An integral part of our mission at BtB is opening up the world of books to our students; exposing them to experiences and people that make those books come to life. Mrs. LeBron’s 4th grade students at CS 21 are writing biographies inspired by Doreen Rappaport’s Helen’s Big World, and on Friday they visited the American Foundation for the Blind to learn more about Helen Keller, meet Doreen and illustrator Matt Tavares, and understand the process of putting together a book.
After a tour of the Foundation’s exhibit on Helen Keller, the students joined two other school groups for a presentation by Doreen and Matt.
Students learned about revision, titling, visually interpreting a text, gathering reference materials, and what it is that makes a biography of a famous person unique- all lessons they’ll put to use when creating their own book with BtB.
During the Q&A, students asked questions of the author and illustrator, as well as the exhibit curator and Helen’s great-niece, who offered this insight into Helen’s person:
“She’s not famous because she was deaf and blind but because of what she did with that. She was a real person. She had temper tantrums, one time she took a pair of scissors and cut her friend’s hair off – she wasn’t a saint. She had real problems but despite that she wanted to make a difference, she wanted to change the world. Obstacles make us better people for having experienced them.”
The students were excited to find that Helen, through her activism, had met many of the people that they were writing bios about, including JFK and Mark Twain.
They also had the opportunity to try on glasses which mimicked the vision of someone with serious vision impairment. It was a full day of discovery, bringing Helen’s life into their real world.
Asked what she thought of the trip, 4th grader Anastasia said, “I loved it! My favorite part was getting to see Helen Keller’s Oscar.”