Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hero vs Celebrity and Some Picture Books

I am currently working on putting together a new unit for my 4th grade literacy class.  I've basically been given free reign to do what I want as long as I can align it with common core.  It is almost a hindrance to have such free reign because I have been having so much difficulty coming up with a theme that would work with the materials I have available. 

Then, while on hall duty last week, I listened to two fifth graders have a conversation about Justin Beiber.  The girl has a huge picture of him in her locker.  The two were talking about his recent misdeeds.  The conversation was a full-on recap of the drunk driving, resisting arrest, the foul language he used, his use of marijuana, and now being out on bail. It was a conversation I would hope two ten year olds would never have to have.  The part of the conversation that was most disturbing to me was towards the end when one of the students said she didn't care what he did.  He was still cute and will always be her hero.  Hero.  Yes, she said hero.  Now, I know this is ten year old thinking, but it is still disturbing to know that this is her thinking and probably the thinking of many preteens. 

It was then and there that I decided my literacy unit was going to center on the theme of heroes.  And, an important part of the unit was going to be a lesson on the difference between a hero and a celebrity.  In looking for some resources, I came across this quote:

"A sign of a celebrity is that his name
is often worth more than his services."
by Daniel Boorstin, Historian
Such a true statement.  If you think about it, the deeds of a hero are greater and longer lasting than their name while the name of a celebrity is usually greater than their deeds.  A hero's deeds will usually transcend time and spark a change in thinking, innovation, or behavior for the greater good of many in society. 
This is not to diminish the contributions of a celebrity, but I believe there needs to be a distinction between what makes someone hero as opposed to being a celebrity.  Another quote I came across that I feel explains that distinction well says, "A hero creates himself.  A celebrity is created by the media."  Hmmm, tell me that doesn't make you think of the Kardashians!
I think seeing how children can be considered heroes will be of great interest to my 4th graders.  Once I get the book, I will do a full review for you.  For now, I'm still pulling it all together.
Speaking of picture books, here's a true contrast in what is out there.  I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and was stopped in my tracks by this book:

I honestly couldn't believe they made a book based on the YouTube viral video.  I thought, no.  There must be more to the book.  Nope.  It's just the song lyrics.  The illustrations are okay, but I really couldn't find anything that would make me buy this book.  It might have to do with the fact that I'm not a huge fan of the song! But, if you have a child that loves the song or are looking for just a silly book, this is it!
So, let's flip the coin.  
What would be the exact opposite of a silly, fun picture book? 
Can I tell you that I cry every single time I read this book.  It is about a boy, around 4 years old as best I can tell, and his father who are homeless and live in an airport.  It tells the story about how they live day to day.  The father is working, but simply can't make enough money to afford an apartment.  The title comes from a bird that is trapped in airport and catches the attention of the boy.  The bird is trapped for days and eventually finds his way out, a symbol of hope for the boy and his father.  Honestly, I'm teary just typing this.  For some reason, this book just gets me every time.  Published in 1991, it isn't a new book.   However, if you aren't familiar with it, I've linked below to a reading of it from YouTube.
Your reaction will probably not be as emotional as mine always is, but you can't help but feel something when reading this book.  Fly Away Home is a great book to introduce important topics such as homelessness and types of families.  It's not What Does the Fox Say? but you  might want to read that after this for a smile!


  1. Your post gave me a lot to think about. Please post a follow-up as you go on.

  2. I completely agree with Mrs. R. Fabulous post. I can't wait to see your review of the heroic children book. I need to have a similar lesson with my students!

    1. Mrs. R, I will let you know how it goes!
      Shannon, I can't wait to get the book. I really hope it is as good as it looks!

  3. Also very interested in your book review and your unit. I love your materials.
    Do you have anything for the Olympics?

    1. Sorry, Anon. I don't have any material for the Olympics. However, I have seen some good things on Teachers Pay Teachers. You might want to try there.

  4. Being famous is just like being in high school. But I'm not interested in being one of the latina actresses. I am not prepared for the degree to which people define fame.