8.31.2017

When the Creek Does Rise: A Hurricane Harvey Reading List

My great grandmother used to answer a lot of questions by saying, "if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise."  This week, a lot of coastal Texans have been pondering what to do and how to feel when high water does come.  Since Hurricane Harvey came ashore one week ago, Houstonians and our neighbors have been on pins and needles awaiting one threat and then another.  With the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the collective memory (and experience for many), the fear and anxiety around this weather event has been extremely high.  The discomfort has not been unwarranted.  Trillions of gallons of water have inundated the city, chasing people out of their homes and businesses at all hours of the day and night.  Rescues by helicopter and boat have been ongoing.  Additional neighborhoods have continued to be evacuated even in the days since the rain has stopped falling.
Traumatic and uncertain events such as these are at least as confusing and upsetting for children as they are for adults.  As area communities begin to attempt a return to normalcy, children will need time and opportunity to reflect on and resolve their feelings about the storm and its effects.  Literature can be a helpful tool in the process, allowing readers to hear and see stories of experiences like their own.

Picture books can be shared with children of all ages.
The Pink House at the Seashore by Deborah Blumenthal is a sweet story about a family who has to use creativity and to adjust their summer traditions after their beach house is destroyed in a storm.  I love this underrated book that can help readers imagine the innovative ways in which they can begin to feel okay again.
Yesterday We Had a Hurricane / Ayer Tuvimos un Huracon by Deirdre McLaughlin Mercier is a bilingual (English/Spanish) book written in simple text from a child's perspective about the events, such as downed trees and power outages, that children may experience during a storm.  The story illuminates some positive aspects of the storm experience.
Hurricane! by Jonathan London is set in Puerto Rico and describes a family preparing for a hurricane, finding shelter, waiting out the storm, and finally returning to clean up and repair their home after the storm.  The story reveals the protagonist boy's feelings throughout the process and shows that life does return to normal.
Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story by Caroline Starr Rose describes the hurricane experience for animals beginning with their preparations for the storm, showing how they brace themselves during the hurricane, and finally how they return to explore their homes after the storm has passed.
Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner and John Parra describes the real-life everyman Cornelius Washington whose can-do spirit shined in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  This folktale-style story of a real New Orleans sanitation worker who helped others rebuild after they experienced a devastating hurricane is uplifting for readers who can imagine ways they can help their own city rehabilitate.
A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson is a free-verse story told through the eyes of four New Orleans neighborhood friends who must part ways as they endure Hurricane Katrina.  After the storm, the friends' resiliency and camaraderie show as they experience the restoration process in their community.
Rain Tonight: A Story of Hurricane Hazel by Steve Pitt is a historical fiction story about a family's experience during the 1954 Hurricane Hazel in Toronto, Canada.  The family was forced onto their rooftop by rising floodwater while winds still tore through their city.  The book is sprinkled with primary documents and photos from the actual hurricane more than 50 years ago.

Older children may appreciate longer, more developed stories about storm experiences.
Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick tells the story of a boy who was visiting New Orleans for the first time when Hurricane Katrina separated him from his host and left him and his dog to survive the terrifying winds and rising waters that pummeled the Louisiana city.  This story explores the wide range of human behaviors that are exhibited during harrowing circumstances, ranging from lawlessness and opportunistic greed to heroism and generosity.


Teachers and parents along the Gulf Coast may be in search of additional resources.  More reading and teaching suggestions are available in the book, The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Educating Traumatized Children Pre-K through College by Dorothy M Singleton.

8.01.2017

To Zoo or Not to Zoo...Ethical Animal Experiences

Visits to zoos, circuses, aquariums, farms and animal theme parks are classic summer day trips and school-year field trips that allow children to interact with and learn about animals.  However, most of these experiences come at the expense of a free and natural life for the animals involved.  Lately I've been contemplating how we can give children opportunities to experience animals first-hand while respecting the lives of the animals.
It's always a good idea to start with some background reading.
 What's New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull is a fun historical summary of zoos written for kids.  The book highlights zoos throughout history including some designed for animal protection and others assembled purely for the private amusement of wealthy people without regard for animal needs or feelings.  Krull's zoo timeline helps readers consider the intentions behind past and present animal enclosures and can help begin a conversation about the probable goals of the zoos and other animal experiences in your town.

After considering the value of zoos, we are still left with the question: where can we ethically interact with animals? One Green Planet has several suggestions that fall into two major categories.

1. Sanctuaries, Rescues, and Rehabilitation Centers
These centers distinguish themselves from traditional zoos and theme parks by devoting themselves entirely to rescuing, protecting, healing, and when possible, releasing animals back to their natural habitats.  Centers exist for the protection of various wild and domestic animals, and they often offer tours, children's programs, and volunteering opportunities.  You can easily locate facilities like these in your area using a search engine.

2. Natural Habitats
Other options for animal experiences exist all around us.  Visit the beach to see ocean animals up close.  Head to a river, pond, or other nearby waterway to watch fresh-water animals and other critters that make use of the water source.  Grab your binoculars and visit a bird observatory or even just spend some time watching the animals in your own backyard.  Hike through a forest, drive across a desert, or stomp/splash/sneak through nearby areas with limited human settlement to see animals in their real homes.

3. Virtual Visits
Most families and schools have an easy third option thanks to high-quality video and the Internet.  If you want to experience animals that are difficult to locate in your area, watch a documentary about them or find a live-stream of animals in far-away places.  The Audubon Society has prepared a list of high-quality wildlife web cams.  National Geographic has a database of videos collected through their CritterCam and WildCam programs which allow viewers to see animals in their wild homes.

What are your favorite ways to learn about animals while respecting their rights?