threat.

On this day in 1935, Elvis Presley was born.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, you and your students can browse over 600 pages of information that the federal government collected in relation to Elvis Presley. Pair this site with exploration of the Fensch book in the Texts section to introduce students to the process by which primary documents become fodder for research!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's online Elvis exhibit describes his career and the artifacts included in the original exhibit. Be sure to see the biographical page on this 1986 inductee.

This PBS Culture Shock resource offers information about the controversy over Elvis's early television appearances on the Milton Berle Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Tonight Show.

February 16
1 - 4
Author & Text

LeVar Burton was born in 1957 in West Germany, while his father was in the military. He hosted 155 episodes of Reading Rainbow since its premiere in 1983 until 2006. Burton's first television appearance, though, was as Kunta Kinte, in the miniseries Roots (1977), based on the novel by Alex Haley.

Burton also appeared as a member of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation television series; portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr., in the film Ali; and produced and hosted the documentary The Science of Peace.

Choose complementary Reading Rainbow selections to explore a topic using fiction and nonfiction.

For example, Ruth Heller's Chickens Aren't the Only Ones and Patricia Polacco's Rechenka's Eggs both explore the subject of animals that lay eggs. On the topic of dinosaurs, you'll find William Joyce's Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo and Aliki's Digging up Dinosaurs. After reading both books, your students can compare the selections using the interactive Venn Diagram.

Have students work individually or in small groups to write a poem, song, article, journal entry, or comic strip about the same topic. When all the pieces are completed, compile them in a book or create a bulletin board display.

LeVar Burton, longtime host of Reading Rainbow, was born in 1957.

The home of Reading Rainbow, with the mission to instill the love of reading & learning in children.


PBS offers a variety of resources for parents to promote literacy in young children. Resources are offered in both Spanish and English.


LeVar Burton to Educators: ‘I See You’


An interview on literacy with LeVar Burton

September 27
9 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Thomas Nast was born on September 27, 1840. He was a 19th- century caricaturist and editorial cartoonist and is considered to be the father of American political cartooning. During the Civil War and Reconstruction era, Nast was well known for his cartoons supporting American Indians, Chinese Americans, and the abolition of slavery. Some of the images and icons he created or popularized include the Republican Party elephant, the Democratic Party donkey, and Uncle Sam.

Political cartoons, because of their powerful means of communicating the artists' message, are subject to "freedom of speech" protections. Have students create their own political cartoons after studying First Amendment rights and freedom of speech issues.

  • First, explore free speech issues and the First Amendment using resources on this EDSITEment Freedom of Speech Week webpage. Ask students the following: "What constitutes free speech? When does one's freedom of speech become an infringement on another person's rights? How do political cartoonists exercise their first amendment rights?"
  • Then, after completing one or more of the lessons below, ask students to comb the newspaper or Internet resources and create a list of current events.
  • From this list, have students draw original cartoons using the techniques they've studied.

After students have completed their work, consider having them published in the school newspaper, or share them in the school library.

Thomas Nast was born on this day in 1840.

This extensive resource on Nast, offered by The Ohio State University, includes a biography, timeline, portfolio of Nast's cartoons, bibliography of works by and about Nast, and a teacher's guide. Also included is an essay titled "The World of Thomas Nast."

EDSITEment offers this collection of lesson plans and other resources on free speech and the First Amendment.

The Library of Congress offers this resource about political cartoons for teachers, including collections of historical political cartoons on American and British topics.

This ReadWriteThink resource links to information about First Amendment issues.

February 27
9 - 12
Author & Text

John Steinbeck, one of America's most noted authors and a Nobel laureate in 1962, gave voice to the plight of many different characters in his novels. The Grapes of Wrath, his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, told of the terrible obstacles faced by the migrant workers who left the Dust Bowl and traveled west searching for work in California.

Steinbeck's works reflect the issues and ills of the time period in which he lived. The Grapes of Wrath, for example, deals with a group of migrant farm workers who moved from field to field. Often, these workers lived in squalid conditions and were paid poor wages. They were forced to purchase their supplies from a company store and then work to pay off their debt, many times without ever seeing a penny of their wages. Present students with information about the Dust Bowl and the flight of many farm workers west to California.

Ask students, "If Steinbeck were to write today about the ills of society, what topics or subjects might he find to address?" Brainstorm with the class a list of possible topics. Have groups of students each research a topic of their choosing and prepare an annotated bibliography of fiction and nonfiction texts that address the topic. The bibliographies can later be used as a school library resource.

In 1902, John Steinbeck was born.

The National Steinbeck Center is a museum in Salinas, California where Steinbeck was born. This site has information about his life and changing exhibits relating to his work and the time period during which he lived.


Nobelprize.org presents a brief biography of Steinbeck, along with the Nobel presentation speech and a short film of the event.


NPR provides this resource, which includes an audio report on the story behind the creation of The Grapes of Wrath.


This PBS website offers information about the American Experience film Surviving the Dust Bowl. There are also links to a teacher's guide, a timeline of events, a map, and related resources.


This article discusses Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath within its historical context of the Dust Bowl.

April 30
3 - 8
Holiday & School Celebration

Developed under the leadership of author Pat Mora, El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros focuses on providing children with books in many languages and making reading an integral part of their lives. El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros is supported by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, an ALA affiliate that provides library and information services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking community.

Celebrate El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros by having students write and share their own multilingual stories:

  • Read a book with parallel stories with the class, such as La Llorona: The Weeping Woman or The Day It Snowed Tortillas / El Dia Que Nevaron Tortillas, both by Joe Hayes. With students, examine the way that the books tell the story in two different languages.

  • Arrange students in mixed multicultural groups and explain that together the groups will compose an illustrated, bilingual, or multilingual children's storybook to share with younger students.

  • Return to the parallel stories read by the class to model how students will compose their own stories.

  • Spend time exploring and creating the different parts that make up a professional book: title pages, acknowledgements, and dedications.

  • Use the Book Cover Guide to discuss covers and dust jackets. Have students design these additional parts of the book.

  • Students can use the Book Cover Creator to make the polished covers.

  • Once the books are assembled, students can deliver them to their intended readers for a celebration of Día!
Celebrate El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (Children's Day/Book Day)!

The official ALA site for El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros includes a state-by-state list of Día events, library programming ideas, a Día  fact sheet, and downloadable Día brochures.


Pat Mora, founder of El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros, provides background and celebration suggestions on her personal website.


This Día-sponsored website features bilingual story time resources, a Spanish story time plan for preschoolers, and online resources for librarians working with Latino children. The site also includes guidelines and information on the Estela and Reforma Award, established to promote El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros.


This is the webpage for current winners of the American Library Association's Pura Belpré© Award, which is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.


ReadWriteThink.org offers a collection of tips and activities translated in Spanish to support literacy learning at home.

May 11
6 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Prominent political and social activist was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico on June 29, 1893 or September 12, 1891.  After being educated at the University of Vermont and Harvard University and serving in the US military in World War 1, Albizu Campos became interested in the Puerto Rican independence movement, serving as the president of the Nationalist Party from 1930 until his death in 1965.

Among his accomplishments are improved labor conditions in Puerto Rico (Albizu Campos led strikes against the Puerto Rico Railway and Light and Power Company and the US sugar industry) and bringing attention to the problematic colonial relationship between the US and Puerto Rico.  His theory of non-collaboration with colonial structures (such as boycotting elections and military service) made him a controversial figure in the US.  He was jailed twice and was under FBI surveillance for much of his life.

Called “El Maestro” or “The Teacher” for his powerful speaking ability, Albizu Campos is the namesake of several schools in Puerto Rico, Harlem, and Chicago.

Using background information on Pedro Albizu Campos as an example, invite students to investigate the complicated histories of figures from throughout the world associated with nationalist movement.  These movements, often related to histories of colonization, assert the interests of one's own nation as separate from the interests of other nations or the larger interests of all nations.  Prominent nationalist figures include

  • Pedro Albizu Campos (Puerto Rico)

  • Simón Bolívar (South America)

  • Miguel Hidalgo (Mexico)

  • Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)

  • Nelson Mandela (South Africa)

  • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (India)

  • Michael Collins (Ireland)

Let students or groups of students choose a figure from this list, or another nationalist figure of their choice.  Students can conduct research through print and Internet sources and share their findings with their peers using the Bio-Cube student interactive.

Pedro Albizu Campos leads the Puerto Rican Independence movement.

This biography provides additional information about the life and accomplishments of Pedro Albizu Campos.


This entry from Stanford University provides background information on nationalism, including links to other resources.