Reading Ruby with New Americans

Ruby Nell Bridges at age 6, was the first African American child to attend William Franz Elementary School in New Orleans after Federal courts ordered the desegregation of public schools.

One of the jobs I cherish doing is bringing NH Humanities’ book discussion programs to English Language Learners.I met with Christine Powers’ class of adult learners in Salem, New Hampshire this spring. They were all new Americans and also mothers. We met in the school where their kids go. Together we read a series of illustrated biographies including The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, the psychologist who wrote The Moral Life of Children.

I discovered Robert Coles’ The Moral Life of Children, years ago. For the book, he interviewed many children including Ruby Bridges, six years old. A New York Times reviewer explained Coles book like this, ”’No one teaches children sociology or psychology,” Dr. Coles remarks; ‘yet, children are constantly noticing who gets along with whom, and why.’ His tales are about what they have noticed, and how it affects them.” Ruby Bridges told Robert Coles about the mobs of people screaming hate at her as she crossed in front of them to go to school:

”They keep coming and saying the bad words, but my momma says they’ll get tired after a while and then they’ll stop coming. They’ll stay home.”

It was powerful reading about social justice issues in the U.S. with women from Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Vietnam, and Latin American countries. They are all mothers and know the power of family words. I stayed only for a short time, but Chris and her students kept delving into the book and the questions it asks of us and what we say to our kids.

In this new language of English, each student wrote a cinquain poem.

Here’s one:

Ruby Bridges

Religious Brave

Reading Praying Talking

“I was praying for them.”

Love.

Thank you, Chris Powers and all the women in your class for our time together.

 

4 thoughts on “Reading Ruby with New Americans

  • June 5, 2017 at 9:58 pm
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    This is a wonderful group to work with and a powerful book. I am so glad it was a wonderful experience.

    Reply
    • June 6, 2017 at 11:10 am
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      It was perfect group, the world talking.

      Reply
  • June 6, 2017 at 4:16 am
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    Thank you for this, Terry. I appreciated reading Cole’s remarks on children’s awareness and your lovely experience sharing a children’s book with new American mothers. A perfect connection.

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    • June 6, 2017 at 11:11 am
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      Robert Cole’s work is powerful. Thank you, Sarah.

      Reply

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