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Sahara Special is the story of Sahara Jones’s 5th grade school year and the struggles she overcomes to make friends and reach her potential as a writer.

Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.

7th Grade News 900L
At The Head of Her Class, and Homeless
NPR Staff 2014
Passage Summary: In June 2014, NPR published this story about Rashema Melson. At the time, Melson was a homeless high school senior at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C. She is now a student at Georgetown University.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after chapter one in order to have students think about how other kids deal with loss and tragedy. Ask students to compare and contrast how Sahara copes with the departure of her father versus how Rashema Melson deals with the death of her father. Think about why they handled their unique situations so differently. Use evidence from both texts to support your answer.
6th Grade Poem
I Am Offering This Poem
Jimmy Santiago Baca 1990
Passage Summary: In this poem by American poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, the speaker offers the only thing they have: this poem and their love.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this poem after students have read chapter two. Have students consider how writing is important to both Sahara and the speaker in “I Am Offering this Poem.” What is a theme about writing that both texts share? In the poem, Baca uses both similes and metaphors. Chapter two of Sahara Special also contains several similes. Ask students to compare the objects each author describes with similes. What is the tone that the figurative language conveys about the objects?
8th Grade Poem
At A Window
Carl Sandburg 1914
Passage Summary: In this poem, a desperate speaker begs the gods to deliver someone to love.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after reading chapter three. In this chapter, Sahara’s shyness interferes with a potential friendship with Paris, leaving Sahara lonelier than ever. Have students compare Sahara’s perspective on friendship to that of the speaker in “At a Window.” What are the similarities and differences in how Sahara and the speaker in “At a Window” view friendship?
5th Grade Fable 880L
The Lion and the Mouse
Aesop 620-560 BCE
Passage Summary: In this classic fable by Aesop, the ancient Greek storyteller, a tiny mouse proves to a powerful lion that she is greater than she seems.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text during chapter six, after Miss Pointy begins discussing the fable of “The Lion and the Mouse.” Ask students to consider why Miss Pointy focuses on this particular fable. How does the moral of the fable apply to Sahara and the other children in the class?
5th Grade Poem
Shel Silverstein 2011
Passage Summary: This short but profound poem deals with the experience of hiding one’s identity.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this poem after chapter eight to help convey Sahara’s reluctance to show her true self to her classmates. How is Sahara wearing a "mask" at school? Is there any evidence to suggest that she is taking her "mask" off?
6th Grade Speech 980L
President Obama’s National Address to America’s Schoolchildren
President Barack Obama 2009
Passage Summary: In “President Obama’s National Address to America’s Schoolchildren,” President Obama discusses the importance of education and the responsibility of students to commit to their education.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after chapter nine when Sahara realizes she’s not living up to her potential and failing herself. President Obama believes that students have an obligation to themselves to find what they’re good at. How might this advice apply to Sahara’s life? President Obama also states that “Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures.” How do his remarks relate to Sahara?
7th Grade Skill Lesson Non-Prose
Mother to Son
Langston Hughes 1922
Passage Summary: In “Mother to Son,” a mother utilizes metaphor to communicate the struggles she's faced and the importance of perseverance to her son.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after students read chapter 12, when Sahara finally summons the courage to read a journal entry aloud to the class. What messages about perseverance would both Miss Pointy and the speaker of the poem agree on?
6th Grade Poem
To a Daughter Leaving Home
Linda Pastan 1988
Passage Summary: In Linda Pastan’s poem “To a Daughter Leaving Home,” a mother describes watching her daughter ride away on her bike.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after completing the novel. Have students consider how Sahara’s mother and the mother in the poem feel similarly about their maturing daughters. Which words or phrases from the poem and chapter 13 most reveal the mother’s similar feelings?