Books for Hopes and Dreams (2012)

Recommending children’s books that teachers can use to begin talking about goal-setting and with their students has become an annual ritual for me. (Here are my picks for 2011 and 2010.) This year I found so many that I can’t even share them all! Hope and optimism are apparently alive and well in the children’s book industry.

So here are a few new favorites for older grade students, along with some ideas of how you might want to use them to introduce hopes and dreams:

  • Here Come the Girl Scouts: The Amazing All True Story of Juliette (Daisy) Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure by Shana Corey, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
    Growing up in Georgia in the early 1900s, Low was an active girl who bristled at the notion that “proper young ladies were supposed to be dainty and delicate.” Wanting instead “to be useful, to make a difference in the world,” she started the Girl Scouts, an organization that she hoped would help girls experience outdoor life, adventure, and camaraderie. In founding the Girl Scouts, Low relied in part on what she had learned from the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in England. You could use her example to challenge your students to think about resources or research they may need to do to be successful with their hopes and dreams.
  • The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mordecai Gerstein
    In 1903, naturalist John Muir took President Teddy Roosevelt on a three-day camping trip through Yosemite. Camping alone, the two saw amazing sights and held long conversations during which Muir convinced Roosevelt to take action to protect some of the nation’s wilderness from commercial or recreational development. That was the beginning of the national park program we know today. During the process of setting their own hopes and dreams for the year, encourage students to think about who could help them accomplish their goals, just as Roosevelt helped Muir reach his.
  • Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
    Ignoring her father’s pleas to “sit on the porch and be a lady,” Alice Coachman began running. With skill and determination, she overcame many obstacles to become a high school track star, received a chance to study and compete at the famed Tuskegee Institute, and ultimately won a gold medal at the Olympics in the high jump. After reading this book, encourage students to think about what obstacles might stand in the way of their meeting their hopes and dreams and how they might overcome them.

And here are a few recommendations for younger students:

  • Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
    This book (which reminds me of another favorite for hopes and dreams—The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small)—tells the story of a young girl who slowly transforms her dreary, colorless town into a brighter, happier place. Finding a box of extra yarn, the girl begins knitting colorful sweaters for people, animals, and objects in the town. I won’t ruin the interesting ending! After you read this book to your class, ask them to reflect on how they can make the most of the year ahead and what resources they will need to reach their goals.
  • Surfer Chick by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Henry Cole
    Written in rhyming text, this is the story of Chick, who wants to be as talented a surfer as her famous dad. At first, she encounters many setbacks, including a big wipe-out, but with perseverance, she learns to surf and even creates some cool moves of her own. Using this book as an inspiration, encourage children to choose a goal or hope and dream for the year that will be challenging but still within their grasp.
  • The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater (Okay, I’m cheating a bit—this book’s not new, but a Responsive Classroom workshop participant just gave it to me, and I love it so much that I had to write about it!)
    “Mr. Plumbean lived on a street where all the houses were the same.” Everyone was happy with that sameness until one day a seagull carrying a bucket of orange paint dropped a big splot on Mr. Plumbean’s roof. Urged by his neighbors to paint his house, Mr. Plumbean does, but in a way no one ever expected—with stripes, rainbow colors, and pictures of animals. Challenged by his neighbors, Mr. Plumbean replies, “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” Eventually, the neighborhood changes to a series of unique and interesting houses, all representing the owners’ dreams. Inspired by Pinkwater’s amazing pictures, children could paint realistic or abstract versions of their own dreams for the school year and write a caption for each.

Let me know what you think of these books—or share others you use to inspire your students to make meaningful hopes and dreams for the new school year!


Tags: Hopes and Dreams/Learning Goals, Language Arts