by Barbara Gruener
Are you looking for an engaging way to celebrate culture and citizenship while weaving it into the fabric of your classroom? Allow me to introduce my newest patriotic find, Red, White and Blue by Debbie Clement. It’s a wonderful addition to your library because your students can read, sing, and sign this one. That’s right, sign as in sign language, a bonus your little songbirds will undoubtedly consider really cool as they sing this love song to America.
Originally written shortly after the 9/11 tragedy, this musical gem just begs its readers to move along as they sing the simple, repetitive text. From flags to fireworks, each page is hand-quilted with symbolism; Debbie’s inspirational illustrations serve as a tribute to our multicultural country. Use the landscape pages as a geographical study of the wonders in our fifty states – who knows where the Grand Canyon is? Look for small details that enrich the pages – who can find 911 on the Station 10 page?
Not only does the hardcover come with a CD of the music, it also includes the musical score, nine sign-language words, and a Did You Know? glossary of facts and terms. It concludes with a page to share the story of this “epic project.”
A timely treasure as we approach Patriot Day and the ten-year observance of 9/11, Red, White and Blue could serve as the perfect opportunity to remember and talk about the heroes and first responders who helped us survive the events of that dark day. Connect this concept back to your kids by asking: What does it mean to be a hero? Who is your hero? Why? What special qualities does that person have that make him/her special? How are you like him/her? How could you grow to be more like him/her? Imitation is the highest form of flattery; have your students write notes to their heroes telling them what their positive influence has done in their lives.
I can also see our first graders performing Red, White and Blue during their annual presentation of patriotic songs to honor those who serve when their branches-of-the-military unit culminates with a Veterans Day celebration. With this Indie Excellence Award Winner, possibilities for integration abound.
Barbara Gruener is a school counselor at Westwood-Bales Elementary in Friendswood, TX, a winner of the 2009 CEP National School of Character Award. For more information on Westwood’s program, visit its website.