Kendal A. Rautzhan
Several years ago, I worked part-time as a life coach for first through third grade students. The lessons were thirty minutes long, which meant it was important to get to the point in an entertaining way that would drive the lesson home and would be remembered.
One lesson that really resonated with the kids was when I asked them to form a circle, push up their sleeves, and extend their arms so we could look at all the different colors of skin in the classroom. There were no two skin colors that were the same, and we talked about how ridiculous it would be not to be friends with someone because of their skin color.
The books reviewed today address this in a variety of important ways. It’s an important topic if we are to eventually erase the concept that one race is better than another. Coupled with your example and conversations, we just might achieve this goal.
Books to borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
“The Other Side,” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by EB Lewis, Putnam, 32 pages
Read aloud: Age 4 and older.
Read yourself: Age 7-8 and older.
Clover lived in a yellow house. Not too far away was a long fence that stretched through the town. Clover’s mama told her not to climb over the fence. White people lived on the other side, and it was not safe.
In the house beyond the fence lived a girl who looked to be Clover’s age. Every morning that girl climbed up on the fence and stared over at Clover. Sometimes Clover stared back.
One day, Clover felt braver than she ever had before. She went over to the fence and the girls began to talk. The girl’s name was Annie, and the two of them confided that their mothers had told each of them not to cross over the fence. No one ever said they could not sit on it, though, and the two new friends decided that was exactly what they were going to do.
Beautifully written and perfectly paired with evocative illustrations, this is a powerful story about racial tensions, bravery, and the wisdom of children.
Library: North Canton Public Library, 185 N. Main St., North Canton
Library director: Andrea Legg
Children’s department head: Jamie Macris
Choices this week: “Abe Lincoln’s Dream,” by Lane Smith; “The One and Only Ivan,” by Katherine Applegate; “Twice as Good: The Story of William Powell and Clearview, the Only Golf Course Designed, Built, and Owned by an African American,” by Richard Michelson
Books to Buy
The following books are available at favorite bookstores.
“I Color Myself Different,” by Colin Kaepernick, illustrated by Eric Wilkerson, Scholastic, 2022, 36 pages, $ 18.99 hardcover
Read aloud: Age 4-8.
Read yourself: Age 7-8.
Author Colin Kaepernick grew up to be a Super Bowl quarterback, but when he was five years old, he had no idea what his future would be. Rather, what seemed like a fun kindergarten assignment turned out to be a pivotal moment for him, then and throughout his life.
The assignment was for the students to draw a picture of their families. Colin got to work on his picture, and when it was time to color it, he accurately colored his white adoptive parents, brother, and sister with a yellow crayon, and then colored himself with a brown crayon. When his classmates asked why Colin colored himself differently from the other members of his family, he was startled. Then he recalled his mother telling him that when they adopted him as a baby, he made their family whole, and that they share the same love regardless of what color anyone’s skin is. And with pride, Colin knew then and there that he colored himself “… different for all the world to see.”
Based on real events in young Colin’s life, “I Color Myself Different” is a sensational, upbeat book and a solid nod to the importance of self-discovery and staying true to one’s self.
“Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race,” by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, illustrated by Isabel Roxas, Rise X Penguin Workshop, 2021, 38 pages, $ 8.99 board book
Read aloud: Age 2 / 3-5.
Read yourself: Age 6 / 7-8.
Skin comes in many different colors and tones, but how do we start and continue conversations with children about skin color, racism, and how we need to learn to accept others regardless of their skin color? Without a doubt, “Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race” is an excellent place to start.
This important book is comprehensive without being overdone, is honest, realistic, and provides tangible information for both parent and child to lay a solid foundation toward a better understanding of racism and how young and old alike can help eradicate it.
Ultimately a hopeful, upbeat book, “Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race” should be on every public and private bookshelf.