Title: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daugters
Author: Barack Obama
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Date: November 2010
Age Range: Ages 4-8 (I would use it in 4th and 5th grade as well)
Of Thee I Sing is a loving tribute to President Obama's daughters, Malia and Sasha. Mr. Obama uses the personal stories of 13 famous Americans of all races and backgrounds to highlight the traits he believes each of his daughters possesses- creativity, intelligence, bravery, compassion, strength, humility, and kindness. With beautiful illustrations by Loren Long, this book makes an inspiring story to read with your own children.
I will admit to some bias in my reasons for buying this book. I happen to love this particular president, and have read his other books as well. What makes this book special is two things for me-the multicultural figures Obama uses to highlight each character trait, and the gorgeous illustrations that accompany each person's story. As a teacher I am routinely frustrated by the token multiculturalism we have in American schools. Too many people seem to think that if we teach about Martin Luther King Jr. in January and Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver in February we are somehow being progressive. This dichotomous view of "diversity" in our schools, the myth that by teaching about a few African-American heroes we are somehow making up for the lack of representation in our history and literature series, leaves out the many children who belong to neither group, or to more than one. Mr. Obama includes Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, women, men, rich, and poor in his description to his daughters about what makes America the amazing place that it is-and what it takes to make it the more amazing place it can be. Despite the political rhetoric in Washington, I can feel his continued idealism, and that in itself is a source of hope for me. For his daughters, this book holds all of the love and hope that their father has for them-and I dare say, for all of our children.
I was unable to find any online teaching resources for this book yet, though I imagine that's at least in part because it only came out a couple of months ago. I am planning on using it to frame a biography unit, where we will do research on each of the Americans highlighted in the book. You can also use it to discuss begin a conversation about immigration, since a few of the people named were naturalized citizens.