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Character Education

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Digital Learning

Finding Hope

Most kids are resilient. Most kids are hopeful. I think each of us, though, has encountered a student or two along the way who has lost hope. Research tells us that academic achievement is closely tied to hope, and that the practice of being hopeful can actually be taught and cultivated throughout the year.

Our podcast group recently discussed the importance of hope, of teaching it purposefully, and of books that might help us to tackle this important issue with our students. Here's my piece of the pie:

A couple of quotes:
"There is nothing like a dream to create the future." (Victor Hugo)
"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." (Nelson Mandela)
The two books that I have selected for you do a great job of illustrating these two ideas.

The Storyteller's Candle by Lucia Gonzalez is a true story, showing how the dreams found in books can create the future. Cousins Hildago and Santiago arrived in New York City from sunny Puerto Rico in the cold winter of 1929. A gifted librarian and storyteller named Pura Belpré arrives as a special visitor to their class and changes lives. Through her magical storytelling, Belpré opens the children's eyes to all the possibilities a public library can offer to the entire community - old and new residents, speaking any language. She was writer, a collector of folktales, and a puppeteer and used all of her talents to draw children and books together.

An interesting aside: Lucia Gonzalez has followed in the footsteps of Pura Belpré as a librarian, puppeteer, and storyteller, carrying the candle into the future for kids.

I would definitely follow up the read-aloud of The Storyteller's Candle with a discussion and writing activity about memorable trips to the library, and positive encounters with books and storytelling. Kids could prepare their own storytelling version of a favorite book of theirs. Puppets optional, but welcome!

Storytelling, especially by trusted adults, brings hope to children. Storytelling deserves a place in your lesson plans every week (or every day, if you can manage it!)

With the current fear and uproar over the Coronavirus, my mind keeps bringing up an old favorite of mine and of my students, Running Out Of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Thirteen year old Jessie Keyser lives with her family in the village of Clifton, Indiana in the 1830s. Or so she thinks. The year is really 1996, and the adults in the village know that. They had made a decision to join Clifton and raise their families there as if they were really living in the 1830s. Tourists could view the residents of Clifton as they went about their 1830s daily life at school, around the dining table, at the blacksmith's shop, and so on. The children of Clifton are completely unaware of this.

Dr. Fister, the village doctor, always treated people by giving them the typical 1830 remedy, like "Make a poultice of chokeberries and rub it on your neck three times a day." He also would slip a packet of modern pills, like antibiotics, to patients under the table, away from the prying eyes of tourists.

When a diphtheria epidemic takes hold in Clifton, and there are no more pills and no modern interventions, Jessie's mother takes action. She tells Jessie the truth about Clifton, dresses Jessie in her own hidden 1994 jeans and t-shirt, and shows her the way to leave Clifton and seek help for the sick and dying children.

As she runs into a future she doesn't understand at all, Jessie's choices always reflect her hope to find help rather than her fears. This book would be an amazing complement to a unit in history.

For more ideas about bringing hope through literature, tune in to Episode 69 of  "We Teach So Hard".
We have more books and more lesson followup ideas to share with you there! We also have more blog posts for you! Just click here:

Bringing Hope in Times of Angst // Tried & True Teaching Tools
The Thing With Feathers: Books For Teaching Hope //Wild Child's Mossy Oak Musings
Hope is a 4-Letter Word // Socrates Lantern
Finding Hope //Rainbow City Learning


  1. Such a timely topic for children to read/understand especially during this difficult day and age. We all need some hope for our future.

  2. Reading about Running Out of Time gave me the chills! The Storyteller's Candle sounds fabulous; I love librarians and story tellers; the power of a story! I'm adding these books to my TBR list; thanks!