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Back to School #7: That Book Woman, by Heather Henson and David Small

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students reflect on the importance of access to reading materials.  Using Heather Henson’s tribute to pack-horse librarians, the lesson helps children remember how fortunate they are to have a school or public library.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To understand the importance of access to reading materials and to appreciate the efforts of those who bring books to children and to the public.

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will successfully complete the questions on the lesson handout, thus showing their comprehension of the text and its message.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask a few questions to provoke the children’s thinking.  Sometimes I ask:

  1. Do most kids have libraries at their schools?
  2. Do most communities have libraries?
  3. Have libraries always been a part of our culture?
  4. Can you think of a time or a place where people might not be able to get reading materials?
  5. If it was very hard to get a book, or if you could not get any books at all, what might happen to you?
  6. If you or the people around you could not read, how would your lives change?

Tell the children that today’s lesson looks at a family that did not have easy access to books.  This is based on a true story and faithfully represents the lives of a lot of people who lived in the rural United States about 90 years ago.  It could still be the case in many parts of the U.S. and the world today.

2. Main:

Prepare students by pointing out that the author uses language to reflect the regional dialect.  Thus, the words will not sound like words you or I use today.  You will need to listen carefully to understand this story.

Teach That Book Woman by Heather Henson.   Read slowly because the language will seem unusual to the children.   Check the students’ comprehension as you go.

After the story, work through the student handout together.  You may, of course, adapt the questions for your own students.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the kids why Heather Henson wrote this book?  What is her main idea?  What is she trying to say to her readers?

Emphasize that it is a privilege to have a well-stocked school library.  This year we should use it well, reading broadly and sampling deeply from the collection.  In this way, the world will open and we can learn anything.

  1. That Book Woman by Heather Henson and David Small.
  2. Copies of the student handout.
  3. Clipboards if the children are seated together on the floor.

I have found this lesson to be quite difficult for third graders, which is why I suggest working through the student handout together.  I’ve not used it as much with fourth and fifth graders, but assume that they would find it difficult as well.  The language and setting are unfamiliar to students in an international school, so it is a stretch for them to understand the main ideas without support.

Recommended books for this lesson:
  1. That Book Woman by Heather Henson, pictures by David Small.
Key Terms:

Books, Appalachia, Pack-Horse Librarians, Books and Reading, Librarians

That Book Woman, Student Handout