Book Club Kids Dreaming

book flipping green backdrop books

One of iLEAD Exploration’s core values is authenticity. As you likely know, our school strives to support our learners as they grow into “authentic individuals who are true to themselves and their personalities, values, beliefs, and principles.” Recently, in EF Kerry Hinsche’s 3rd-5th grade book club, learners explored their own dreams as part of their study of Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. Written in verse, the book focuses on Woodson’s experiences growing up in South Carolina and New York amidst the radical social change of the 1960s and 1970s.

The book club met weekly to analyze a wide selection of the poems in Woodson’s book and practiced making inferences and predictions. The learners searched for figurative language and discussed how it added meaning to the poetry. They also kept their eyes out for themes in the poetry. Certain poems were richer when viewed through different lenses. For example, in her poem “The Beginning,” there is both a personal and historical significance to her ability to write. Learning to write allowed her to share her stories and find her passion. Learning to write also relates to how enslaved African Americans were able to write when they found freedom, because it was illegal under slavery to read and write.

Week after week, as the learners in the book club witnessed Woodson finding her voice and sharing her dreams, they began to explore their own dreams and write their own poetry. They started by brainstorming what defines each of them and how they see themselves as authentic individuals. After generating ideas on digital or print vision boards, they drafted their own poetry and wrote in verse about their stories and memories. They edited their work using Woodson’s writing as a mentor and inspiration. Lastly, they made their final drafts with a focus on being true to themselves and thinking about all the things that make them feel alive and connected.

Two iLEAD Exploration 5th graders, Connor Carden and Gloria Herndon, wrote exemplary poems. See Gloria’s poem below. Connor’s longer poem is linked here.

iLEAD Exploration 5th Grader Gloria H Poem In My Kitchen May 2024

Aside from poetry writing, the book club readers learned about historical figures referenced in Woodson’s memoir, including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, the Freedom Singers, the Freedom Riders, James Baldwin, Lena Horne, Ruby Bridges, and Malcolm X. They also studied the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” to understand the reference to it in the poem “February 12, 1963.” The folk song gave coded instructions for enslaved African Americans to travel North to escape slavery.

Ms. Hinsche’s book club for grades 3-5 has also read books such as El Deafo by Cece Bell, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Look here for more book club meetings next year!



Core Knowledge resources: Brown Girl Dreaming

(Resource used in book club)

Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winterson, Reading Rainbow

Brown Girl Dreaming: TPT Resources

Teaching Brown Girl Dreaming


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