Title: Brown Girl Dreaming
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Date: August 28th, 2014
Genre/Format: Autobiography/Novel in Verse
GoodReads Summary: Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
What I Think: I've heard so many great things about Brown Girl Dreaming and it's all completely well-deserved. I loved soaking up this story. Jacqueline Woodson weaves her words into beautiful snippets of her life but at the same time each of her stories build up to a gorgeous big picture of how these stories shaped who she is today.
We just celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday but as we go into Black History month, reading this book and continuing the discussion of celebrating diversity, Brown Girl Dreaming would pair well with Dr. King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. After reading the speech and discussing what dreams he outlined in his famous speech and discussing events of the time, students might read Jacqueline Woodson's autobiography and compare and contrast Dr. King's dreams to Woodson's life.
At the very beginning of Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson shares Langston Hughes' poem “Hold Fast to Dreams”. The theme of dreams runs throughout the entire book as Woodson talks about her life. When we ask students about their hopes and dreams, oftentimes, they articulate profound answers for themselves or people who are close to them.
There are so many texts that could be matched up here to discuss diversity. I believe the key to talking about diversity is to help students recognize that while we all have certain qualities or characteristics that make us different or unique and it's important to celebrate those differences, there are some very core values and beliefs that we can all share - love for our family, compassion for others, wanting to be connected - and those bring us together no matter our differences.
Read Together: Grades 4 - 6
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 8
Read With: I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. with illustrations by Kadir Nelson, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia, Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
Snatch of Text:
"What is your one dream,
my friend Maria asks me.
Your one wish come true?"
"Even though the laws have changed
my grandmother still take us
to the back of the bus when we go downtown
in the rain. It's easier, my grandmother says,
than having white folks look at me like I'm dirt.
But we aren't dirt. We are people
paying the same fare as other people.
When I say this to my grandmother,
she nods, says, Easier to stay where you belong.
I look around and see the ones
who walk straight to the back. See
the ones who take a seat up front, daring
anyone to make them move. And know
this is who I want to be. Not scared
like that. Brave
“Every dandelion blown
each Star light, star bright
The first star I see tonight.
My wish is always the same.
Every fallen eyelash
and first firefly of summer…
The dream remains.
What did you wish for?
To be a writer.
Every heads-up penny found
and daydream and night dream
and even when people say it’s a pipe dream…!
I want to be a writer.” (p.313)
Writing Prompts: Identify different characters in the book and infer their perspectives on dreams. Use evidence from the text to support your thoughts. As you think about the different characters - where they live, their lifestyles - how might you compare and contrast their dreams or what they think about dreams?
After reading Brown Girl Dreaming and imagining Jacqueline Woodson's life growing up, we know her dream was to be a writer. What is your one dream? If you would have one wish come true, what would it be and why?
Think about Jacqueline Woodson's one dream that you identified and your own one dream, do you see how you might be similar? Whether you have the same color skin as Jacqueline Woodson or not, what similarities do you see between her dream and yours?
Topics Covered: Family, Love, Dreams, Friendship, Siblings, Determination, Adversity, Integration- SS
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