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Use Brown Girl Dreaming as a Mentor Text
Brown Girl Dreaming is an excellent book to use as a mentor text for teaching memoirs. In this book Jacqueline Woodson describes significant events in her childhood that shaped who she became. She very eloquently describes her family and what her life was like in the North and the South. As you read the book, you’ll see Jacqueline discover who she is, what she believes, and what gifts she has to offer the world.
The book is told in free verse and isn’t a difficult read. When using this book as a mentor text, be sure to point out the descriptive language that is used. It is very easy to visualize the settings in the book due to her use of vivid language. Encourage students practice using descriptive language. Others should be able to visualize what happening in the story from the language used.
Use Brown Girl Dreaming to Teach Figurative Language
This book is also great to help students see how to use figurative language in storytelling. Have them identify figurative language as they read through the text. After identifying the figurative language, they should explain what is meant and identify areas they can use figurative language in their own writing.
Use Brown Girl Dreaming to Teach About Themes
There are several overarching themes in this book. These themes are important in identifying the message Jacqueline Woodson was trying to convey to readers. Students should understand that the stories the she tells relate to an overarching theme. As they begin writing their own memoir, they should reflect on the deeper meaning they want readers to get from their story.
Before You Read
I would caution you to build students’ background knowledge prior to reading the book. Students will need an understanding of the history behind the book, such as the difference between living in the South and the North during that time period and the Civil Rights Movement. Students may not have that knowledge and may miss important concepts of the book without it. Jacqueline Woodson also discusses growing up as a Jehovah Witnesses, which students may or may not be familiar with.
Students can have a lot of good discussions about the content in the book as well. It addresses many issues young people deal with such as identity, family, friendships, hardships, school, etc. Overall, it’s a great example to read as an example for a memoir.