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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Off to Class, written by Susan Hughes, Owl Kids, 2011. $13.95 ages 8 and up

"But students at a few schools in New Orleans, including the Arthur Ashe Charter School, are reconnecting with the land by getting their hands dirty in the Edible Schoolyard. They have the chance to plant, grow, and harvest organic fruits and vegetables; compost waste; and care for wetland area and butterfly garden."

Did you know that more than 100 million children around the world have no access to education? There are a multitude of reasons why this is so. I wonder how often we even think about those children.

This is a wonderful book to share in intermediate and middle years classrooms for many reasons. First, it is extremely well-written and very entertaining. Second, it will open our children's eyes to the world beyond our own borders. Third, the children whose voices are heard in the pages of this book have much to share and they offer hope and confidence that their world can change and that children the world over can have access to learning. It takes ingenuity, hard work and trust.

It's hard to see some of the kids pictured here. They live tough lives with little or no hope for improvement. More than 18 million children live on the streets of India and they have no access to education at all. But, there are people who are working for change. They work in isolation, and within groups, to make conditions better for children. They live all over the world and they are determined to make a difference, one step at a time. Children are so resilient; they learn despite the most tenuous conditions.

Every school or system described will hold your attention and prove that change can be made. On each double-page spread we see the results that come from hope and inspiration. The writing is accessible for the target audience; the photographs are quite remarkable; and the stories told do the heart good.  I especially like the interviews with the children. Their voices had the most impact on my reading and learning. Add to that, fact boxes and useful captions and you have a book that your children and students will find quite fascinating.
There are so many reasons that schooling is not a given...natural disasters, weather, poverty, homelessness, environment, rampant illness, inequality between genders. They are included sensitively and with compassion for the children facing such issues.
This is a book that begs to be read aloud, and shared at home and at school. The design is positive and bright. It offers another opportunity for readers to see that children around the world have the same needs and wants as we do. It begs the question: do we take too much for granted?

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