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.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Story of Ruby Bridges

Author: Robert Coles
Illustrator: George Ford
Grade Level: 1st-5th
Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice
Summary: This is the story of Ruby Bridges; a young African American girl who moved to New Orleans in the 1950's during a time of racial segregation. She was the first African American girl to attend William Frantz Elementary School, an all White school. Everyday Ruby was escorted by armed US Marshals because an angry mob of White people waited for her outside of school. They did not want an African American girl to go their school with their White children. The parents took their children out of school one by one until Ruby was the only student left. But Ruby perservered and went to school everyday to learn. After some time, the White parents began to send their kids back to school because they realized that they did not have the right to deprive any child of an education for any reason. Ruby remained in the school and evenutally graduated. She made history and broke the color barrier in the public school system of New Orleans.
Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice:
This book addresses the issue of racism that used to be a prevalent part of American society. There was racial segregation in many areas of the US where blacks and whites were not allowed to use the same entrances, drink from the same water fountains, attend the same schools or sit next to each other on a bus. This book tells the story of a very brave African American girl who looked racism in the face and decided that she was not going to back down. The court system began to realize that preventing children from receiving the same education as one another was unfair, and unconstitutional. Because of her faith in God and her belief in equality, Ruby Bridges was able to withstand constant attacks from White adults and children while attending an all White school. And because of her courage, she made history by standing up to racism and helping to desegregate the public school systems of America.
Activity: I would read this book to my class and then do a follow up activity that would focus on the issue of equality. The children would make a list including their physical characteristics, gender and ethnic/religious background. The students would then compare their lists with their classmates and note the differences. We would then discuss hypothetical situations as a class. The children would be asked things like, "How would you feel if people with brown hair weren't allowed to sit with people who have blonde hair at lunch?" or "Do you think it would be fair to tell girls that they aren't allowed to play with boys during recess?" I would ask if they thought Ruby was brave for standing up to people who thought she was bad because she was different and if they would do the same as Ruby if they were ever to be in that situation. These questions would foster a discussion about equality and how it feels to be left out because of differences that cannot be helped. We would talk about how it's unfair and not right to make anyone feel bad about being different, because being different is what makes each person special.

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