Stories Matter: Books with diverse themes and characters

 

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler and David Lee Csicsko

Book cover 1. Experiment with all the rhyming and silly sounding words with your youngest child.

2. Ask your older child “What do you think they are doing? How do you think she feels?”

3. As you read stories or watch videos featuring people of different skin tones look for common feelings your child may have with the character.

4. Write the names of two or three of your child’s closest playmates or family members. Make a list of three things they both like and three things they feel differently about. Talk about how we may look the same but not always have the same likes and feelings.

 

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

Book cover 1. Have your  child put his hands on the illustration. Ask if his hands are bigger or smaller.

2. Count fingers and toes . . . over and over.

3. Look for pictures of babies from around the world in magazines or online. Make your own “baby book.” Try to find images showing ten little fingers and ten little toes.

 

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester

Book cover 1. Point out the bold bright colors and detailed images of the illustrations. Ask your child what she thinks is going on, or how does the picture tell the story.

2. Do what the author asks his readers to do by letting your child press various parts of your body to feel your bones.

3. Encourage your child to ask questions like those early in the book of a playmate or acquaintance to help build a story about each other based on what each learns from the other.

4. Talk about what your older child may have heard from other adults, or electronic media about various racial groups. How is this similar to what the author says about discovering each other’s stories?

 

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

Book cover 1. The artist used watercolor and collage to create the illustrations for this book. It received the Caldecott Honor in 2006 for illustrations in a children’s picture book. Talk about the pictures and how they help to tell the story.

2. What do you know about Rosa Parks, Emmett Till and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.? Read more about them and the Montgomery Bus Boycott through resources from your school, public library, or online.

 

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins

Book cover 1. Look at the illustrations. How are the two character’s speeches part of the art?

2. Invite a friend to tea. Talk about what each of you feels is unjust in the world and how you might improve it, even just a small part.

3. Read more about the two characters from the bibliography in the back of this book.

 

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

Book cover 1. Talk about what makes your child laugh and cry. Do they think all children would laugh and cry at the same things?

2. Find pictures of children from around the world in magazines, newspapers, or online. Cut them out and make a book. Organize the pictures according to categories such as laughing, crying, school, family. Talk about what you have in common and what is different.

 

Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly

Book cover 1. Very young children will enjoy pointing out facial features on the close-up portraits. Encourage them to also point out their own, and your, nose, eyes, mouth, and other parts.

2. Talk about what the children are doing in the action pictures.

3. Seek out situations involving lots of people, outside of your comfort zone, and beyond your neighborhood or even your community. This may mean a trip into the city or a nearby town.

 

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Jane Kates

Book cover 1. Very young children will enjoy pointing out facial features on the close-up portraits. Encourage them to also point out their own, and your, nose, eyes, mouth, and other parts.

2. Talk about what the children are doing in the action pictures.

3. Seek out situations involving lots of people, outside of your comfort zone, and beyond your neighborhood or even your community. This may mean a trip into the city or a nearby town.

 

Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr.

Book cover 1. Look at the list of names. Why only first names, no last names?

2. Talk about the use of the phrase “brick by brick.” What else besides the building was built “brick by brick”?

3. Read and discuss the information in the back of the book on the background of slaves building the White House.

4. Read about life in the White House of various presidential families. In particular, read about President Barack Obama, the first African American president and his family.

 

We March by Shane W. Evans

Book cover 1. Ask your child how they think the character feels? what does she/he see? Are the people marching angry? Afraid? Peaceful? Violent?

2. How do the expressions on the young boy’s face change throughout the book?

3. Read more about the people’s March on Washington from resources from your school or public library or online sources.

4. Read together the text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. What parts are particularly meaningful for you and your child?

5. Have you ever marched for a cause? Share that experience. Is there a cause you or your child would march for now?

 

My Nose, Your Nose by Melanie Walsh

Book cover 1. Very young children will enjoy the large swaths of bright colors, as well as the expressions on the characters’ faces.

2. Make a list of your child’s friends and talk about what they have in common and what may be some differences.

3. Using large sheets of paper such as newsprint, freezer paper or poster board, have each child lie down on the paper and draw an outline of their body.  Color in some basic body parts such as eyes, nose, mouth, fingers and toes.  On the chest draw a heart and list whatever the child says they love…near the head list what they say they are afraid of.  Display the outlines and compare among the children.  Celebrate the differences and the commonalities.

 

My People based on the poem by Langston Hughes, photographs by Charles R. Smith Jr.

Book cover 1. Talk about the word “beautiful.” Ask your child who they think is beautiful.

2. Talk about the expressions and emotions of the people in the book.

3. Read more about Langston Hughes at your local library. Read his other poems. Which is your favorite?

4. Help your child memorize this poem and recite it for family or friends.

 

The Case for Loving: the Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko

Book cover 1. How is the theme and title The Case for Loving carried out in the text and illustrations throughout the book?

2. Read news accounts and non-fiction books listed in the back of this book “Sources” and “Suggestions for Further Reading” about the Loving’s case.

3. If you are a member of an interracial family, share your experiences with the children in your immediate and extended family.

 

YO! YES? by Chris Raschka

Book cover 1. Young children will enjoy tracing the large letters of the words.

2. Talk about the body language and feelings your child thinks each of the boys is showing.

3. This book was named a Caldecott Honor book, for outstanding illustrations in children’s literature. How do the pictures help tell the story?

4. In a group setting: Act out the story. Note how the voices change as the story progresses. Emphasize the question marks and exclamation marks.

5. Invite children to write the story behind the story, and add words to those in the book. What is each boy thinking? What does he want to say? What do the boys do after the last page of this book?

 

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Book cover 1. Expand your child’s vocabulary with the many new words to be found in the book. Segregation, hygiene, impetigo, integrate, field-worker, case, brief, appeal – these and many more are found in the glossary on page 38 of the book.

2. Read more about the facts of this story through the resources listed in the back of the book. Page 36 contains the author’s note following the Mendez family beyond the end of the story in the book and reporting on unofficial racial segregation still in existence today. Page 39 lists the bibliography and additional resources for learning.

 

Want to learn about why it is important to read diverse books to your children, check these out:

Stories Matter: Resources and Activities from Neighbors United – Undoing Racism

Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors from Reading is Fundamental

Building on Window and Mirrors from the Journal of Children’s Literature