The first time I heard the story Roxaboxen, I was well into my college years. This saddens me, considering the book was written in 1991, a few years before I was even born! It shows what a timeless classic it has become since it’s still used in schools and read to children today.
I fell in love with this book right away because it drew me back to my childhood when my neighborhood friends and I would spend hours a day in our driveways drawing sidewalk chalk “houses” furnished with lavish furniture and multiple rooms. We would ride our bikes from driveway to driveway to visit each other’s homes. When the rain would wash the houses away we grabbed our sidewalk chalk again and started over. This cycle lasted for years and years.
Roxaboxen is a story about friends in Arizona who use rocks and boxes to build homes, buildings, and businesses. They have cops so cars don’t go over the speed limit, and a jail for those that do. These children create more and more every year, even making a cemetery for a lizard with an unfortunate ending.
How can this book be used in the classroom? It teaches about community and working together. This book is an excellent vehicle for a discussion of the topics, whatever the age group. It can give a brief introduction into the life cycle, watching the creation and expansion of the town, then later on how it was deserted once the children grew up. Also, not to mention- the lizard.
Think of the beautiful creations children can create of their own communities, possibly even with pebbles and sugar cubes, their own rocks and boxes. The amount of possibilities this creates are endless.
A few years back I took an Art in Education seminar. A dance teacher used Roxaboxen as our main focus of the lesson. We were split into different teams, each given a few cardboard boxes and balls for our rocks and boxes. We collaborated as a team to define our community values then created a dance with our boxes and balls to reflect these values we had chosen. It was beautiful.
Roxaboxen can lead to many powerful conversations and lessons down the road, but ultimately, I believe it is the perfect book to spark the imagination as a child. I can see my friends and me now, hearing that story in our early elementary days and running with it. We would have run out to recess with ideas swirling in our minds of the communities we were about to create. It’s unfortunate that I never had the exposure to this picture book to place those imaginative ideas in my mind.
Please, do your students a favor, regardless of their age, and tell them the great story of Roxaboxen.
Have you read your students Roxaboxen? What discussions or activities did you use? Most importantly- How has Roxaboxen influenced you as a person and a teacher?