Dream by bestselling author and educator Susan V. Bosak is a rich, cross-curricular educational resource. 15 top world illustrators – Leo and Diane Dillon, Shaun Tan, Barbara Reid, Raúl Colón, Robert Ingpen, and more – have each created a gorgeously illustrated page to complement a multilayered story about hopes and dreams across a lifetime.
The book has won 11 national awards, including an International Reading Association Children's Choice and a Teachers' Choice. Described by various reviewers as "dazzling," "sumptuous and arresting," "magical," "thought-provoking," "impressive and inspirational," Dream has a place in every classroom.
Use Dream from elementary to high school grades – adapting activity ideas for the level of students – as a learning springboard to all areas of the curriculum. Begin and end the school year by reading Dream to your students to encourage them to think about their life and set goals for themselves. You can even use Dream as an "Everyone Reads Together" Book of the Month – each student takes it home for one evening to share and discuss with their family. It's a powerful way to encourage family literacy and for a school to connect with the community.
You can start by downloading the two Teaching Tips sheets. They contain a sampling of classroom lesson ideas and activities related to Dream, with curriculum connections (language arts, art, social studies, family/life studies, science, etc.). There are more activities and guides on this website.
With more to explore and discover each time you open it, Dream supports the Standards for the English Language Arts, including written text and visual literacy, comprehension, content area literacy, critical literacy, reading across the curriculum, family literacy, and motivation and engagement.
Dream was five years in the making and has been classroom tested. There are four interrelated layers in the book: 1) the story text, based on social science life course research; 2) the illustrations, each done in a style specially selected for a given life stage; 3) historical quotations carefully chosen as "echoes across time"; and 4) a series of digital images that tell a story within the story and serve as the colored page backgrounds (each life stage is associated with a different color).
Each part of the book plays off the others. For example, the illustrations enhance and expand the story text. The quotations are of particular interest to older children, teens, and adults. Sometimes they support or enhance the story text; other times they challenge or contradict it.
This is a book teachers can use to help students build an understanding of meanings found in words and pictures, of themselves, and of the world. The book's layers offer a multitude of opportunities for skill building – meaning, interpretation, evaluation, inference, relationships, generalizations, and more. The book also offers relevance – a clear, open-ended opportunity to relate the ideas to a student's own life, and hopes and goals. It touches on life course, human development, intergenerational connections, diversity and interdependence, historical perspective, as well as personal and social challenges and responsibility.
The picture book format is an art form for all ages. It values economy and suggestiveness over explicitness. The pictures and written language, particularly in Dream, are inextricably intertwined. The language is poetic, filled with metaphor and multilayered meaning, yet crafted to be very simple and accessible at a basic level. The illustrations in Dream are examples of the best art, in a variety of styles and mediums. The book offers something different to readers of different ages. It can be experienced on a very simple level with younger children, and explored more deeply with older students.
Dream is about the journey of life as it has unfolded for thousands and thousands of years, generation after generation, and it's about the present reader living their particular life at this moment in time. We are all similar – the first line of the story is "I started out just like you" – and yet our personal journey within the greater story of humanity is very individual – the last line in the story is "dream a dream... your very own dream."
The story begins on the title page as a traveler wandering a barren desert finds the Dream Chest at the end of the rainbow. The Dream Chest is a magical portal between "what is" and "what can be." As the traveler opens the chest, a wise old star emerges to guide the traveler – and the reader – through a colorful journey of a lifetime. Note that it's the unseen star who asks the question on the title page "What's your dream?"; the star is hinted at in the yellow page background under the text "I started out just like you" on page 5; and the star is fully revealed on page 28.
The star guides the reader through the story – whoosh into the world of a child, whoosh again into adolescence, whoosh yet again into adulthood. The refrain of "Dream a dream with me" is the star serving as a mentor, helping the reader learn about and understand life until, at the very end, the star, having fulfilled its role, turns it over to the reader with "dream a dream... your very own dream."
Pages 4-13 of the story are at the level of the individual. The story then opens up to the level of humanity with a series of three full-page spreads (pages 14-19). It concludes by returning to the level of the individual (pages 20-27) within the context of "something bigger" (pages 28-31).
The book deals with hopes and dreams across a lifetime
– from childhood to old age, how they change and evolve – AND the way a dream itself grows as you pursue it at any age. The story begins as any dream does, with enthusiasm and energy (pages 4-9); moves into planning and action (pages 10-13), hits the inevitable challenges along the way (pages 20-23); and then, with courage and perseverance, emerges into a sense of understanding and achievement (pages 24-27).
Dream also looks at how our perspective on and relationship to the world changes as we live our life. The word "world" is repeated throughout the text, each time in an evolving context. On pages 4-5, the world of a baby, having just emerged from the womb, is very small
– "your own cozy little world" – and the baby is focused on its own needs. On pages 6-7, a toddler's world expands to the surrounding environment – "there's a whole world to explore" – and interaction with that world is based on the five senses. On pages 8-9 – "there's a whole world to imagine" – interaction with the world becomes more mind-based, but in the sense of the imagination and "magical" thinking (research shows most young children often engage in magical thinking and are not yet capable of complex, abstract thought). On pages 10-11 – "there's a whole world to figure out" – analytical thinking emerges. Pages 12-13 reflect the over-confidence of young adulthood – "there's a whole world to conquer." Note that the quotation contradicts the text here purposely – we initially believe we must conquer the world, but as we mature we come to understand that it is ourselves we must truly conquer. On pages 20-23, the simple black-and-white world turns gray, bringing in the ambiguities of life and the higher levels of wisdom and judgment that emerge as we live our lives and learn from experiences, many of them difficult and challenging. Finally, on pages 24-27, the "world at its best is green." This is the best possible relationship between ourselves and the world, an organic wholeness. We are not apart from the world, but a part of it.
The ultimate message of the book is that everyone needs a dream – dreams give us direction and hope – and you're never too young or too old to dream. The book challenges young people and adults not just to dream, but to pursue those dreams to make the world a better place. Hope can overcome fear. It's the dreamers who have the courage and creativity to try new things, overcome obstacles, and make a difference.
The Dream book is filled with stars you can wish on. In fact, each illustrator has hidden a star in their illustration. Readers can hunt for the stars and make a wish with each one they find. This is a great classroom activity to help children become aware of and share their hopes and dreams. The wish they make on each new star they find must be different, so this encourages them to go beyond simple, superficial dreams to more thoughtful, meaningful dreams as they go through the story. After making wishes on the stars in the book, make origami Dream Stars in your classroom.
Click here to download the Teaching Tips sheets with classroom lesson ideas and activities.