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.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Through My Eyes - Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice

Through My Eyes

Ruby Bridges

Articles (photos) and Interviews compiled and edited by 
Margo Lundell

Age Range: 
8 - 12 years

Grade Level: 3 - 7

Hardcover: 63 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st edition (September 1, 1999)

Purchase “Through My Eyes” online.

To share the Ruby Bridges story with younger readers click here and click here.

Want to know about more children and teens who played a part in the Civil Rights Movement? Click here!

Ruby Bridges is a woman now but in 1960 she was a 6 year old girl who was an important part of the movement to desegregate American public schools. “Through My Eyes” is written for children at about a 4th - 7th grade level. More importantly “Through My Eyes” is written by Ruby Bridges herself as the title explains. “Through My Eyes” is a story of bravery, persistence and eventual triumph of one little girl over racist policies contributing to unequal school opportunities – specifically segregated schools.  But it is not a sugar-coated, Disney version of this issue. We also learn of the difficulties and challenges Ruby Bridges endures and see chilling photos of a six year old girl being accompanied to school by armed federal marshals every day of her first grade school year. “Through My Eyes” shares with us many interesting details, from other perspectives, as well as Ruby Bridges’ about that school year in 1960.

Element #3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice
In “Through My Eyes” we learn that the author of another book about Ruby Bridges (Robert Coles) was actually a child psychologist who helped Ruby get through a very difficult year of first grade. Coles’ book is illustrated in beautiful watercolors that look like a cartoon story. However the Civil Rights Movement as a reality rather than possibly a scary fairy tale is undeniable in “Through My Eyes.” The use of photographs and quotes that show the ugliness of what Ruby Bridges endured as a child evokes strong emotions. The photos and quotes help today’s school children to explore issues of social injustice and show how these issues can be tied to the “differences” between people. In this case skin color and race. We learn that Ruby Bridges had to brave an angry mob taunting her with obscenities and threatening her with violence each day to and from school. We learn that Ruby was taught in a classroom all by herself for most of the year by the only teacher willing to teach her. We learn about the good people who supported her, both black and white. And what we learn about what she did every day as she approached school and left it, was a beautiful surprise illustrating how love can triumph over hate.

Follow-Up Activities:
1. After the students read the book, ask students “How do you think things have changed since 1960 in American schools and how have they stayed the same?” Students must provide details and explanations. Students may complete this assignment through an oral presentation, written essay, an artistic tri-fold, or a PowerPoint presentation.

2.  Read the book to students via an overhead projector over 3-5 days. Each day follow the reading with small group discussions followed by a whole group discussion. When the book is done, have students submit an individual spreadsheet. One column should list 3 strategies they learned from the book about how to address a social injustice. The other column should explain why they think these strategies worked. 

3. After reading the book, ask students “What are some issues of social injustice today that you feel are most important? Why do these issues matter? Why is it important to you?” Students may complete this assignment by writing and/or performing a poem (spoken word), create an artistic representation of the issue and its importance, or write an essay that responds to these questions. Examples of issues today: police brutality, gentrification, immigration policies, the environment, racism, religious persecution, etc.

4. For younger students, ask them to pretend they are children in 1960. Ask the students to write a letter to Ruby Bridges that tells her what they think and how the feel about what she is doing. 

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