Prompts and resources:
Award-winning author and literacy advocate Katherine Paterson says that one of her most important activities is her service on the board of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA). In 2010, after eight years in the making, the organization published Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, an anthology and outreach project Katherine was excited to be involved with as it encourages young people to read more and to discover America's rich history and culture. She's also involved in the NCBLA's Exquisite Corpse Adventure with the Library of Congress and penned the second episode of Nancy and Joe's perilous journey.
Katherine Paterson is no stranger to writing about children who have to take risks — like Lyddie who strikes off for the mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts so that she can earn money to save the Vermont family farm or like Rosa who is sent to live with strangers when her mother joins other mill workers on strike in 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts. She thinks of the characters she's created not as role models, but "people in circumstances of difficulty." This, along with Katherine's interest in our nation's history, inspires these Exquisite Prompts.
Prompt for grades K-2 (Level I)
When Katherine Paterson was growing up, she and her family moved eighteen times before she was eighteen years old. She lived in China and then in different towns in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Many of the characters she has created for her books have also had to move or leave their home and live someplace new. Pretend that you have to move to a different city and write about how you feel about moving. Are you sad to leave your friends? Are you excited about exploring a new place? Write about the feelings that you imagine you would have as if you were writing in a diary or journal. Include details about the real or imaginary place where you live now, how you will get to your new home, and where your new home is located.
Prompt for grades 3-5 (Level II)
When you write a letter to a friend or to someone in your family, it's called a friendly letter. If you had left home at the time of the Industrial Revolution to find work in a factory, you would have written letters in order to stay in touch with your family. Imagine that you are a young person working in a textile mill (a factory where cotton cloth is made) and write a friendly letter to a family member about your new job. Include all the parts of a friendly letter — the heading, the date (the year should be sometime between 1820 and 1890), the salutation, the body, the closing, and signature — and describe what your new job is, what your working conditions are like, who your co-workers are and how you feel about working in a factory.
Prompt for grades 6-8 (Level III)
Businesses often use advertising or other kinds of promotional materials to try to find ways to attract new workers. Today, such information might include details about retirement or health care benefits, financial contributions for continuing education, or company support of employee volunteerism. During the U.S. Industrial Revolution, there was a great demand for workers for factories. Imagine that you are a factory owner in the year 1840 trying to recruit new workers for your textile factory. Take some time to research this historical period and create a flyer that can be posted to attract workers to your factory. Identify where your factory is located and give details about why it is a good place to work. Be sure to include the number of hours a worker must work each week and the wage amounts that will be paid weekly.
Prompt for grades 9-12 (Level IV)
The factual reporting and the editorial comments found in newspapers have an impact on public life and help to make social changes. Without an independent press, many historic reforms — such as limits on working hours — may have failed. Katherine Paterson's Bread and Roses, Too is a fictionalized account of the 1912 labor strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In it she includes details of newspapers reports about the brutal tactics police used to prevent strikers from sending their children out of town to the safety of sympathetic families. These articles fueled public sympathy and outrage and ultimately resulted in a Congressional investigation and the meeting of the mill workers' demands. Take a look at your own community and choose an event or issue that deserves public attention and write an original news article about it. You'll need to give facts that help persuade readers to take action, have a good lead sentence, and include an interesting quote in your story. As you are writing, keep in mind that your article may be read by an author in the future who is using it as a resource.