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If you’re reading this post, you are also a believer that books are magic. So when you want to talk to students about something challenging or deep, you reach for a book. Teaching kids about social justice is both important and challenging (challenging mostly because lots of us aren’t well-practiced in it). Books make it better! Easier for us, and also more impactful for our students.
Social justice is a really broad concept. Teaching Tolerance broke it down by creating standards in four smaller topics that each build-up to an understanding of social justice: Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action. I followed this model in creating guidance lessons about social justice. My book recommendations are broken into those categories as well starting with: Identity!
This story is about Unhei, a Korean immigrant, and her first weeks at school. While her name is the identity focus of the book, language and other elements of culture. It’s a story about pride, acceptance, and friendship.
In The Proudest Blue, Faizah is worried about how kids will react to her sister’s first day wearing the hijab. She learns about being proud of her culture and being brave. This book opens the door for discussing other cultural or religious or familial symbols that we wear or have in our homes. Bonus: it also talks about not carrying hurtful words with you.
I thought this book was going to be about race but it is really about our identities as a whole! About how each of us is a story, how we are made up of so many different pieces and parts and identities. It takes a tricky concept and makes it very clear.
Each page of this book includes a photo of part of a kid plus a short writing piece by them about why that part is their best part. While it focuses on physical attributes, the writings often also talk about strengths, interests, and other parts of their identities. I think it’s pretty powerful for students to read/hear/see other kids’ thoughts like this.
Marisol is Peruvian-Scottish-American. She doesn’t “match” because she has attributes of all of these nationalities! But she learns that it’s okay that she doesn’t match because this is all who her beautiful self is. While the book is written a little young, the concept is older.
In true Todd Parr fashion, many of the pages in this book are super silly. That said, many are about different elements of our identity (body, family, language, etc.). It’s great scaffolding for thinking about their own identities. During the book, consider having students do a “me too” hand gesture for pages that they connect with.
If you find yourself wanting to expand on identity even more, or if you’re needing more comprehensive, I created this lesson and activities about identity that focuses on elements of identity (race, ethnicity, religion, culture, appearance, strengths, name, gender), obvious vs. more private parts of our identities, and how each part of our identity is just one piece of our wonderful selves.
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