The Book Nooke
By Sueño LeBlond, Early Education Outreach Specialist
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In honor of Dr. King’s dream, I share the following book in which the characters see past their artificial differences and join hands, confident in the goodness of the other’s character. There aren’t many picture books depicting children engaged in positive, cross-racial connections, so it is important to find the ones that do and share them with our children. This sends the powerful message that we can play and work together, enjoying the companionship of people different from us.
Chris Raschka’s book Yo! Yes? is the story of two boys – one black, one white; one shy, one outgoing – crossing paths on the street. With the open mindedness and curiosity inherent in young children, this seemingly unlikely pair relate to one another and joyfully accept each other as new friends.
The reader’s tone of voice is essential to a successful reading of this book. The story uses simple text (34 words total) and is largely told through Raschka’s expressive illustrations. Therefore, the reader must be inspired by the body language and facial expressions to modify their tone of voice to convey the emotional energy of the pictures. Reading this book is like acting on a stage.
When done well, Yo! Yes? is an instant hit for children as young as two years old. I have had several groups of children ask for it to be read several times in a row, delighting each time in the pacing and intonation. While the first time through is often read without interruption, repeat readings should take time to pause and examine the story more closely.
When talking about the book, first focus on universal themes like feelings and friendship. How are the children feeling? How can you tell? Why do you think they feel that way? Let these questions guide your conversation and let the child lead from here.
Be prepared to speak about race if your child brings it up. Acknowledge that the boys in the book have different colored skin in a matter of fact way. Look for other things that are different about them – their clothes, perhaps, or personalities. Think about similarities and differences you notice between each other. Make a point of saying that despite our differences we all have feelings and want good friends.
We can raise children who judge others, not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” just as Dr. Martin Luther King dreamed. But we must be mindful that this is an intentional act that requires right action. Be sure your child has access to diverse books. Don’t be afraid to talk about what makes us different; there is strength and beauty in our diversity. Commit to making the world a better place for ALL people.