Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Story of Ruby Bridges

Title: The Story of Ruby Bridges
Author: Robert Coles
Illustrator: George Ford
Grade Levels: 3-5

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           The story of ruby bridges is a popular, inspirational story of a young African American girl who rose above the hate and prejudice that surrounded her. Growing up in the 1960s, she was faced with segregation and unfairly tormented just because of the color of her skin. As decided by a judge, Ruby was chosen to “be a part of history” and attend an all-white school in New Orleans. Consequently, white parents did not allow their children to accompany her, leaving Ruby all alone at the William Frantz Elementary School. Even worse, she was met by angry mobs against her mere presence every single day. Yet, Ruby enthusiastically stayed committed to her education and was determined to learn. Rather than fight back with anger, hate, and negativity, she remained positive and chose to see past the harshness of her criticizers, instead wishing forgiveness upon them. In my classroom, I would use this book as means to introduce racism and segregation to teach my students the impact these issues have had on peoples’ lives, and how these issues may still exist and continue to impact the lives of many.

Element 3-Exploring Issues of Social Injustice:
The story of ruby bridges suits element 3 due to its exploration into the subjects of racism and segregation. After reading this story, children can gain insight into what life was like in the 1950s/1960s. Ruby’s story occurs during the early 1960s and at this time, integrated schools were not all too popular in the south. The angry mobs of white people that met Ruby day after day depicts the harsh reality of this time and the racism that occurred towards an innocent African American child. It also implies the educational unfairness that took place. With school segregation, African American children did not always have an equal opportunity to the same quality education white student may have had. Students can reflect on these facts and relate it to educational inequality, segregation, and racism today and perhaps note that although it may not be as obvious, issues of social injustice brought to attention by this story could very well still be currently taking place and having an impact on peoples’ lives.

Follow-up Activity:
I would use this story as an introduction to the topics of racism and segregation, to educate students of just some of the injustices in history. Using Ruby Bridges as an example, the class can learn of school segregation and the several other cases of segregation in other public facilities. Since it is a story of a young girl at school, it may be easier for children to relate to Ruby and deeply understand the injustice that was taking place. After learning of Elements 1 and 2, students will hopefully already be aware of self-love as well as the importance of having respect for others. They can use this knowledge to form their own opinions on the unjust treatment of Ruby Bridges. Students could also make lists of the differences and similarities they see between when this story took place and now, and identify any issues of racism or unjust segregation they may have encountered/heard about and discuss why, perhaps, they believe this takes place. 

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