Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

Perhaps my favorite part of volunteering in my children's' classrooms or attending school functions is hearing a room (or auditorium) full of kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. I enjoy the mispronunciations (invisible/indivisible), the sing song rhythm of their recitation, and seeing the inevitable few switch back and forth between right hand and left hand. Those sweet amusing bits are fun, but there is also something especially moving about the words of the pledge spoken by children. Maybe it is their sincerity that gets to me, but I don't kid myself that they completely understand what they are saying. However, if every school in the United States had a copy of Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson's I Pledge Allegiance, they might all in fact understand it completely. This wonderfully clear and simple book breaks down the language, history, and ideas of the pledge for even very young children. Basically, it presents the pledge with commentary. The authors define key terms as they come up. "I pledge (A pledge is a promise) allegiance (Allegiance is loyalty.) to ..." They suggest things we can do while saying the pledge, such as standing at attention, removing a cap or hat, and so on. I am impressed with their handling of the "under God" part. They tell their readers that "Many people believe that a democracy is a reflection of how God thinks- every single person is important." What a beautiful and simple way to explain that idea to a young child.
Chris Raschka's illustrations are spot on perfect. He uses ink and torn paper collages to show lots of kids and lots of red, white, and blue. The pictures look like they were made from materials found in an elementary school art class- chalk, paint, scraps of paper, but with much thought given to the ideas of equality and unity.
Not to be missed in a read aloud are the blurbs about the authors and illustrator. It's interesting to read how they each personally connect with the pledge. There is also a useful note to parents and teachers suggesting activities to help kids grasp the concepts in the book.
I highly recommend this one!

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