“Second grade students look more deeply into the outlook, attitudes, and points of view in understanding a text. They look at why an author wrote a piece and the manner in which it is written.”
One of my favorite books of the last year is We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade, who won the 2021 Caldecott Medal for excellence in illustrations. As lovely as it is, this book is not only pretty pictures. Inside is an important message for us all about corruption, the damage of natural resources, and the people who are called to protect those resources. Lindstrom, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, and also Anishinaabe/Métis, talks to us from a child’s perspective, concern for the land in her village as it is being threatened by a “black snake,” an oil pipeline.
This book is a great mentor text for the second grade South Carolina ELA Standard for Reading for Enrichment and Enjoyment.
This standard states:
In second grade, students are learning the following:
• Determine if the author’s main purpose is to explain, entertain, inform, or convince.
• Determine who is telling the story at different parts in a text—the narrator or the characters.
• Make predictions before and during reading; confirm or change thinking.
• Explain what happened, why, and how it shaped the theme.
• Describe how cultural background influences characters, setting, and the development of the plot.
• Read independently for extended periods.
Immediately, a child can determine that the text is created to inform and also potentially convince the reader to not only support the cause of the Water Protectors, but to convince them that this is a humanitarian issue, whether a member of a tribe or not.
Explain what happened, why, and how it shaped the theme: We Are Water Protectors provides an opportunity for adults and children to discuss the DAPL and other oil pipelines, and the environmental and social impact they have on communities.
Describe how cultural background influences characters, setting, and the development of the plot: Previewing the book and reading the Author’s Note at the end clarifies the author’s cultural background as belonging to the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, which shapes the theme, as she considers herself a Water Protector. In her note, she points out that “while other members of my tribe traveled to Standing Rock to lend their support, traveling to North Dakota from my home wasn’t possible for me at the time. But I knew what was! Using my voice to tell a story.”
If we want our children to be critical thinkers, we have to share stories that will allow them to explore the world around them. Using a variety of picture books to allow children to explore perspectives different from those around them means that children will learn that an author’s perspective, beliefs, and cultural background can influence their main purpose and affect their storytelling.