In March and April 2017, Shannon and I field-tested the WHEN WE MARCH manuscript and draft illustrations in Boulder and Denver, Colorado classrooms from preschool on up to fifth grade.
The educators and students who welcomed us shared their thoughts on the meaning behind the book. We got several thumbs up and some excellent feedback on both the words and the drawings. Here’s what we learned:
- Children are willing and exceptionally able to engage in big-idea thinking. The book prompted a group of first graders to discuss the meaning of “democracy” and offer this definition: a group of people making decisions together. A third grade class defined democracy as a peaceful way that everyone gets to decide. Most of the children were comfortable with the terms “liberty” and “justice” because of the pledge of allegiance.
- Children are watching and listening to the world around them, whether or not we know it. Many students described the book’s theme this way: “You can do anything together!”
- Children favor books—and a world!—in which they are actors, not bystanders. One fifth grader said that as he listened to the book he felt “like I was marching.” Another said the book made her “want to go with some other people and change something!”
- Children adore anything to do with animals. Spoiler alert: Yes, critters do make an appearance!
Students, parents & teachers agree!
“Your book is amazing!” — 3rd grade teacher, Boulder, CO
“[The book] made me want to go with some other people and change something.” — 5th grade student, Denver, CO
“This book’s only weakness might be that I will never, ever, be able to read it aloud to my child without crying.” — parent, Williamstown, MA
“This is such a wonderful book. The second graders loved it. [Reading it] was such a very rich experience for them.” — teacher, Boulder, CO
“This is truly beautiful! Very passionate, powerful and true. I really like the animal analogies, generally, but especially for kids. A very vivid way to illustrate community, interdependence.” — parent, Calgary, Alberta
“Thanks for coming and sharing your book! The children really enjoyed your words.” — early childhood educator, Boulder, CO
“This is gorgeous! I cried and I cheered.” — parent & author, Boulder, CO
“I just read the text and it is so BEAUTIFUL. This book will be a gift to all who come into contact with it!” — parent & educator, Boulder, CO
PHOTO CREDIT: Boulder Journey School (used with permission)