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This February, Brooklyn Collaborative celebrated their first “Great Read.” During the Great Read, organized by Brooklyn Collaborative’s school librarians, all students, teachers, and staff–including security guards, custodians, and lunchroom workers–read the same book: “This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration,” by National Book Award Winner and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jacqueline Woodson. The story, told through words and pictures, follows one family of black Americans as they move from the rural south to urban New York City, capturing the changing attitudes and expectations across three generations.

Brooklyn Collaborative serves students in grades 6 through 12, and Woodson’s story resonated differently with students of different ages. Younger students, inspired by the power of the rope, a family heirloom in the story, reflected on meaningful objects in their own lives, from fish forks brought over from Europe during WWII, to a hand-written family history started by one student’s father.

Some students recorded their parents talking about their own childhoods and then edited the recordings together to create a video patchwork quilt of parent voices. Older students recreated the rhythm of Woodson’s story with original poetry of their own, some of which is included below.

On March 8th, Woodson visited Brooklyn Collaborative to meet with the whole school, hear their poems, learn about their family traditions, and answer questions about what inspired her to write “This is the Rope.”

“It’s so amazing to be a writer and to sit by yourself thinking of stories, and then to see how it impacts so many people,” she said to the students assembled in the school’s auditorium. “And I don’t know if you know how much the work you shared impacts me and impacts everyone in the room. Thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing!”

Jacqueline Woodson, who was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s literature in 2018, reminded students that “there are all kinds of ways of reading. You’re never too old to read picture books: it’s still reading!”

At the end of her visit, Brooklyn Collaborative 9th graders presented Woodson with a scrapbook they had filled with their poems, drawings, pictures, and photos of their families, and other little notes “This is the Rope” had inspired.

Huge thanks to Jacqueline Woodson for visiting the school and speaking with our students and teachers!  And additional thanks to the Brooklyn New School, a K-5 elementary school co-located with Brooklyn Collaborative, who also participated in the Great Read.

Below are a few of the poems the 9th graders were inspired to write after reading “This is the Rope.”

This is the Kitchen
By Roselyn

The kitchen is where everything happens
Where my mom and I put on music and dance
Where my mom teaches me about my culture
I love those special moments when I am taught things
I will remember and take with me for the rest of my life
so that one day I will be able to teach my kids where they came from.
I love those lively moments when salsa, bachata, cumbia, and reggaetón would play and me and my mom would just look at each other.
Eye to eye
And start to dance while we cook menudo, arroz, pollo, tacos, burritos, tamales, champurrado, the list goes on.

This is the Dimple
By Marjolein

Throughout most of my Greek heritage
A good amount of relatives have only one dimple,
a common characteristic.
So whenever I smile I only get happier
Because i think of those who I love
And how i share a piece of them that they share with me
Although it might not get passed down to my children
I hope it does, so they can also be reminded
of those they love.

This is the Album
By Zoe

This was the album that was sung throughout my childhood
The words of the king represents family
In a time of despair, confusion, and fear
These songs are the ones that hold us together
My father’s history on a disc
My sister’s graduation day
My first year of school
My first vinyl
This album was all of our first love

This is the Blanket
By Justin

This blanket is what my mom bought with the first
Money she earned when she came here.
This blanket is what covered my sister when she was born
and me when I was born.
This blanket is what now covers my little brother
when he is cold.
This blanket will cover us when problems arise.
It will shield us from them
until there is a new generation to protect.
And this will protect my children
until they no longer need protection
This is the blanket that will protect us.

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