Blackout is a timely, conscientious, and socially aware book. It is a an excellent way to incorporate cultural responsiveness into the learning environment and to show the importance of family. What I love about this book is that it incorporates all of these amazing attributes in a very quiet and natural way. You can highlight these characteristics just by reading the story and providing students with new frames of reference to add to their toolboxes.
I discovered Blackout, written and illustrated by John Rocco, in our school media center. It was on display on the top of one of the bookshelves. The cover drew me in right away.
It was dark, slightly creepy, and very mysterious! Perfect! Right??! The type of emotional reaction that drives you to action. You either speed past it or stop and grab it. I snatched it off of the shelf and sped to the check-out.
Plus, THAT title… Blackout! We can all draw on past experiences of a blackout. I can tell you about an experience that I am not likely to soon forget. Around 2 years ago, we had heavy snow fall in our area. Not that it has never snowed here before, but this winter, it snowed heavily AND it rained. It turned a really pretty and tranquil winter into an icy nightmare. There were frozen drops of ice accumulating on everything.
Then, of course, you know what happened next….
This is exactly what I felt like screaming! LOL
Our power went out. For hours. Then, for more hours. We were freezing. There were no amount of clothes that we could layer. There was no “warm spot” in the house to escape to. We were turning into freezie pops and I was starting to really worry that we might actually freeze to death, and later be found in our home. Not exactly the way I was thinking that I might depart this earth. Morbid, I know, but honest and true.
Reading the Story to My Students
What did I decide to do? I introduced the book to my students; telling them the title, showing the cover, and sharing the author’s and illustrator’s names. Then, I turned out all of the lights and pulled out my flashlight. Yes!! Fun! We read the entire book by flashlight. Every now and then, I would shine my light on the chest of someone that was being a great listener and who was really drawn into the story. They loved this, and I could tell that they were secretly waiting with anticipation to see if I would shine the flashlight on them.
One Sweet Lesson That the Book Shares
I love that this story speaks of a need to disconnect from our busy lives so that we can all reconnect in a time when this is an epidemic in so many homes. In the story, the main character (We couldn’t quite tell if it was a boy or a girl. I was thinking a little boy, but my students weren’t so convinced.), is trying to get their family to spend time with them. Everyone is busy doing something. Then… a blackout forces them to re-examine their actions.
*************************************** Sidebar: As a parent-
I cannot tell you how many times I have had to “gently remind” (um hum, you know what I mean) my teen daughter to put her cell phone down. She gets in the car texting. She rides in the car texting. She texts as she is falling asleep. She texts while she is eating. Enough, young lady! When I am present, the phone goes away. Or else, the phone will go away! Are there any parents of teens out there? Can you relate?! : – )
Back to the story….
The fact that this book features a multiracial family is also very in-tune with many of the family dynamics that exist. There is an African American mother and a Caucasian father depicted in this sweet, family-focused book. What I loved most about my experience reading this book aloud to my students, was that not one of my students seemed to be concerned or distracted by the fact that the family wasn’t all one shade of brown or tan. They were just another family in a fun book.
I don’t think that I have ever seen any books in our library that show a multiracial family. I’m actually pretty sure that I haven’t. But, just think of all of the bi, or multi, racial children that will see this depiction and feel a connection, deeper sense of pride, and recognition from seeing a reflection of themselves in their learning environment. This is POWERFUL, special, and oh so very important. You are going to empower your students and have a great impact on their lives!
Tying Blackout in with the National Crayola Crayon Day Celebration
So, you may have noticed the rather large photo of a little girl coloring with a box of crayons. LOL Well, when I originally sat down to write this post, I was going to talk to you about how I used this action-provoking book for an art activity that was inspired by this March 31st celebration. As you can imagine, this book lends itself to great art activities. Blackout, of course, elicits thoughts of darkness. What did I do? Ran to the cabinet and grabbed a handful of black construction paper. Then, I went inside of the other cabinet and pulled out 2 boxes of oil pastels.
Look at what they created!
The Oil Pastels are so beautiful and vibrant against the black paper.
In this picture, the family decides to spend time playing a game of cards.
I am sorry that this one is upside down. It was saved this way in my camera. This is the part of the book when the family goes outside to gaze at the stars during the Blackout.
I love how they drew this house in darkness from when the lights went out. :- )
Yes, they really went for it, and they loved every second of being allowed to dive into the vibrancy of the Crayola oil pastels!
Grab a copy of this book from your school media center, local library, bookstore, or online. Tell me what impact you think that it had on your students in the comments below.