With Martin Luther King Day just around the corner, share the true story of Ruby Bridges, a living hero of the Civil Rights Movement. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first black student to attend all-white William Frantz Elementary School in 1960. She showed remarkable courage and maturity as she braved threatening crowds of white people to enter the school escorted by federal marshals. Because she was a young child when she helped integrate the schools in New Orleans, her story of courage is especially meaningful to children. Read on for teaching resources about Ruby Bridges.
Through My Eyes, Ruby Bridges’ autobiography, includes lots of photos. I read this book aloud to my students. The photos helped them understand that Ruby is a real person and that her story is nonfiction. You can show a two-minute video that goes with this book.
In the back of the first edition of Through My Eyes is a jump rope rhyme, "Ruby B." by Susan Salidor, that my class learned. We shared the poem at Morning Meeting. There are many verses and the same words are repeated over and over. I talked about the importance of rhythm in the poem and how, just this once, reading in a singsong way is appropriate. Then students took turns jumping rope to a verse or two as their classmates read the poem in time with the jumping. Lori McKenna has written a song about Ruby entitled "Ruby's Shoes" your students might also enjoy.
Child psychiatrist Dr. Robert Coles volunteered to work with Ruby and her family when she first attended Frantz Elementary School. Dr. Coles was amazed by Ruby’s resilience and later wrote The Story of Ruby Bridges for children. I used this book with one of my reading groups. Strong 2nd grade readers will enjoy this book, which is written on guided reading level O.
I showed my class the Disney movie Ruby Bridges, which is widely available in DVD or VHS format. (Check your school or public library.) I broke the movie into two or three parts to make it more manageable. At times Ruby Bridges is slow-moving, but my students paid close attention throughout. We had rich conversations comparing the movie with the books. If you don’t have time for an entire film, there are video clips available.
Here on Scholastic.com I found a printable and a writing response sheet about Ruby Bridges to help you with your planning. For writing samples to show your students, see the award-winning thank you letters from students to Ruby Bridges.
Today Ruby Bridges remains active as a writer. She brings a message of tolerance and understanding to school groups. Visit Ruby Bridges' Web site to find out more.
Ruby Bridges visiting with children.