Grass Roots Press Activists Series

I have had success using Grass Root Press' Activist Series with a mixed group of learners.

This series of biographies, authored by Terry Barber, are written at reading levels 3 to 5. (They are advertised as R.L. 2, but the names of people and places, as well as some specialized vocabulary, push the level up.) There are 10 books of 45 pages each in the series. They are set in (I think) an 18 pt Times New Roman font, with an illustration on each facing page. The activists featured are a varied lot, including Louis Riel, Mother Teresa, and David Suzuki.

My adult learning group hosts beginning and accomplished readers (ranges, perhaps, 3 to 10). The attraction this series holds for such a diverse group of learners lays in the content. We read the books aloud - usually two each night - each taking a page in turn. We often pause to clarify an issue or find a location on a map.

Individualization appears when we each decide how we want to use the books to further our skills. For example, during the last group, we read Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. Afterward, one learner chose to work on spelling and vocabulary. He picked out a few words he had stumbled over when reading, and used them in sentence-writing until he felt comfortable spelling them aloud. Another learner chose to write a short essay on the progress (or lack thereof) of women's rights. She then posted her views on a personal blog site, combining conventional and computer literacy learning. Since I am in the process of puzzling out online networking and communications, I also chose a writing / posting task: this particular effort is my 'homework' as it were.

We will continue to read through the series and, given the up-coming Christmas break, will probably re-read them in the New Year. Where we go from there remains open. However, I am eager to tie the books into a discussion of civic participation (maybe in relation to a federal election campaign?). In any event, the series has proved its worth to me and I can recommend it without reservation.

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