Going Deep with Literature

Several weeks before conference week and spring break, we began the third and final portion of our study of “place,” launching a study of migration (immigration, emigration, etc.) LiteraWe began with a new read aloud book, the sadly true, moving and hopeful story told by Linda Sue Park, A Long Walk to Water.

A Long Walk to Water

This story, set in Southern Sudan and Ethiopia in the 1980s and 2000s, has helped the group to explore the idea of seasonal migration (in this case for water), the plight of refugees (due to civil war) and the importance of hope.  There is a lot of resonance between it and events in the news at the moment.

The “push” and “pull” factors that drive every type of migration are in our conversations on a daily basis. In pairs, we did a very close reading of Shaun Tan’s remarkable graphic novel The Arrival.


The book memorably spins the tales of a number of people, each with different reasons for choosing or needing to seek home elsewhere, so that it becomes a tale of every person, time, place, and situation.

Simultaneously, each student and teacher in the group, as well by Amy and by Jen, formed four theme literature groups, each meeting weekly for shared reading of a novel. Three of the four novels are written in verse, and all tell the story of the many adjustments and struggles faced by new immigrants.

And all the while, each child in the group has been choosing from a variety of fiction and nonfiction books, varying in length and complexity, to do independent reading that is theme related. We’re only several weeks in to our study — we have about nine more weeks to go, weeks which will include a writing project, travel, films, and visits. Still it is literature, and the unique ways in which literature connects us to the experience of others, that remains profoundly at the center of our work.

Header by William Harnett [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons