Don't Say Ain't
by: Irene Smalls
Illustrated by Colin Bootman
Don't Say Ain't is about a little girl, Dana, who lives with her Godmother. She has two best girlfriends, with whom she likes to play double-dutch. Dana gets into an advanced school, and soon learns that there are certain ways to behave and speak in school. Her friends from her neighborhood stop speaking to her, and Dana is very confused. Then Dana's teacher comes to visit their home, and she is speaking just like Dana and her Godmother and friends, and she becomes equally confused. She then tries desperately to get her friends to speak to her again, to no avail. It is not until Dana learns that she can do well at school, but still have fun with her friends that she is happy again!
available via amazon, although I found it in a great little children's store in East Harlem called Grandma's Place:
I like this story because of the way the little girls' friendship is tested. I also like the way it can allow us to think about the uses of language and for older kids, the notion of "acting white". It also of course talks about how we can all have multiple sides to our personalities. It also speaks about the ability of a good school to change the outcome of your life.
I think this story is really a read-aloud book. The book is kind of difficult to digest, but it might also work in small book groups. I think it is a good way to talk about families, interpersonal relationships, and perhaps introduce past-times into the classroom, like double-dutch.
I think this book falls into Self-Love and Acceptance. It also speaks a little bit about respect for others. The book itself does not explore the issues of social justice in an upfront manner, but with a class discussion the stereotypes of attending a good school, and the marginalization of Ebonics by non-Blacks can be confronted.
It doesn't really connect to any curricular units that are already in place from the DOE, however, I think with a little creativity you could fit it in really nicely to some. Perhaps character study and the use of dialogue in stories might be best.
This book spoke to me personally because I had moved from a neighborhood school to a gifted talented program. I experienced how it is really hard to maintain friendships with people if you are in limbo between socio-economic groups. This also could be a similar experience for any student who does not "fit" into a category of oppression perfectly.