So many of us have stood in that uncomfortable spot, right there in the doorway about to enter a room where the blanket of faces staring back at you look wholly different from your own. It's one of those feelings that is bound to make your stomach hurt or your eyes sting - especially when you're only a child.
At that moment, all we see are the differences in those people: different skin colors and eye shapes, different clothing -- even different accents when they begin to speak. What we forget during these challenging situations, however, and what we need to remind our kids, is that underneath these different exteriors lie a multitude of similarities.
This is the beauty of Jacqueline Woodson's newest picture book, The Day You Begin, stunningly illustrated by Rafael Lopez (you may remember him from one of my favorite books, Maybe Something Beautiful). The Day You Begin tells the story of a young girl who walks into a new classroom and finds no one like her. But then she sits down, her classmates begin talking, and as their words fill the air, shared sentiments become bridges to building connection.
The Day You Begin reminds us to seek out similarities rather than focusing on our differences!
The Day You Begin reads like music, with rich melodies that rouse your senses and settle softly upon your heart. Woodson's words, as is typical for her, are a song to celebrate. She reassures us that, when we are brave enough, we can all find connections with one another.
When we muster up courage and extend our hands and voices, we will find possibility where it first seemed like none existed.
The Day You Begin conveys wisdom, hope and heart, on vibrant, collaged pages that are a perfect accompaniment to the exquisite text. This is a book to treasure, reminding both children and adults that there is so much beauty to be found when we embrace who we are and find the strength to view challenges as opportunities.
We give this one two trunks up, and we have no hesitation in calling The Day You Begin an absolute MUST for every home, classroom and library collection.
The Day You Begin: My Favorite Classroom Activity
Are you looking for a simple yet effective classroom activity for the first week of school? Try this!
First, group students in pairs of two - if possible, pair up kids who aren’t already good friends. Give the class two minutes, and have them silently write down five things they notice about their classmate that appear different from themselves — whatever comes to mind.
Next, read The Day You Begin aloud to the class. After you read, have the students pair back up again and this time, give them some time to talk about their summers - what they did, who they spent time with, anything they want to share.
After this chat session, give them a couple more minutes to write silently. This time, each student should write down five ways in which they are similar to their classmate.
Finally — discuss your findings as a group! How did the similarities make the differences seem unimportant? What kinds of connections were made? How did sharing with a classmate help bridge divides?
The Day You Begin is the perfect book to begin a new school year!
Use this beautiful story to showcase the beauty of looking beyond external differences, and watch as your students enter a new school with open eyes, compassionate hearts, and a willingness to challenge rash judgments they may make upon first meeting new people.
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Want the book? Get it here! The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.