It's time for another installment of Common Core: IRL (In Real Libraries), and we've turned our attention to baseball. Our goal in writing this series is to shed light on quality books for children that educators can use in the classroom to help address the standards. The books reviewed on the four blogs feature books about baseball that increase in text complexity. Visit all of the blogs to read the reviews and learn how to use the books with students.
by Kadir Nelson
In every generation there are movers & shakes, individuals who speak out to try to bring about social change. In the world of publishing there are those who write to ensure African Americans are represented in children's literature. There are many writers who come to mind including Virginia Hamilton, Rita Garcia Williams, Walter Dean Myers, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Christopher Myers, and Kadir Nelson. Over the past decade, Kadir Nelson has used his talent as a writer and artist to teach children about important people and events from African American history.
In the large-format informational book, We are the Ship, Nelson describes the formation of the Negro League and how it provided those with a passion and talent for baseball with a venue to play. The story is narrated by an unnamed ballplayer who, according to Nelson, represents "the voice of every player." Nelson traces the start of the league by Rube Foster in 1920. The book features several players from the Negro Leagues and ends with Jackie Robinson as he joined the major league in 1947. Nelson's stunning, full-page illustrations convey the emotions of the players and bring history to life.
Common Core Connections
- Middle grade readers will immediately be drawn into the story of We Are the Ship as the narrator looks back upon his days in the Negro Leagues. This narrative style lends itself to examining point of view. Teachers could ask students in sixth grade to determine the author's point of view or purpose and "explain how it is conveyed" in the book. R.I. 6.6.
- Teachers could also ask students to identify the central idea of the narrative and "how it is conveyed through particular details." R.I. 6.2
- The Common Core State Standards want students to integrate information presented in different formats. Pair We Are the Ship with this video about the Negro Baseball League. Have students synthesize the information from the book with what they learn from the video. R.I. 6.7
- Students could also compare and contrast the point of view of the narrator in We Are the Ship with the point of view of Negro League umpire, Bob Motley, in this radio interview. Click here to listen to the interview with Bob Motley.
Learn more by visiting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum website, which offers teacher resources, player biographies, and a photo archive.