When the moon is in the seventh house
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
When this optimistic lyric from the musical Hair made its appearance in 1967, those of us who were around were keenly aware of the irony between its vision of love, light, and harmony and the tumultuous state of the world, especially our own country, at the time. As I look around me fifty years on, I’m not sure that the Age of Aquarius is upon us yet.
Having recently completed two weeks of PARP (Parents as Reading Partners) at Sousa, we embark upon our next whole school initiative—No Name Calling Week. This annual week of instruction exists to remind our children, as well as parents, teachers, and administrators, that every person who comes into our school has a right to feel safe, welcomed, and accepted for who they are. With the rhetoric that our students are exposed to on a regular basis, this is an important week of discussions that bears highlighting.
Celebrating the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) which was instituted state-wide in 2012, Mrs. Biblowitz and Ms. Moser work with every student during their library time to “provide instruction in civility, citizenship, and character education by expanding the concepts of tolerance, respect for others and dignity to include: an awareness and sensitivity in the relations of people, including but not limited to, different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identity, and sexes.”
The child friendly version of this law, posted in every classroom at Sousa (and available online in the Sousa Handbook) reminds students not to “make fun of or exclude people for how they look, what they think or believe, or how they feel. We accept and celebrate both the ways in which we are the same and the ways in which we are different, and we learn from each other.”
During this week, each class has discussions, reads books, and entertains age appropriate scenarios where students can make good decisions about fostering our three key Sousa Strong sentiments: kindness, confidence, and compassion. The children learn how to meaningfully challenge students who may be making one of their peers uncomfortable by word or deed. They can do this by becoming “upstanders” (standing up for that student’s dignity) instead of being “bystanders” (ignoring poor behavior and not getting involved when harm is being done). Although the formal instruction only lasts a week, the message is one that is carried out every day in our Sousa Strong activities and in our newly adopted RULER program. Social and emotional learning is a vital component of every Sousa student’s education.
As part of No Name Calling Week, Mrs. Biblowitz and Ms. Moser have put together a collection of picture books relevant to DASA that include age appropriate stories about students with handicaps, people of many colors and ethnic origins, family units of all kinds including those with two moms or two dads, as well as young people who are questioning their gender identity. Some are written as metaphors, some as personifications, and some as straightforward stories. The staff and I have read and carefully chosen the newer additions to this collection, an annotated list of which can be accessed by clicking the link below.
I believe that it is imperative that our collection reflect the society for which our children are being educated. I also believe that, as parents, you have a critical role in discussing with your child(ren) an awareness of, a sensitivity to, and a respect for the many differences among all people in our school, our community, our country, and our world.
Even though PARP is over and No Name Calling Week is beginning, we at Sousa encourage you to continue to read to and with your children at home as often as you are able. Perhaps you will want to include one of these picture books so that you can, as a family, discover and discuss with your child the ways that we are all the same, and the ways that we are all different.
It is my hope that by continuing to strengthen the home/school connection, and by keeping our lines of communication robust, we can work together to help our children succeed in an increasingly diverse world.
Let the sunshine in.
Diversity Picture Book List
Allies’ Basketball Dream by Barbara Barber and Darryle Ligasan
This is a book about the stereotype of “basketball is only for boys”. Urban setting, multi-cultural.
All Families are Special by Norma Simon
This book is about the changing family; single parent, adoptive, foster, divorced and blended families.
Confessions from a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig
This book is about bullying. It describes different types of bullying and has concrete solutions.
Dear Child By John Farrell
Story about how a parent’s life is improved with the addition of a child. This book has pictures of many ethnicities and different family life styles. Sweet message; rhyming book.
The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan
This story is about a bedtime story. The boy in the story has two moms. The book is about a dragon who doesn’t want to act like other dragons and a boy who helps him realize that that is OK. It is a celebration of being who you are.
Donovan’s Big Day by Leslie Newman
Story of a boy getting ready for the wedding of his two moms. A celebration of families!
Don’t Kiss the Frog: Princess Stories with Attitude by Fiona Waters
A compilation of princess stories. But the princesses don’t stand around waiting for their prince…they do things their own way. A celebration of female independence!
Families by Susan Kuklin
This is a book about many different kinds of families. Multi-cultural, bi-racial, same sex, single parent, adopted and special needs families.
Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
This picture book is about acceptance of all different kinds of families.
The Family Book by Todd Parr
This picture book is a celebration of family and the message is that together we can be strong!
I am Jazz By Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings
This is a story about Jazz Jennings; who is a transgender child. She never felt that her inside matched her outside. She describes herself as having a girl brain in a boy body. General message is to live life being happy on the inside and be proud of who you are.
Jacob’s New Dress By Sarah and Ian Hoffman
This book is about a little boy who loves the imaginary play corner at school. He always puts on a dress and his classmate doesn’t like it. He is teased by it. At home his mom helps him to make a dress. He wears it to school and feels empowered.
My Princess Boy; by Cheryl Kilodavis
A story about a boy who loved everything pink and likes to wear princess clothes but still enjoys climbing trees etc. He titles himself a “princess boy” and his family and friends love him just the way he is. A story of understanding and acceptance.
Not Every Princess By Jeffrey Bone and Lisa Bone
This book is about bending the rules of being a “princess”. You don’t have to be dainty and graceful to be a princess. Be who you are.
One Family by George Shannon
Counting book. Focusing on the concept of family.
Pugdog by Andrea U’Ren
This book is about being comfortable in your own skin and being your true authentic self.
RED a crayon’s story by Michael Hall
This book is about being comfortable being who you are and not to get stuck on labels. This blue crayon has a red label and others are trying to make him something he is not. He finally accepts that he is blue and can create wonderful blue things. Everyone is impressed and he feels good about himself.
Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B Schiffer
Stella has two Dads. This is a sweet story about love, acceptance and the true meaning of family, including extended family members.
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
This book is a celebration of family and accepting change. The story is told from the point of view of Bobby’s niece who, when she hears he is marrying his boyfriend Jamie, is afraid that he won’t have time to spend with her any more.