Very few of my students are familiar with the situation in Northern Ireland over the course of their lifetime. However, this contemporary situation is one that should be taught. Before I read Eve Bunting’s newest offering, Walking to School, I wasn’t really sure how to do it. Now, I know I will share this story with my students as a read-aloud (and a perfect example of a small moment story/personal narrative).
Allison has just started at a new school in Belfast. In fact, she has just started school at the same girl’s primary school that her mother attended at her age. Instead of being excited, though, Allison is dreading school by the second day. Not because of her teacher or classmates or the work. No…she dreads the walk to school because on her first day, Protestants lined the main street and spat the children while yelling and cursing. She is terrified to walk to school again. Her mother enlists her uncle to walk with them, but Allison can’t tell her that she is also scared of Uncle Frank. See, she knows a secret about her uncle that her mother doesn’t even know. And because of that she is afraid of him and this makes walking to school even worse.
Of course, Allison’s mother makes her go to school. While the walk is terrifying and even worse than the day before, a momentary connection between Allison and a young Protestant girl changes everything for her.
This is a deep story and one I plan to use as a mentor text for personal narrative. I can also see using Walking to School as a picture book for advanced readers because there are so many layers to the story. The possibilities for discussion are almost endless. Eve Bunting has done it again!