Finding One’s Way

Though Columbus Day has been an official Federal holiday since 1937, I don’t remember ever celebrating it in any special way. There was no parade in my town, and school was in session. I hated studying about the explorers, but I didn’t mind reading biographies about them. I realize that the biographies that were available to me were highly fictionalized; they did broaden my reading experience. The one thing I do remember about Columbus is a small part of the following poem:

In Fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; He sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

  • Kick-off programming for the month of October by asking readers to find out why Columbus Day is a controversial holiday in our nation. Have them document which states have chosen not to celebrate the holiday. Some have renamed the holiday. Record the various names for the day. Ask readers to brainstorm other appropriate names for Columbus Day.
  • I want to suggest that we think outside the box and dedicate the month of October to celebrating characters in books that explore new worlds, and are put in situations to find their way. Perhaps they travel by stagecoach, horse, or covered wagon. They could go by train, ship, plane, car, or on foot. Whichever way they venture, they tread into unknown territories. Ask readers to think about the tools that these main characters call upon as they make their journeys. Are there maps, compasses, and letters? What are their hopes and dreams?
  • Westward Expansion is an obvious period in history when Americans explored new territory. Suggest the following books from Random House:
  • Immigrants faced many challenges. Introduce the following books from Random House and ask readers to discuss what it was like for the main character to find their way in a new world:
  • Have them consider books like Fish by L.S. Matthews (ages 10-up), the story of a boy who, along with his parents, must flea a country because of political turmoil; or The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson (ages 10-up), the story of a 12-year-old girl who is left in charge of a city after all the adults have died.
  • Another interesting way to look at finding ones way is through the characters in the following books:
  • Encourage readers to write a poem or song about one main character and their journey to a new world that might help other readers understand the theme of Finding One’s Way.

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