Positive Role Models

We all need role models, whether we are 5, 45, or 95. However, role models are especially important when one is young and making decisions that will shape the future. Two important books for young readers that are full of positive role models are Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks and She Did It! by Emily Arnold McCully. The subtitles of these books hint at social justice themes: True Tales of Amazing Boys who Changed the World Without Killing Dragons and 21 Women Who Changed the Way we Think, respectively.

McCully’s book introduces us to women who made changes to our political landscape such as Shirley Chisholm, Margaret Sanger, and Patsy Mink. Dorothea Lange, Isadora Duncan, and Gertrude Berg had powerful impacts on the arts. Many other women affected business and society for the better including Ida Tarbell, Ethel Percy Andrus, Alice Waters, Temple Grandin, and more. Each woman comes to life within these pages and each profile ends with a quote which allows the women themselves to sum up the legacy they wish(ed) to leave behind.

Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different reminds me a bit of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. Each man or boy who is profiled in this book is described on a single page that is paired with a full page illustration by Quinton Winter. I found this book to be an extraordinary compilation of gentlemen from the famous to the little known. The stories of Iqbal Masih who saved over three thousand children from slavery before his death in 1995 at the age of 12, Rick Van Beek who completes marathons with his daughter Maddy who has cerebral palsy, and Nicholas Winton who was surprised at a talk show to see many of the adults he had saved from the Holocaust as children, all had me in tears. This shouldn’t detract from the stories of the many other men and boys covered within these pages, many of whom are equally inspiring.

As with many other books I have discussed on this blog, these two open up many new worlds for readers to discover. I imagine that students will be interested in following the stories of the women and men still living and working to change the world. Others will begin to research the impact that was made by those who are no longer with us. These books introduce readers to entire movements of social change across history. They are a great starting point for young researchers.

Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:

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.

Diversity 10: I know that the way groups of people are treated today, and the way they have been treated in the past, is a part of what makes them who they are.

Justice 15: I know about the actions of people and groups who have worked throughout history to bring more justice and fairness to the world.

Common Core Standards:

RI.3- Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

W.7- Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Published by socialjusticeinchildrenslit

My name is Leah Cole and I was a teacher in Iowa for nine years. My passions for education, social justice, and children's literature led me to create this blog. Students are faced with issues of justice and fairness from the time they are very young. The Social Justice Standards developed by Teaching Tolerance help teachers to support the development of students who recognize and embrace their own identities while respecting and valuing those who are different. In this blog, I will attempt to identify and review books that support the social justice standards.

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