Written By: Michelle Cook
Illustrated By: Cozbi A. Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Bryan Collier, Pat Cummings, Leo Dillon, Diane Dillon, A.G. Ford, E.B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, James Ransome, Charlotte Riley-Webb, Shadra Strickland, and Eric Velasquez
Take a moment to look over the front cover and illustrations throughout the book while encouraging your child to make predictions about the story. Ask questions like:
What do you notice on the front cover?
What does it mean for a child to “soar”?
Can you name some important African American historical figures? What work did they do to better the lives of African Americans and society as a whole?
What do you think it means to be a “Pioneer of Change”?
Bring your child’s attention to the names of the African Americans listed on the cover. Ask him/her if any of them sound familiar or if they know what contributions they made to society.
As You Read
The story really resonates in the illustrations that are on each page, especially since there is such limited text so be sure to pull out different elements in the illustrations. For example, when you are reading about Ruby Bridges, discuss the people standing outside of the school holding confederate flags or the John F. Kennedy picture on the wall. Help your child fully appreciate each illustration.
You may find it helpful to take different approaches to reading the story each time you read it. You may choose to go through the whole story without stopping the first read-through, but then take more time to delve in each historical figure in subsequent readings.Take time to briefly discuss each person and how they influenced society. For example, ask “Do you know who Ella Fitzgerald is? How did she make it possible for Jackie Robinson and others after her to be successful?” If your child is not familiar with certain figures, there are short descriptions about each person in the back of the book and you can do more research online.
Help your child relate to the story by saying, “Imagine if you couldn’t go to a certain school because of the color of your skin. That is called segregation, and it is when people are separated based on their race. Ruby Bridge was around your age when she help to integrate (bring people from different races together) schools in New Orleans. Even if it’s just in a small way, how do you think you can make a difference in your life today? It can be in school, in the community, or at home.”
Summarize and Interpret:
Help your child continue thinking about the story and its implications for his/her life by asking questions like:
Did you like that story? Why or why not?
What did the people in this story do to make it possible for children to soar?
Can you think of people in your life that have made it possible for you to soar? How?
How will you soar?
Activity: African American History
There are several African American figures who are widely recognized as the “pioneers of change” but countless others have made significant contributions and do not get the same recognition. Take this opportunity to check out websites like this and others to learn about more African American pioneers who paved the way and made it possible for people of color to thrive. Consider printing out images and factoids about intriguing individuals, and posting them in unexpected places around your home (behind cabinet doors, etc.) to surprise and spur conversation with your little ones.