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February Book Recommendations

by Andrea Elston

As a teacher, February was always the most overwhelming month. First of all, it’s the shortest month of the year with the most holidays packed into it! Secondly, at least where I taught, we had a “mid-winter break” in the schedule which made an already abbreviated month one week shorter. Finally, the 100th day of school usually fell at the end of the month as well! And the fact that it is also Black History month created an even more packed itinerary! At any other time of the year, I was searching for bulletin board ideas and supplemental activities to keep my kiddos entertained but come February I was wondering how in the world I was going to fit it all in and which event I was going to feature! Between Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, the 100th day of school, and honoring the men and women who helped shape the future of this great nation, I definitely had my pick! Although time was short to fit everything in, these old standbys always made the cut! If your plate is not already full, I encourage you to try and squeeze in one more item from this menu…Bon Appetit!

Groundhog Day: I always made time to read Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susanna Leonard Hill. This is a girl after my own heart…instead of complaining about a problem, she goes right to the solution and isn’t afraid to bend the rules a bit while she does it! I also told my class about the 1993 movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Because I taught first grade, the PG rating was a tad too much for that age group, so I just gave them the highlights. We talked about the pros and cons of waking up and reliving one day over and over again, and then I had them choose a day from their past (not hard for a 6-year-old) that they would want to do over and over again. It was so cute to hear their stories that ranged from birthday parties to snow days, to Kindergarten graduations. Depending on the time frame, I’d either leave it at discussion or turn it into a writing project.

Valentine’s Day: I know you have a plethora of choices when it comes to books for this holiday, but please add Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch by the great Eileen Spinelli to your list. Even though this is a picture book, the theme is appropriate for any age and MANY lessons can be drawn from it. And if you can read it while eating a heart-shaped box of chocolates, it just makes it that much better!

Presidents’ Day:  If there is one person from the past I would like to sit down and have a cup of coffee with, it would be Abraham Lincoln. His historical interaction with Grace Bedell strikes a chord with me and I believe will with your children and or students as well. Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers by Karen B. Winnick highlights this relationship in a sweet and accurate way, even picturing a copy of the real letter from the sweet 11-year-old girl. Just like the above book, this literary work lends itself to SO many extension activities…or just serve to be a heartwarming story for bedtime, snacktime, circle-time, or History-time.

100th Day of School: Again, you have a multitude of titles to choose from for this special occasion like 100th Day Worries by Margery Cuyler, but I always added in Michael Frith’s I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words. Because I taught the littles, I would turn this book into a spelling exercise and have the kiddos write down all 100 words that the narrator taught his dog. If I was teaching older students, I would have them debate what the 100 most important words to teach a dog would be. Plus, it’s illustrated by P.D. Eastman which is always a bonus!

Black History Month: I usually read this book in January when celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but it would also serve to highlight the struggles needed to be overcome for African Americans in the mid-20th century. If you haven’t already, please do not miss the opportunity to read and discuss Goin’ Someplace Special by the amazingly talented and prolific Patricia McKissack. I always get a little choked up when I read the information at the end of the book that describes how Nashville’s public library board of directors quietly voted to desegregate all their facilities in the 1950’s. Being a semi-autobiographical story as well makes this literary work that much more , well…special, and the beautiful illustrations by Jerry Pinkney make it not only good for the soul, but pleasing to the eye as well.