The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis as both a foray into historical fiction and a springboard into research of historical events, but some students, being the great and voracious Stone readers that they are, were already acquainted with the book. So an independent study group was formed to read the brand new and related nonfiction, We've Got a Job: The 1963 Children's March by Cynthia Levinson. Through the miracle of social networking, I got in touch with the author and she agreed to a Skype visit with our students, allowing all the kids who read the book to ask a few original questions, and what questions they were!!! A sampling:
"What caused you to write this book?"
"Did you find the pictures, or did you take them yourself?"
"How hard was it to write this book; did it bring up a lot of your emotions?"
"The specific people you wrote about--Audrey, Wash, James--did they ever read your book? Do they still feel the same way about this situation?"
"Who were your influences while you wrote the book?"
"You based your story from different angles, how do you think that affects the pacing of the plot?"
"Are you currently involved in any Civil Rights programs, or a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People? What do you do to help them?"
" How did African Americans not respond violently to abuse, even with their training?"
"Today, things are way different for African Americans thanks to the effort of many. Do you think if Martin Luther King had never been assassinated and was able to help the movement much longer, things would be different?"
Good gravy. May I mention, please, what a blessing and honor it is to teach Stone students?! What amazing brains. Ms. Levinson was very impressed with the mature reflection of the text that each reader demonstrated, and answered each question thoughtfully. We so appreciated the author's time and the gravity with which she considered each of the inquiries...such great conversations! Visiting with an author through a screen was definitely something out of "The Jetsons," and we all agreed it took a little getting used to, but in the end we all loved it and hope we can try it again soon, maybe with some authors from our Battle of the Books list, fingers crossed! I am so pleased that such an encounter also helps children to learn one of my goals for the library program: that readers understand there are real people behind the books we read, making decisions with every word and picture, and trying to share something important to them with us. Thank you, Cynthia Levinson, for sharing your time and generosity, and for writing such a terrific book and capturing an important chapter in both children's and American history! We hope everyone checks it out!