I am thankful for children. I believe that some of the most hopeful and loving people in the world are children and that if adults could maintain some of these childlike qualities, we would all be better off. I am also thankful for schools as I believe that educational institutions are one of the best places for issues of social justice to be addressed fairly and without prejudice. Finally, I am thankful for books which teach about empathy and acceptance and allow us to enter into meaningful conversations with our students.
I recently read two picture books that, at first, seemed to be about completely different topics and have very different feelings associated with them. The Day War Came, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, is about a little girl who is orphaned by war and has to flee her country to look for refuge elsewhere. Want to Play Trucks?, written by Ann Stott and illustrated by Bob Graham, is about two little boys playing at a park, one with trucks and one with a doll. The connections are not immediately clear.
However, both of these books highlight the ability of children to look beyond differences to see obvious solutions to problems. In The Day War Came, when the little girl is turned away from a school because there is not a chair for her to sit on, students bring empty chairs to the refugee camp so that all of the children in the camp will have a place to sit when they come to school. In Want to Play Trucks?, when Jack tells Alex that dolls cannot drive trucks because they won’t fit in the driver’s seat, Alex just removes the doll’s leotard and tutu to reveal purple overalls that will allow her to sit wherever she wants.
Obviously, I am not naive enough to believe that the world’s problems can be solved this easily. Still, what if we came to the table with opposing views and just started with solutions like these? If there isn’t a desk, find a table. If she can’t get a job, offer training. These ideas may fall completely flat, but they might lead us to new options or to ask the question, why not?
Kids are endlessly curious and open to alternatives. Want to Play Trucks? would be a great story to share with students in primary classrooms as Alex is a character who completely defies stereotypes of gendered play without any knowledge that this is what he is doing. He is just being himself and that is exactly what we want our early childhood students to be doing. The Day War Came might be more appropriate for upper elementary or even middle school classrooms. The text was originally a poem written by Davies after she read about 3,000 unaccompanied children being denied entry to the U.K. and a refugee child being refused access to school because there wasn’t a chair for her to sit on. Both of these books could lead students to propose solutions to problems in their school or broader communities.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Want to Play Trucks?
Identity 1- I know and I like who I am and can talk about my family and myself and name some of my group identities.
Identity 4- I can feel good about myself without being mean or making other people feel bad.
Diversity 6- I like being around people who are like me and different from me, and I can be friendly to everyone.
Diversity 9- I know everyone has feelings, and I want to get along with people who are similar to and different from me.
The Day War Came
Diversity 8- I want to know more about other people’s lives and experiences, and I know how to ask questions respectfully and listen carefully and non-judgmentally.
Justice 14- I know that life is easier for some people and harder for others based on who they are and where they were born.
Action 20- I will work with my friends and family to make our school and community fair for everyone, and we will work hard and cooperate in order to achieve our goals.
Want to Play Trucks?
RL.4- Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
RL.7- Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.
RL.9- Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.
The Day War Came
RL.1- Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
RL.2- Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.