The use of rich literature in the classroom can spark many important discussions and bring up relevant questions. Some of the books SK108 students have chosen to read throughout the year are about people who are different from themselves and that allow them to see into worlds they may not be exposed to (window books). Other books we have chosen are an affirmation of their identity (mirror books) or ones that expose bias or share stories of people who stood up to injustice. Books such as these make an easy starting point for important discussions and questions. The hope is to expose the students to various cultures, races, ethnicities, neighborhoods and families that may look different than theirs, while other books they choose may be ones in which they see children and families just like theirs! It's important to encourage children to notice differences because they do so naturally, yet at the same time, they are honoring people’s identities.
To begin a discussion about skin colors, the students read several books including The Colors of Us, All the Colors We Are, The Skin You Live In, and Happy in Our Skin. They had a discussion about skin colors and thought about the varying shades they see in their classroom, their neighborhood, their community and their city. What makes a person's skin the color it is? How can we name different shades? They learned that the shades of our skin can come from several places: our parents, ancestors, the sun and something called melanin. They discovered that melanin is more active in people with darker skin, and less active in people with lighter skin. They noticed that some of their friends have freckles and learned that their melanin is more active in freckles. They then mixed paint colors to find the perfect shade to match their skin tone and created a peg doll that represented themselves. They enjoyed naming their varying shades and chose words like caramel, french toast, honey and peach to name a few. They chose their favorite color to paint their clothing too! SK108 students also read the book Hair Love and discussed hair texture and color and chose the length of hair and color that most closely represented our own. They are excited to play with these peg dolls during choice time!
To further their understanding of identity and race, SK108 students read the book, Let’s Talk about Race. In this book, the author shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special. This picture book introduces race as just one of many chapters in a person's story and helps children learn, grow, discuss and begin to create a future that resolves conflict over racial differences. The students then had a discussion about what the book made them think, feel and question. They also read the books Say Something and I Walk with Vanessa, where they discussed being an upstander and speaking up in support of something you believe in to make a change for the future.
Click here to view the lesson and the student's creations!