The Story of Ruby Bridges

Last updated Thursday, July 16, 2009

Author: Robert Coles
Illustrator: George Ford
Date of Publication: 1995
ISBN: 0590572814
Grade Level: Kindergarten    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2009

Synopsis: Sustained by family and faith, one brave six-year-old child found the strength to walk alone through howling protesters and enter a whites-only school in New Orleans in 1960. Ruby Bridges did it every day for weeks that turned into months. The white parents withdrew their kids, and Ruby sat alone with her teacher in an empty classroom in an empty building and learned her lessons. Harvard professor Cole has written powerful adult books about children in crisis and about children's moral and political lives. Here he tells one girl's heroic story, part of the history of ordinary people who have changed the world. He tells it quietly, as an adult, and the simplicity is moving, though kids might want some indication of Ruby's personal experience, what it was like to be her. Ford's moving watercolor paintings mixed with acrylic ink are predominantly in sepia shades of brown and red. They capture the physical warmth of Ruby's family and community, the immense powers against her, and her shining inner strength.

Note to readers:
•  Notes: Be sure to read the afterward before reading the story to the children. It is a little long and is not as simple as the story text is. It might be nice to read the afterward before hand and summarize it for the students after you are done with the story.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Has anybody heard of Ruby Bridge’s before?
•  Do you know what segregation is?
•  Does anyone remember their first day at a new school? Was it scary? Exciting?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How would being surrounded by an angry crowd make you feel?
•  Why do you think Ruby kept returning to the school?
•  What would it be like to go to school alone? Would you like being by yourself or would you miss all your friends and classmates?
•  Why do you think Ruby was able to forgive the people who were being mean to her?
•  Would you wish good things upon somebody who was mean to you?
•  Do you think Ruby was brave?
•  Can you remember a time when you were brave? Is Ruby a hero?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a picture of somebody who is a hero in your life. What makes them a hero? If you could be a superhero what powers would you have? Draw a picture of your superhero uniform and your superhero powers.
•  Make super hero masks from construction paper. Decorate them, cut them out and use ribbon or string to tie them on.
•  Make a "Super Hero" ribbon for a family member, friend, or teacher who is a hero in your life. Color, decorate, and cut-out the template ribbon to customize it for your personal hero.
•  Draw and cut out a school from construction paper. Draw and cut out children of different races or colors and paste them on the cut out school.
•  Make a Ruby Bridges paper doll. Draw Ruby Bridges on paper, cut it out and create a dress or outfit for Ruby to wear.
•  Make a "Super Hero" Father’s day card.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!