Recently, I worked with two students on a compare and contrast exercise in a nonfiction text. We were reading My Librarian is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs, which explains how children in various places around the world get access to books. (I would highly recommend this book if you have not read it.) I asked my students to choose two countries that they wanted to read about for our compare and contrast exercise. They chose Australia and Canada. Since the libraries represented in this book delivered books to the Australian outback and Canada’s northern territory, Nunavut, I was pleased we were still reading about diverse people and places. However, it did make me wonder if there was a reason why Canada and Australia were my students’ first choices. It made me question whether we devote enough time talking about countries where the majority of people do not look like the typical Midwesterner.
The Barefoot Book of Children, by Tessa Strickland, Kate DePalma, and David Dean, is one place to start when introducing students to diverse places and people. The illustrations in this book are colorful and full of detail. However, my favorite aspect of this book is the way that it is organized. It is not organized by continent, race, or ethnicity, but instead, it is organized around concepts that we all share such as home, language, food, and play. In the first section of the book, illustrations highlight the commonality of our lives as well as the diversity of foods we may eat or ways that we may play. However, no effort is made to identify where these foods are eaten or where the games are played, demonstrating that even in our differences, we share a common humanity.
The second section of the book identifies the places depicted in the illustrations of food, play, and home highlighted in the initial material. This latter section offers students the opportunity to learn more about different cultures and it is a great starting place for further investigation. This book opens doors for kids to explore and learn more about the world around them and it is a wonderful resource for any elementary classroom or library.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Identity 5: I see that the way my family and I do things is both the same as and different from how other people do things, and I am interested in both.
Diversity 7: I can describe some ways that I am similar to and different from people who share my identities and those who have other identities.
Diversity 8: I want to know about other people and how our lives and experiences are the same and different.
Diversity 10: I find it interesting that groups of people believe different things and live their lives in different ways.
RI.1: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
RI.5: Know and use various text features to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
RI.6: Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
RI.7: Explain how specific images contribute to and clarify a text.