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Heart Centered Common Core Book List

By Melanie Holland, CEI Intern


From Kathleen Odean, a past chair of the prestigious Newbery Award Committee, comes recommendations for how to link award-winning non-fiction literature to the Common Core State Standards. Her website provides middle and high school educators with over 70 Young Adult books with an always engaging and impressive topic range.

Not surprisingly, many of these books can be tied back to CEI’s Heart Centered Education philosophy and the 5 Cs: Compassion, Courage, Confidence, Consciousness, and Community. In our June Newsletter we gave examples of the first 3 Cs, and here are examples of the final two, Consciousness and Community, tied to the Common Core offered by Odean, and our own Heart Centered take.

Consciousness Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns

Summary: A newspaper article described hundreds of Nike sneakers washing up on Pacific shores. Two years later, thousands of rubber duckies did the same. The items had spilled out of shipping containers that went overboard from ships during bad weather. Ebbesmeyer realized that the spilled items offered a unique way to study ocean currents. This excellent entry in the Scientists in the Field series shows readers the work of an ocean scientist while also imparting information about ocean currents and environmental problems.

Kathleen’s Recommendation: Use Reading Standard #1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and implicitly, citing specific textual evidence to support conclusions drawn from it. Burns contends that the problem of trash in the oceans is larger than generally recognized, which she presents through the work of a scientist. Have students summarize content and cite explicit and implied evidence for that thread in the book. This would be an excellent jumping-off point for more research, including an update on the topic since the book was published in 2007.

Our Addition: This book is a great example of passionate individuals increasing consciousness and awareness for entire communities. We recommend creating a consciousness project for the class to increase consciousness for their peers. Two ideas could be to do a project on the amount of food being thrown away during lunch, or as Kathleen suggests, creating a research project for the class on the status of ocean dumping today.

Community King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher

Summary: Chris Crutcher’s autobiography is funny and poignant, as he writes in a conversational tone about growing up in a small town in Idaho. Despite the town’s macho atmosphere, he failed to toughen up or get good at sports. Without bitterness, Crutcher reveals some of his family’s problems including his mother’s drinking and his father’s demanding nature. The anecdotes and themes show the roots of some of his novels. Near the end, Crutcher talks about his work as a therapist with abused kids and describes how he became a writer. He also addresses why he uses expletives in his novels as part of his goal of showing that life, as he knows it, not an idealized version.

Kathleen’s Recommendation: Use Reading Standard #8: Delineate and evaluate argument and specific claims in a text, assessing reasoning and evidence. Crutcher’s books are often challenged in schools and sometimes removed from the curriculum or library shelves because of their use of expletives. Have students consider Crutcher’s argument for including strong language and the broader question of removing books. A debate format would work well for this topic.

Our Addition: We recommended having a discussion with your students about the ways community could both define and limit individuals, tying into Crutcher’s feelings about his own childhood in a macho neighborhood. Allow students to brainstorm ways their community makes them feel empowered or limited, and what they can do to address those things.


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