When the Picture Book of the Year shortlist came out I read the books and wondered what I was going to do with my Year 2 classes this year as I thought many of the list would need too much scaffolding to share with them successfully. I read The Patchwork Bike and could see a myriad of possibilities and it reminded me of of many other bicycle books that I had read that were also set in Africa. I then thought about the theme Escape to Everywhere and thought about whether we could 'escape on a bicycle in Africa'. Mind mapping all these books and possibilities I put together a six week (one lesson a week) study which looked at the role of bicycles in Africa and how it differs from here. We started with looking at the role of bicycles in their own lives, where they come from, what they are used for, how much they cost, how many did each family have and who actually had one and could ride one. We recorded this anecdotally. Then we read these books, located the places on a map and talked at length about the main characters, the places and the bikes in the stories:
• Emmanuel's Dream which is a biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a disabled boy who grew up in West Ghana, overcame great difficulties and went on to inspire others. (See Emmanuel talking about his life here.)
• My Rows and Piles of Coins is the story of a Saruni who helps his mother carry everything to market in Tanzania each week and realises that a bicycle would change his and his mothers life for the better so he saves his money in order to buy one. He has a lot of coins but learns that it is still nowhere near enough to buy a bike.
• The Red Bicycle has a bicycle as the main character.It starts life in i in North America, being owned and ridden by a young boy. His bicycle is donated to an organisation that ships bicycles to Africa and is sent to Burkina Faso, in West Africa, where it finds a home with Alisetta, who uses it to gain quicker access to her family's sorghum field and to the market and then is repurposes as an ambulance.(If you have All Aboard For the Bobo Road, it is also set in Burkina Faso and shows the role of bikes well in the illustrations.)
• In A Cloud of Dust tells the story of Anna who has a long walk to and from school in Tanzania until the school is visited by a bicycle library. At this point I asked the children whether there was any aspect of Emmanuel, Saruni, Alisetta or Anna's life that they thought they would enjoy or like to try. The discussion was amazing. Many students thought these children had a degree of freedom and independence that they did not, some wanted to try working for money and some of the girls commented on liking to live 'without technology'.
Then we read The Patchwork Bike and watched both Maxine Beneba Clark read it on Youtube and it read on Story Box Library where we could see the illustrations in great detail because of their size on the smartboard. The students were fascinated by the way the illustrations were done on cardboard from a box. We talked about what we could use to make a bike. The students designed and drew up plans. I had time to read one class Galimoto too and this class made bikes from cardboard and wire. I was impressed with their perseverance and their readiness to help each other.
Overall the Year 2 students and I have had a very interesting time in library lessons this term. We have used maps, turned the library into a makerspace to design and make, read good literature, put ourselves in others' shoes, watched film clips and been surprised at just what is happening charity and bike-wise.