Monday, May 14, 2012

A Different Face of Homelessness – Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco (Part II of II) by Craig Wiesner

We hired a fantastic illustrator named Brian Bowes to bring Ivy and her story to life in pictures and he did a great job with black and white sketches and a beautiful color cover. We released the book in June 2011 and it has received two awards, the Moonbeam Book Award and the Children’s Literary Classics Award. We’ve been working since then to get the word out about the book. Unlike The Invention of Hugo Cabret or the latest Wimpy Kid book, this one’s been a bit harder to sell, actually quite a bit. When kids do read it, they love it. Adults too. Even my mother-in-law loved the book and she’s a pretty tough critic at 82!

Now we’re hoping to get teachers to use the book in their classrooms. We’ve just completed a chapter-by-chapter study guide where we map each chapter into standards, with a chapter summary, vocabulary preview, comprehension questions, active reading strategies, author’s craft/writing prompts, curriculum connections and awareness building promptings. The study guide was developed by Carol Beaumont, a teacher in the Palo Alto Unified School District. The study guide is being edited and readied for layout this month, though we’ll make it available in draft form to teachers who want to start using it right away.

Why should Ivy be in classrooms across the country? First, it is a darned good read! There’s drama, humor, adventure, and mystery wrapped in writing that keeps you turning the pages. Plus, there’s a girl or a boy like Ivy in most schools. Teachers, administrators, parents, and other children can’t make their schools truly inclusive if they have no idea of who is being left out. There are laws in place across the country to help provide homeless children with an equal education plus get them access to critical services to help them and their families transition from homelessness to a more stable life. Today there’s legislation before Congress, HR32, which would make it easier for homeless children and their families to register for and receive these services.

One of our dreams for Ivy was that she could become an advocate for children all around the country. To bring that dream to life we have Ivy blogging about homelessness through Summer Brenner’s writing. Check out Ivy’s most recent blog post about HR32:

We’ve also created a web page with a huge set of resources for learning about and taking action on the issue of homeless families and children.

We’re excited that Give US Your Poor has added Ivy Homeless in San Francisco to its web site’s bibliography. We will do whatever it takes to get her story, which represents the stories of millions of children and their families, out into the mainstream of American thinking. When Justin Bieber learned about the plight of the children at Whitney Elementary School in Las Vegas, a school with the highest homeless population in the state, he was so moved that he gave them $100,000 and put on a special holiday concert. Ellen DeGeneres, her viewers, and Target have been incredibly generous with that school. It will take much more than the wonderful generosity of people like Ellen and Justin for there to be fewer children like Ivy across America. It will take systemic change. We’re hopeful that Ivy will be one more spark for making that change real.

To read Part I of this post click here.

Craig Wiesner is the co-founder of Reach And Teach, a peace and social justice learning company.