Painting “Sheltered” by E. Lester
©2017 E. R. Smith All Rights Reserved
Children are such open souls; it’s important to expose them to great conversation builder books. Books are often a shelter, hiding one away from the world, as the mind shapes new awareness. Battling intolerance is best done with literature. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a favorite. This tale of a little girl who is bullied in school because her name is seen as too long and unusual by her classmates, is a very useful for discussions. Talk about reasons why some kids are picked on. Try to figure out positive ways kids can stand up for themselves. Once I had students chart their names on a large grid, to give them a visual, we then celebrated the scholar with the longest name.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, brings to life a little Korean girl, new to America, on her first day of school. Unhei pronounced (Yoon-hye) tries to tell a group of children her name, and it doesn’t go so well. Unhei whose name means grace then decides she needs to choose a new name. We see Unhei discover her new American neighborhood and hear from her grandmother from Korea as she comes to a decision. Keeping ones identity even when it doesn’t conform to those around you is difficult. Adults have trouble doing it. Unhei’s name is also written differently, in characters, on a stamp. Exposing children to the various alphabets and writings is a great way to extend literacy chats to social studies. Call this lesson, “Writing Around the World”. Get out paint brushes and write the same word in English, Russian, Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic; art and history aligned.
Bullies Never Win by Margery Cuyler is a realistic look on how and when children are bullied in school. Jessica is being bullied to the point where she can’t sleep. Going to school becomes a worry. She must stand up for herself, but how? Brainstorming on how this problem can be solved, can be fun. Put off reading the ending until children can “solve” the problem. Helping kids to understand just how to relate to one another is a life long lesson, that builds kindness, empathy. It helps to eliminate fear, abuse, and low self esteem.
Worry about how nations will now relate to one another is daily news. Discussing how we can make communicating better, hasn’t happened much. Talks on how to talk to people, who don’t share the same culture, hasn’t happened much. Conversation on how to defend oneself with decorum, must happen. Focusing on fear free settings in school, must happen. Frankly, because dealing with stupidity, misplaced rage, and violence in schools; is happening often. Tolerance must be taught.
My final choice for a study on tolerance is Wings by Christopher Myers. Ikarus Jackson, has wings, and so becomes an outcast in school and in his community. Role playing characters from the story can be instrumental in nurturing a collaborative environment. Acting out parts of the tale can assist young ones in internalizing ideas. Also, acting is fun; get a pair of wings from Party City and take turns being Ikarus.
On the inside cover of Wings, Christopher Myers explains:
“I wanted to create a book that tells kids never to abandon the things that make them different; to be proud of what makes them unique. Every child has his own beauty, her own talents. Ikarus Jackson can fly through the air, I want kids to find their own set of wings and soar with him.”
No spoilers, just know these stories all have a satisfying ending. Let me know what the children in your lives think about them. Most important, help me add to this list. Let’s all find charming ways to expose our children to tolerance.