Title: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
Author: Barack Obama
Illustrator: Loren Long
Grade Level: Kindergarten-2nd Grade or Ages 6-8
SJE: Element 4: Social Movements and Social Change
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Summary: This children's picture book recognizes thirteen individuals who have made tremendous contributions to our nation. Some of the individuals mentioned in this book include Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, George Washington, Cesar Chavez, and Jackie Robinson, just to name a few. Each of the aforementioned engaged in some sort of social movement or social change within their time period in order to make a difference and impact society in a positive manner. Throughout this book, the author is helping his daughters realize that they each possess the specific trait identifiable with every outstanding individual. For example, in the section of the book where the author introduces Cesar Chavez, he tells his daughters, "[h]ave I told you that you are inspiring?" In this moment, the author is telling his daughters that they have the ability within themselves to inspire others to stand up for what they think is right, just as Cesar Chavez did when he inspired farm workers to stand up for their rights. In the beginning of the story, we only see the illustrations of Obama's daughters. However, as the story progresses and more historical individuals are introduced, we see the illustrations of these individuals in the midst of social change. Also, these individuals are joined together with the author's daughters and are illustrated as children next to their social change. This book makes it known that every individual, no matter who they may be, has the ability to stand up for what they think is right and create change within society for the better!
Representation of Element Four: This book is a great representation of this element because it demonstrates memorable social movements and social change that outstanding individuals have made throughout history. Although all of the individuals mentioned are Americans, it is evident that they are from diverse cultures and races. This shows children that anyone is capable of making a change in the world, regardless of their physical attributes. The personality traits that are mentioned throughout this book remind children that these traits are evident within each and every one of us. We all possess the power to make a difference in society and stand up for what we believe is right. As this book mentions, "[p]eople who have made bright lights shine by sharing their unique gifts and giving us the courage to lift one another up, to keep the fight..." The illustrations brought forth by Loren Long within this book serve as a great reminder that each historical individual was once a regular child, like your students, with only a dream. For example, on every page that features a historical figure, the page prior to that shows an illustration of how that figure may have appeared to look as a young child. Also, each child holds within his/her hand an object that serves as a representation of the ideals that they contributed to society. The use of this illustration tool helps children realize that each historical individual started out as a young child who aspired to make a difference within society. In other words, they possessed the power within themselves to lead a social movement and stand up for their rights and the rights of others.
Follow-Up Activity: In the story, thirteen historical figures that have all made some form of social movement or social change are introduced and briefly touched upon. Therefore, I would have my students conduct further research on a specific person mentioned in the book in order to develop further understanding and knowledge of each individuals contribution to society. Then, I would ask the students to choose an individual, from the story, with whom they identify the most and write what they believe that specific individual was feeling or thinking in the midst of their social movement. In this manner, the children will be able to place themselves within that moment and identify with the thoughts and feeling of each individual. As a more hands-on activity, I would have the students become a part of the story by asking them to draw themselves on a piece of paper. Then, we would place their illustration next to the children that are already featured within the story on the last two pages. In order to match the drawings from the story, each student will need to look into the future and imagine a cause that they are willing to stand up for. Lastly, we would come together as a class and compare the social movements or social change that we hope to make within our nation, based on our illustrations.