Heidi Davis

Something New!: Content Area Literacy Book Review

Blog Post created by Heidi Davis on Jun 16, 2014

Has "Content Area Literacy" become a buzzword in your classroom?  It has in mine.  I have attended numerous professional developments in Content Area Literacy in the past 2 years.  As teachers, we are asked to find resources that get our students reading about our content area.  As a agriculture teacher, we are often overwhelmed.  I thought it would be neat to share a resource that I came across and can see using in my class to jump start my lessons on vitamin deficiency. Now, if any of you ever had the pleasure of teaching this unit it can be fascinating or a real bore.  I am ALWAYS searching for a way to get my students to care about how nutrition affects them and the plants and animals we produce.  I also struggle with getting the modern teenager to even consider what it meant to live in an America without the modern conveniences that make our food system safe.  Red Madness by Gail Jarrow may help you to stimulate those kids that have no concept of what it once meant to be poor, malnourished and scared of an unknown disease on American soil. Here is my review.


Red Madness by Gail Jarrow

  • ISBN9781590787328

Red Madness is a fascinating glimpse into a forgotten part of history.  The photo collection alone is powerful enough to jumpstart the unengaged student into learning about this chaotic era and how it affects decisions made today. The home-based struggles of the American people at the turn of the century are often overshadowed in modern history books by the happening of the World-Wars and Great Depression.  Jarrow offers a riveting and graphic view of what it really meant to be in the United States during the time of pellagra.  She follows the disease as it became known, tracks its terrifying progress and affect on the typical American community and then details the battles in the war the medical community fought to cure America.  Jarrow illustrates how pellegra preyed upon people?s minds and left children alone and frightened.  She opens a small glimpse into what really went on in turn of the century sanitariums and medical research programs.  Finally, she offers the story of what it really took to ?cure? the insanity plaguing America in the form of red rashes, melancholy, mental disease and ultimately death for its victims.  I can see using this in my own classroom as a jumping point into discussions of the science of nutrition and medical discovery, the ethics of medical research and the role of agriculture in building America.  History, Science, and Agriculture Educators could all build solid lessons using this resource.


So far, I have read an e-version of an ARC.  These are given out to "professional readers" to provide reviews of books.  This would be an affordable way to preview texts for your classroom.  Ask your librarian at school. They will tell you how that is done.  I am working with my co-workers to get more books like this in my classroom. I will let you know how the lesson turns out next fall.