I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bracing the Issue of Homelessness with Teens

Homelessness. That's a pretty raw, tough topic. But I have faith it's a topic that's becoming more visible for kids thanks to the beauty of some young adult books...

1. Paper Things by Jennifer Jacobson:
Ari's parents are dead, and she has a choice to make - stay with her caretaker or go with her older brother, 19 year old Gage. She opts for the latter, not realizing at first that her brother has no place to call home. Instead, he "couch surfs," staying with various friends or at shelters from time to time. Not sure where her next bed will be or from where her next meal will come, Ari's school work and grades start to suffer. That's bad enough, but when you add the idea that she needs to be competitive to get into the middle school her mom and brother went to, the pressure starts to build. She's not sure where to turn because she hasn't told anyone about her "home" situation. So many struggles, both internal and external - what's a girl to do?

Book cover design
Jennifer Jacobson & me - book signing @ ILA Conference, St. Louis 2015
2. Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (AR copy - release date = September 2015)
A large, black-and-white, talking cat named Crenshaw comes to fifth grader, Jackson, when his family falls on tough times. He talks, takes bubble baths, and is imaginary. It's not the first time Jackson's family is facing homelessness - it happened about four years ago, which is when Crenshaw appeared for the first time. Jackson's parents are musicians who have lost their jobs and have had to take up a combination of part-time jobs to try to make ends meet. However, they fall short of making rent and providing enough food for their family, including Jackson's younger sister, Robin. Though he's imaginary, Crenshaw helps Jackson learn some important lessons about family, courage, and telling the truth.

I can't wait to share both of these books with my 6th graders this fall, preferably through the form of class read alouds. They seem like they would both be strong discussion starters...

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