By Joseph Bruchac; pictures by Liz Amini-Holmes (Albert Whitman & Company)Forced to attend a missionary boarding school, Betoli was forbidden to speak Navajo and given the English name Chester. Chester adapted as best he could to the forced assimilation but refused to give up his language and heritage—which he and other Navajo soldiers used to create an unbreakable code that was key to ending World War II.
After reading Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code, work as a class to create an “I Am” poem. Challenge students to share their ideas about how they think Chester would complete each part of this structured poem that typically begins I am, I wonder, I feel, I hear, etc. Then challenge students to create their own anonymous “I Am” poems that describe their special, unique qualities and express the way they feel, what they hope, think, dream, etc. Share poems by reading them aloud to the class, highlighting how each student’s unique identity makes the community richer and more diverse.
How is your school similar or different from the boarding school that Chester and other American Indians attended?
How would it feel to have your name changed, your hair cut, and your own clothes taken away?
How would it feel to be forced to speak a language that wasn’t yours?
What do you think life was like for families with children at the boarding school?
Why do you think the boarding schools wanted to eliminate American Indian languages and cultures?
Why is it important to understand and value other cultures?
Albert Whitman & Company’s Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code Teacher’s Guide
Native Knowledge 360° from the National Museum of the American Indian
I am Poem project from inspirED
Native Words, Native Warriors from the National Museum of the American Indian
Reading Is Fundamental support materials
The Unbreakable Code by Sarah Hoagland Hunter
Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, Volume One by Arigon Starr
Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story by S.D. Nelson
Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief, Rosemary Wells
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull
Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico México by Duncan Tonatiuh
Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say
Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac and S.D. Nelson
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris BartonMore
By Lulu Delacre (HarperCollins)Short stories drawn from true accounts offer moving portraits of the hardships and victories of the diverse Latinos who live in the United States.
T.A.P. in to the Book: Story connections for each story in US, in Progress
Latino Americans from PBS Learning Media
Reading Is Fundamental support materials
Lulu Delacre’s website
A video interview with Lulu Delacre from Reading Rockets
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall
Talking Leaves by Joseph Bruchac
Hidden Figures Young Reader’s Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo by Zlata Filipovic
Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Annick Press)The experience of being a Native American woman is vividly illustrated in poems, essays, interviews, photographs, and art.
Co-editors Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale on Dreaming In Indian video from Annick Press
Native American Cultures Across the U.S. lessons and resources from EDSITEment
Reading Is Fundamental teaching resources
Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII
by Chester Nez
How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month
Celebrate the stories of Native Americans with these booklists from Colorín Colorado.
National Picture Book Month
Check out 30 Books for Picture Book Month from Black Children’s Books and Authors.
National Novel Writing Month
Start your novel with this “seat of your pants” approach to creative writing.
Here are six ways to celebrate Author’s Day from KidLit TV.