Author: Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Illustrator: Shelagh McNicholas
Age Range: 4-8 years
Grade Range: K-4th grade
Element Five: Raising Awareness
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About This Book: I am Jazz is about a transgender child named Jazz. Her favorite color is pink. She enjoys dancing, singing, and dressing up as a mermaid in the pool. Her best friends are Samantha and Casey. They dress up as princess's together and wear high heels. Jazz can only be described as a typical young girl except for one major difference - Jazz was born anatomically a male. Her parents do not totally understand who she is, neither do her brother and sister. Not everyone in her school understands who she is - both students and teachers. Jazz has a very strong self-awareness and is proud of who she is. Her parent's come to understand what being transgender is when they bring Jazz to a special doctor. Slowly but surely Jazz becomes accepted both at home and school (although some students still bully her). Through her self-awareness, Jazz highlights and raises awareness of what it means and is to be transgender.
Element Five: Raising Awareness: Often raising awareness about an issue can take a lot of research and a lot of convincing. Raising awareness about a social issues can take an infinite amount of time and people. In I am Jazz, Jazz Jennings raises the awareness of being transgender to her friends and family by being herself. Her self acceptance and her willingness to be her self, no matter how anyone looked at her, raises awareness of transgender issues within her family and her school. When Jazz, with the help of her doctor, began to understand what being transgender means - with the help of her parents - was able to raise awareness about being transgender to her teachers and classmates. Through this book, Jazz Jennings exemplifies how loving yourself is pivotal in raising awareness about social issues.
Classroom Activity: Reading I am Jazz to my students would be part of a gender awareness unit. Prior to reading this story, students would be prompted to think about different types of gender identity. I would ask them what characteristics they define as boy or girl and write them on the board. After going over their examples, I would read I am Jazz. I would then ask my students what makes Jazz unique compared to the way they defined being a boy or a girl? I would then ask if what we define as male or female attributes on the outside can really define who a person is? I would define transgender identity and explain that who we are is how we define ourselves not how others define us - and we are all unique, no one is the same. I would explain to them that being transgender is not different from being a male or a female but it is the same. My students would then write one word that they believe is unique about themselves. They would not write their names on the paper. I would hang them on the wall as a reminder to the students that we are all unique and our differences should be celebrated.