Today was my 6 year old's first day of first grade. And as it happened, it was only yesterday that we read Ruby Bridges Goes to School. It's not surprising, because it's one of her favorite books, and we read it at least once a week. But today, I couldn't help but be struck by the bravery of 6 year old Ruby Bridges, the first African American student at a newly integrated elementary school, whose first day of first grade those many years ago was so very different than ours today.
My daughter goes, again and again, to this slim nonfiction volume from Scholastic. She pours over the images, including racist "Whites Only" signs. Now that she can read, she struggles through the words too - including the word "segregation"... a word she pronounced clearly in her little, bell-like voice.
And yet, I cannot help my maternal instinct - the desire to protect my littlest one from the cruel realities of this life. Luckily my daughter's own fascination with the story of Ruby Bridges wins out every time - and we return to the brave 6 year old's story again and again.
Today, I cannot help wonder at the bravery of Ruby Bridges' mother - the woman who walked, head down, among those grim-faced Marshalls, through the jeering crowds of bigots, right behind her beautiful, pig-tailed child. Would I have had the courage to send my most precious baby into such a place - no matter how just or righteous the reason?
Ruby Bridges Goes to School is one of our favorite books to talk explicitly about race. Another is Jaqueline Woodson's Show Way. What are yours?