I’m participating in Aarti’s reading challenge called A More Diverse Universe 2014. The goal of the challenge is to read books by authors of color. The challenge is only for the last two weeks of September. I’ve already read The Buddha In the Attic by Julie Otsuka. I wanted to read one more and I had started reading A Rage In Harlem by Chester Himes when I saw this children’s book at the library. (I’ll get to Chester Himes later.)
This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration is a book I wish I’d had five decades ago when I was teaching fifth grade in a segregated, all-black school. Back then our Scott Foresman reading books were filled with stories and pictures of all-white families. Even our persistent librarian couldn’t find suitable books. My students found it difficult to identify with the stories and it’s not hard to understand why they didn’t like to read.
There are so many ways I could have used this book with my class. First of all it’s an interesting story to read. It follows a rope that was found by a girl in South Carolina. She used it to jump rope, but then it was used by her family as they moved to New York City. Over the years the rope was used by the family to dry diapers, play games, tie up boxes when a daughter went off to college, or hang a sign for a family reunion.
This book could be used as the impetus for a personal family project. Where did your family come from (Geography, story writing)? Did anyone in your family participate in the Great Migration (history, research skills, story writing)? And so on and on. I can see how the excitement for learning could grow in a classroom starting with a simple, well-told book that includes full-page drawings in which all the people are African American.
Publishers: We need more books like this. Give today’s teachers and children books of substance that represent all ethnicities. Publishers have done a lot since “my day” but they need to expand it even more. Search hard for books by and about non-white authors. It’ll pay off when our children associate fun with reading.
This Is the Rope: A Story of the Great Migration was written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Book Group. Good for you, Nancy Pausen.