Light in the Darkness: A Story about How Slaves Learned in Secretby Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome Published 29 Jan 2013
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|Publisher||Jump At The Sun|
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Rosa and her mama go to school together—in the dark of night, silently, afraid that any noise they hear is a patroller on the lookout for escaped slaves. Their school is literally a hole in the ground, where they and other slaves of all ages gather to form letters out of sticks, scratch letters in the dirt, and pronounce their sounds in whispers. Young Rosa is eager to learn the letters and then the words, because after the words comes reading. But she must have patience, her mama reminds her, and keep her letters to herself when she’s working on the plantation. If the Master catches them, it’ll mean a whipping—one lash for each letter. No matter how slow and dangerous the process might be, Rosa is determined to learn, and pass on her learning to others.
"Light in the Darkness: A Story about How Slaves Learned in Secret" Reviews
What I loved so much about this book was the fact that it showed how much slaves were willing to risk to learn how to read and write. I think sometimes when education is provided to you and it's a norm it can be taken for granted. I'm so grateful that my parents instilled the need for me to focus on getting an education. It has inspired me to continue to learn every day of my life.
Even though it's risky, Rosa and her mother slip out of their beds in the slave quarters during the night to attend school. If the master catches them, they know they will be whipped, and yet, the lure of literacy makes them take those risks. Rosa is eager to start learning how to read, but their teacher, Morris, first uses sticks to form letters and has his students trace the shapes and practice saying them. After coming close to being caught by men looking for slaves in places where they aren't supposed to be, no one goes back to school. But Rosa is desperate to learn how to put those letters into words, and she and Mama head off to the pit school once again. This inspiring story, filled with luminous illustrations that show mingled fear and determination to read, is inspiring, and Rosa's voice rings true. I had never heard of these pit schools, holes dug into the ground and covered with tree branches to disguise the night schools that met whenever it was possible. To pay such heavy prices for a little bit of knowledge reminds readers not to take lightly the freedom their own education offers them.
Begin by writing the following quote by Miles Davis on the board and ask students to brainstorm what it could possibly mean.
“Knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery.”
How can knowledge be a form of being free?
What does “ignorance” mean? (Help students arrive at the correct definition.)
What is slavery? What does it mean to be a slave? (Help students arrive at the definition: slavery is anytime your choices are taken away. Anytime you have to do something or cannot say “No” to something, anytime your options are taken away.
Use the example of being a “slave” to Diet Pepsi. I have to have it. I have no choice. =)
However, if your mom tells you to do something, do you have a choice? Can you tell her, “No”? Then does that make you her slave? What is the difference? (Help them arrive at the correct answer.)
How can ignorance be a form of slavery? (Help student arrive at a correct definition.)
So is being smart a way of being free?
Are the smartest people the people who are the most free?
We are about to read a book where slaves, who were not allowed to learn or go to school, risk everything to learn. They give up sleep and sneak out of their homes and sit in a ditch just so they can learn and fill their minds’ with knowledge, because they believe that having a brain full of knowledge is a way to be free up here (point to head) even if your body is not free.
2.) Raise questions in the reader’s mind.
Raise interest in a topic or theme.
Prompt brief sharing of personal experiences related to the topic or theme.
3.) I choose this book because it features a group of slaves for whom education means freedom and for whom freedom isn’t just literal, it is the freedom to use their minds, to fill them with knowledge. In the book the slaves say that once you learn something it can never be taken from you, everything else can, but what you know is yours forever. My text set is called “I want to be free” and each book I chose examines the many ways that individuals and entire nations or groups of people can be free or be held captive and the many ways they have sought to escape captivity. In this book they seek freedom through knowledge.
4.) (2012, December 01). School Library Journal. http://www.booksinprint2.com.leo.lib....#
First an acknowledgment ~ I know Lesa Cline-Ransome. Our children attend the same school; we have taught a class together and often visit. That should not, however, prohibit me from trumpeting a book which I believe should be on the shelf of every classroom from kindergarten to college...
Most of us have read stories of brave sojourners on the figurative train to freedom known as the Underground Railroad. Few of us, however, may be aware of the underground Pit Schools where slaves gathered to learn how to read and write. Literally underground, in holes hidden beneath vines and branches, slaves courageously sneaked into the darkness, quietly huddling together, learning the shapes and sounds of letters by studying scratch-marks or the careful arrangement of sticks in the dirt.
In Lesa Cline-Ransome’s newest book, Light in the Darkness A Story About How Slaves Learned in Secret, we wake with Rosa and follow her and her mother into the darkness. Rocks and branches scratch our bare feet. Through the author’s sensitive portrayal, we feel the fear of the night patrollers and are relieved by the welcoming arms that lower us into school. We hold our breath when we hear distant hoofbeats or the approach of heavy footsteps. We’re comforted by the scent of pine and the promise of knowledge, a gift that belongs to everyone.
James Ransome’s close and heartfelt watercolors underscore the fact that freedom was won by the faith and courage of real people, countless individuals whose names we may never know. As a book published by a division of Disney, I couldn’t help but think that Rosa had the attributes of of a real Princess, someone whose beauty comes not from rank or wealth, but from the courage to honor the dignity inherent in everyone ~ including herself.
Do you know why we still need awards like the Coretta Scott King award? Because upon finishing this book, my first thought was "It's a shoe-in for the Coretta Scott King, but there's no way it'll get a Caldecott." Why, though? It's a compelling, FASCINATING story, the art is absolutely stunning, and I see this book having an audience both at school and at home. Highly recommended.
I support independent bookstores. You can use this link to find one near you or order LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS on IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/
Title: Light in the Darkness
1. Reflection: Text to Text, Text to Self, Text to World connection with the book.
As and educator, I have a text to self connection with this book, but a text to text comes to mind also. This is a story of a pit school during the periods of slavery. They had dug a deep hole and covered it with branches and leaves to hide it. Rosa, her mother, and other slaves would risk being whipped or even killed to sneak off to the pit school after dark. An educated slave would be there to teach them what he knew. While we may not agree with all of the politics of our public school systems, we are fortunate to all have equal access to education. If only all of our students and teachers had the tenacity and dedication to learn and teach as these slaves had. Often we, as a society take for granted our public school system and choose to criticize instead of embrace what we have. I have used the book Up the Learning Tree when teaching about slavery in the past. It was beyond our copyright boundaries, but would pair nicely with Light in the Darkness. I also found a new book Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education that discussing a girl from Afghanistan trying to talk her father and brother into letting her attend a new girl’s school. Under Taliban rule girls have not been able to attend school, just like Rosa during slavery. I felt these would pair well to discuss differences in education through time and culture.
2. Does the book expose children to multiple perspectives and values? Provide specific examples from the text to support your response.
This book does an excellent job of depicting struggles slaves faced without being too graphic for the intended younger audience. The illustrations elude to the whippings, but don’t show the effects of them. Even after the slaves fear they have been discovered sneaking off to the pit school, Rosa persists until her mother agrees to take her. The freedom to go to school is something that is often taken for granted and this book shows the lengths slaves went to and risks they took just to learn something as simple as writing their own names.
3. Write six discussion questions using all six stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Remembering – What is a “pit school”?
Understanding – What would happen if Rosa and her mother were caught going to the pit school?
Applying – From the information in the story, can you develop a set of instructions about how to sneak to the pit school?
Analyzing – If the Masters would have discovered the pit school, what might have happened?
Evaluating – If you were a slave, would you have chosen to go to the pit school knowing the consequences if you were caught? Why or why not?
Creating – Write a letter to the Master’s to persuade them to let Rosa and the other slaves go to school.