New Hampshire Humanities Council
Connecting People with Ideas

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Books and Themes


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Guide for Teachers


The Hero has a Thousand Faces —
Courage and Connections


Connections was recently featured on
NH Public Radio's Giving Matters.
Listen here.



Learn about The Story of a Pumpkin,
our Nepali-English picture book,
on the project blog.


Connections is made possible
in part by the generous support of:




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Birkha Rai serves as a model for a Nepali folktale illustration with a tool to blend lentils. Al Audet,  Connections at Second Start, Concord Ambika Sharma shows how to wrap a sari. Derry teachers Kathy Mercer and Dina Kotlyarenko with students at the Humanities Council's Evening with Katherine Paterson.

Connections is a book discussion program offered in partnership with adult basic education and ESOL classes, the prisons, and refugee resettlement organizations. Participants are both native speakers and new Americans. The program uses the best of children’s literature and NHHC-trained facilitators to promote English language skills, promote a culture of reading, nurture conversation in which readers contribute their own ideas and stories, and reinforce family literacy.  From our thematic reading lists teachers can select  books and themes that enhance the curriculum and connect to learners’ goals and interests. Participants keep copies of their books to read again and share with their families.


Discussion Guides

Dreaming Again Discussion Guide

On the Wings of Heroes, a novel by Richard Peck - Picturing America's Stories, Connections theme

Evaluation Forms

Connections Teacher Evaluation Form

Connections Facilitator Evaluation Form

Connections Participant Evaluation Form


The Hero has a Thousand Faces — Courage and Connections

by Susan Bartlett, Connections Adult Literacy Coordinator

Children's literature is full of heroes. And for good reason: young children live in the imaginative world of who they will become, taking example from the strongest model at hand. But what role does the hero play for adult learners, especially those who are challenged by immigration, poverty or incarceration? Do the heroic subjects of children's literature convey meaningful messages for these readers, as well?

At a recent ESOL class in Nashua, students wrote their reflections on children's books they had just read as a part of a NH Humanities Council Connections discussion series. One of the books, The Great Kapok Tree: a Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynn Cherry, struck a chord with student Ezequiel Tavera. He had this to say about the book's portrayal of Chico Mendes, the martyred environmentalist of the Amazon: "Chico Mendes teaches us that we must learn to live with wildlife because we live on a planet earth as rented for a while and it must be looked after. If we pollute our habitat, we damage ourselves and Nature. (We) must take care and maintain our land." In discussion, the class agreed, Chico Mendes was a hero.
He stood up for what he believed was right for everyone and was an example for us all.

The question of heroism came up at a Connections book series at the Concord State Prison for Men, where incarcerated inmates share the books with their children. The men compared a book about the English explorer Ernest Shackleton, (Trapped by the Ice: Shackleton's Amazing Antarctic Adventure by Michael McCurdy) with the novel Jakeman by Barbara Ellis. In this discussion, Shackleton came up short. The men all agreed that anyone who chose to put themselves and others into the kind of danger arctic exploration entailed in 1914, even if he did save them all later, cannot be called a hero. The group had an entirely different opinion of the characters in Jakeman. In this story, children board a bus for the long trip to visit their incarcerated mothers on Mother's Day. Notes from this discussion:

"The kids as a group are the heroes of this novel. It's how they work together to take care of each other that's heroic.

"In a bad situation, small things can be acts of heroism."

"Persistence is a form of courage."

Connections participants in other programs point out the quality of persistence as a mark of true heroism in one of the program's favorite historical personalities, Susan B. Anthony. Five classes have read the book Heart on Fire, Susan B. Anthony Votes for President by Ann Malaspina in the past year, and over fifty students attended Sally Matson's living history presentation of Anthony in March. Of Anthony, Connections participants say:

"She worked for voting rights for everybody, not just women."

"She lived her life for only one ideal."

"She never gave up hope, even though she knew that she would not ever be able to vote legally."

"She got stronger when they tried to keep her down."

The same could be said for Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who continues to stand up for the rights of all girls to receive an education, in spite of being critically wounded by the Taliban for her beliefs. Malala's story is inspiring new immigrants in Connections programs through the children's book Malala Yousafzai, Warrior With Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya.

Says Connections discussion facilitator, Maria Cristina Rojas, "Malala's cause, (the right to equal education,) enabled her to receive the Nobel Prize. Her story inspires love for people, especially for those who faced the same problems as her. Malala's experience is incredibly inspirational, especially for those willing to learn and grow from others. On the last day the students wrote a sign - 'I am Malala' - and they took a picture of this vibrant moment (pictured above). It was an unprecedented response from the students."

Why do these children's books about heroes resonate with adult learners? The simple narratives, accessible vocabulary and vibrant illustrations found in quality children's literature help adult students get quickly to the meaning of a story. And children's books do not shy away from offering lessons on ethical behavior, providing good platforms for discussion. As for heroes: while children may imagine their future heroic deeds, many adult learners have already quietly lived them. Those who have endured hardship while escaping tyranny, those who persist in learning despite the odds that poverty has stacked against them, those who are finding a way to become the best parent possible, transcending their past mistakes can relate to the persistence it takes to keep learning, to remake one's life. While heroes' stories may offer a child inspiration for the future, they offer an adult confirmation of a path already taken.

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