The History of Stories through the Eyes of Book

This is the second year I have used the creative nonfiction text — Book: My Autobiography┬áby John Agard (illustrations by Neil Packer)– as an opening novel with my sixth graders. I read it aloud (and we do some various activities with it, including some sketch-noting) so we can talk about where stories come from, and where books and texts have evolved from.

This short book (which we humorously refer to as Book book in class), with lots of woodcut drawings, does a nice job of giving Book (a collective voice of every book ever written) a role as personable and wise narrator as we move through the timeline of history, from oral storytelling to papyrus to paper to illuminated texts to printing presses to libraries to ebooks and more.

In using the Book book, I laying the historical foundation for why we write and why and how we read stories, and how stories change who we are in powerful ways. I wish I could spend a few more weeks doing more activities — long ago, I did a printmaking activity for a newspaper unit — but I need to keep moving along.

We do make time for activity in which they design a book, or story delivery system, for a time 100 years into the future. I wonder what they will be making this week …

My students mostly enjoy Book book, although the chapter where we learn about book burning and the ways dictators often target writing and writers as symbols of dissent is a little unnerving. (It gives me a chance to chat about banned books, too).

I also do love how the book itself is scattered about with poems and proverbs and excerpts from writers from all over the world, from many cultures.

And of course, the storyline of Book book is another entry into how literacy has shaped the world, particularly during moments when an innovation opened up the possibilities of reading and writing to those who would not otherwise have had access, leading to eras like the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

2 Comments
  1. Would love to have you think out loud here about the sketchnoting process.

    Sad that you cannot linger as needed. This is my biggest personal complaint about the institution of school (K-UNI), but I get it that there are some absolutely foundational parts of reading and writing. I wonder what those parts are and whether some of them can be safely ignored.

    Anti-spammituttifruittallrooti: gist bend He placed his hands in an intricate position to cast the “gist bend” spell. He hoped that the summary that came from the spell would satisfy his English teacher. Fingers crossed. “Oh, shoot,” he thought, “messed up the spell.”

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