Understanding the Book’s Intentions
Before teaching More Than Anything Else ask students what they already know about life for former slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation. Booker lived in West Virginia; and even though he was no longer a slave, he still did not have many rights. You can also discuss with students Booker T. Washington’s accomplishments as an adult and explain how this is a fictionalized account of his childhood. Give students some background information and set the scene for them before reading More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby.
Here are some links that may help you with this pre-reading information:
- Social Studies for Kids: Emancipation Proclamation
- Booker T. Washington bio
- Booker T. Washington quotes
Reading the Book
Read the picture book out loud to your students. While reading, draw attention to how Booker must go to work each day at nine years old instead of attending school. So, what problem does this create for him? He doesn’t learn how to read or write or do math. (Students may also realize that if he is working from dawn to dusk–he doesn’t get much of a chance to play outside or be a kid!)
Also, while reading, you should help students realize how special receiving an ABC book from his mother is–even though today nine-year-old children might not think this is a special gift. You can even draw attention to the fact that this is a present we might give a three-year-old child. Finally, let students predict how the newspaper man will react to Booker before reading that section. To help students understand the complexity of such a simple picture book like More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby, discuss the story with students and interact with the text while reading it aloud.
- Assign students a writing project that compares their lives to Booker T. Washington’s and makes a personal connection to the book. Comparing and contrasting and making personal connections are important comprehension skills to practice with students.
- Before students do the writing assignment on their own, create a chart, list, or Venn Diagram on the chalkboard that compares and contrasts their lives to Booker T. Washington’s. This will be a general list to get students started. Some students may have more in common with the main character than others, but a classroom activity will get students started in the right direction. Once you have talked about some similarities and differences, students should write their own paragraph, based on the pre-writing activity. When students finish the paragraphs, they can create an illustration that shows themselves on one half of the page and a scene from More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby on the other half.
- Another writing assignment you can do with students (or you can give them the choice of which one they want to do) is ask students to write about something in their lives that they want more than anything else. You may have to discuss how Booker T. Washington didn’t want a material object–he wanted knowledge. You can also give students some ideas such as learning to play soccer or being a great artist. The important thing is for students to think about what happened in the story and apply it to their own lives.
To close out the lesson plan on More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby, ask students to read their paragraphs out loud if they are comfortable sharing. You can also make a classroom display for students to post paragraphs and illustrations. Keep the book on the bookshelf, so students can read it and look more closely at the wonderful illustrations in their free time.