You Can Be a Friend
by Tony and Lauren Dungy
Illustrated by Ron Mazellan
Grade Level: K - 2
Element II: Respect for Others
Jade is the only girl in her neighborhood and is extremely excited when a new family moves in, as there is a girl, Hannah, who is the same age as her. She bakes cookies in order to introduce herself, but is shocked when she sees Hannah is in a wheelchair and is concerned they cannot be friends. With advice from her dad, Jade learns that friends are based on the "kind" of person they are, not differences like in this case, limitations to activities. Jade quickly learns that Hannah is a fun and caring friend and decides to have her birthday party at the zoo, instead of the water park so Hannah can attend.
This story represents Element Two as Jade learns not to judge a book by its cover. Jade is able to show respect towards Hannah's limitations as she changes her birthday party to an activity that Hannah can participate in, so she would not feel left out at the water park. Also, Jade's parents are able to deconstruct stereotypes by relating Hannah's wheelchair to the time when Jade's brother broke his leg and by sponsoring an activity where both girls can participate in fostering their friendship by bowling together.
I would use the book in the beginning of the school year to demonstrate respect for others who are labeled as disabled. I would use this as one of my first lessons as a way to ease into the topic of discrimination and the different types there are. The theme of my lesson would revolve around not judging a book by its cover and a way to build friendships, which students are participating in at the beginning of the school year. Students will see that respect for others and making friends involves being kind and having compassion, just as Jade has towards Hannah. Also, by focusing on "kind of person", activities can be linked to the "Who I Am" poem or other activities where students have to identify themselves, like journaling. This shows that this story's goal of Element Two cannot be met unless Element One has been mastered. This book is a good use for scaffolding purposes as students may or may not notice that Jade's family is African American and Hannah's is Caucasian, thus the main topic is respect for others with disabilities, but there is a subtle message about respect for others of different races.