A Tree of Knowledge

Trees are strong! They have a foundation, roots, they grow, produce fruit and leaves, and yes they even tell stories. Can they produce knowledge? Find out in the book, Up the Learning Tree. Not only is this a book that can inspire students, but it is a perfect reminder for teachers about the power they have to educate young minds.

In the book, Up the Learning Tree, the main character, a slave learns a lot while in a tree. This historical fiction picture book teaches young readers about slavery, and how slaves were forbidden to learn. Slave owners feared that by learning to read and write, slaves would use it to gain their freedom. To keep this from happening, many slaves were told that any word of them acquiring skills to read or write would come with harsh consequences. For some that would have been enough to keep them from trying to learn, however that was not the case for Henry. After his chores were completed he would climb a tree and watch young Master Simon learn from Miss Hattie, teacher. Climbing the tree daily is symbolic of Henry's ascension as a learner. He soon learns to read and writes new words in the bark of the tree. Eventually, Miss Hattie discovers that Henry can read. Instead of her telling the slave owners, she teaches him more and joins in the risky educational adventure. This continues until someone lets their secret out. Luckily, Miss Hattie never reveals that Henry was her student and is simply encouraged to depart.

As an educator, I was reminded of the charge I have to teach all children where they are and help them achieve greatness. As the book ends, Henry gives Miss Hattie a piece of the tree upon which he wrote. While his reason for doing so was to help her remember him, readers will find that the gesture further conveys that trees bear knowledge. What a great book for readers grades 3-5!

Favorite quote: "There must be something powerful in books, and I want to know what it is!" -Up the Learning Tree

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