Schools out for summer but that doesn’t stop us from reading in our house! My first and second grader need to practice to keep up the skills they learned this past school year to be ready for second and third grade! It was interesting to read a book about school when school was out but Steamboat School had some valuable lessons my kids needed to learn!
The book is fictional but based on a real person; the Reverend Meachum. He was passionate about education and taught young negroes who were newly free in their own school. That is until the law came down on them:
“…No person shall keep any school for the instruction of negroes or mulattoes, reading or writing, in this State.”
Now we live in a very different time and my kids haven’t yet learned about slavery in school. We had to stop at this point and have a whole discussion on slavery. It was very shocking to them and I’m glad that they were horrified! It shows that in some ways, the world we live in has improved.
But back then, school was not allowed. Luckily Reverend John was not that easily swayed, even by the law. He came up with the genius plan of teaching school on a Steamboat in the middle of the Mississippi River because technically, it belonged to the whole country and not just the state so the law didn’t apply.
This book is inspirational and a tribute to the power of hope, importance of education and never giving up. My favorite line in the whole book came when the little boy asked why they couldn’t have light in the school that was meeting in the basement. The Reverend responded “We make our own light here.” There is so much power behind those words because he wasn’t just speaking literally of light. They found light in their darkness and made their own way, not ever giving up and finding a way to educate without even breaking the law.
The illustrations by Ron Husband are incredible and bring you back to this dark time in our nations history. The black and white with a few shades of browns and tans are very representational of this darkness.
Steamboat School is a great read and very educational for kids of this generation. My kids never thought that they would feel lucky to be able to freely go to school but now that they know some history, they realize how blessed they are!
About the Book
When James first started school, his sister practically had to drag him there. The classroom was dark and dreary, and James knew everything outside was more exciting than anything he’d find inside.
But his teacher taught him otherwise.
“We make our own light here,” Reverend Meachum told James.
And through hard work and learning, they did, until their school was shut down by a new law forbidding African American education in Missouri. Determined to continue teaching his students, Reverend John Berry Meachum decided to build a new school-a floating school in the Mississippi River, just outside the boundary of the unjust law.
Based on true events, Ron Husband’s uplifting illustrations bring to life Deborah Hopkinson’s tale of a resourceful, determined teacher; his bright, inquisitive students; and their refusal to accept discrimination based on the color of their skin.
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