To celebrate Women’s History Month this year, I paid a visit to my local library in Montclair, where I participated in a program honoring the theme of my picture book “Something Beautiful.” Mrs. Sandra McKnight, a veteran educator and literacy expert, conducted the first half of the program, inviting kids, their parents and grandparents to write about the “something beautiful” in their lives. After the writing portion, those in attendance were invited to create “beautiful” constructions using an array of recycled materials. The creative and harmonious atmosphere in the room was inspiring and so was the writing and artwork.
During my part of the program, I read “Something Beautiful” aloud and then asked for questions. One parent asked me about the “message” in the book.
“I think that beauty gives us hope,” I answered. “Beauty is all around us, waiting to be found.”
In the book “Something Beautiful” the main character goes on a search for beauty in her inner city neighborhood. Everyone she meets has something they regard as “beautiful” and on the final page of the book, the child’s mother tells her that she is “something beautiful” too.
Everyday I give myself the task of finding “something beautiful.” Find your “something beautiful” today.
I had a wonderful time visiting William B. Cruise Memorial School No. 11 for Read Across America. As a special treat third graders were allowed to wear their pajamas to the assembly. I only wish I’d worn mine!
Dear Sharon Dennis Wyeth,
Your visit to our school was a testament to the integrity and passion that you have instilled in your books. We were in awe of your ability to engage all of the students and inspire them to find their own connections within literature. The students have spoken of nothing but your visit and your exquisite books. We couldn’t boast enough about your ability to capture the audience and keep the students wanting more. I remember eight years ago when I received Something Beautiful as a gift; it now remains a permanent fixture in my library and a class favorite, as each one of us within this community can relate to its story. We still use this book to introduce various concepts in multiple content areas.
Recently, we introduced your new book, The Granddaughter Necklace, and it came as no surprise when our students were once again taken in by the perplexity and beauty of the message along with its historical relevance and vivid illustrations. We are glad to say that we are in the process of making these books available in each class’s library for our students’ and teachers’ use. Thank you so much for giving our students something to look up to and strive toward!
Elementary School Teacher
William B. Cruise Memorial School No. 11
P.S. For Women’s History Month, we celebrated you! Attached are photos of just a couple of the bulletin boards that were created as a result of your visit, as well as a copy of our school’s most recent newsletter, which proudly features your visit. We are also mailing you some letters that our students wanted to write to you.
“As educators, we must accept moral responsibility for improving instruction in order to improve student achievement”- Glickman
-Teaching is not just a gift; It’s a calling!
Women’s history month makes me reflect on the significance of personal history. The “history” we study in school is crucial, of course; it contains the story of the world we share, the people and events that have shaped our era. But history would not have come alive for me as a student without the personal stories I collected from family.
In “The Granddaughter Necklace,” I include a story my grandmother Mildred told me. She said that when she was six-years-old, her family gave her away to relatives. My grandmother was one of thirteen children. Her father was a traveling wallpaper hanger during an era when careers for African Americans were severely curtailed because of racism. My grandmother’s mother was the daughter of a middle class couple, but with thirteen children to feed and a husband who had to travel for employment, my great-grandmother was overwhelmed. So she gave my grandmother away to a relative who had only one daughter. My grandmother’s life was not a happy one in the new home she was sent to. That’s something I left out of “The Granddaughter Necklace.” The relative who became her guardian treated her like a servant. She desperately wanted to escape but she was only a child. She finally managed to leave when she was a teenager, but holding down a job to support herself meant she had to drop out of high school.
It wasn’t until I was nearly grown and about to leave home for college that I learned how unhappy my grandmother’s early years had been. Letting on to me that her family had been so poor was an act of trust on the part of my proud grandmother. But that trust drew us closer. I admired her even more. She’d survived her difficult childhood. She wasn’t bitter. She’d worked hard to make sure that her own family would have the comfort of home she’d missed when she was growing up.
In 1911, the year my grandmother was born, a terrible fire took the lives of women and girls in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. Most of these women were immigrants, working for low wages in unsafe conditions. Yet, 1911 was also the year the grand ocean liner the Titanic was launched to great fanfare. It was also the year Marie Curie, a Polish woman with French citizenship, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Women in the United States wouldn’t have the right to vote until 1920 when my grandmother was nineteen and the Nineteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution. It wasn’t until 1964, that the Civil Rights Act, prohibiting job discrimination on the basis of sex and race, was passed. By then my grandmother was fifty-three. She was destined to live almost her whole life without protection under the law from discrimination. I ask myself how my grandmother’s life might have been different if she’d been born in a later generation. Yet her legacy is one of hard work and optimism, generosity and cheerfulness. When I was in high school, she went back to school to get her own delayed diploma. She was with me when I graduated from college. I was with her when she retired from her government job. When I think of “women’s history,” I think of my grandmother, and the memory of her life makes the world she was born into come alive.
My grandmother, Mildred Lewis