Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first black child to integrate an all-white public school in the south. Day after day, escorted by U.S. marshals and her mother, she braved spitting, hissing, cursing crowds of white people throwing things at her in order to attend the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.
The Story of Ruby Bridges, illustrated with pastel pictures that capture the strength and innocence of Ruby, tells the story of her experiences in a way understandable to children in the primary grades when used as a read-aloud. Written at a 5th grade level, it can also be a good catalyst for discussion when used with upper elementary students. The author, Robert Coles, was the child psychologist who helped Ruby deal with the internalized terrors of the experience and brings his unique understanding of children to the book.
Through My Eyes is the story told by Ruby Bridges as she looks back on the events through her own understanding and misunderstandings as a child. "I thought maybe it was Mardi Gras... Mardi Gras was always noisy," she writes. But it also clarifies the moment when she realizes that all that was happening around her was because of the color of her skin. This book is not one many children will pick up on their own. But it is a perfect book for parents, teachers, and librarians to share with children as it provides a springboard for talking about the ignorance, bigotry, and hate that this young child faced and which still exists today where more public schools in the U.S. are segregated than ever before.
Together, these two books provide a rich resource for initiating discussions about racial prejudice and institutional racism.
Here are some other resources for teaching and learning about Ruby Bridges.
Teach Peace Now Upper Elementary Lesson Plan shared by Pat Stacconi: The Story of Ruby Bridges. This is one of our most popular plans. DOWNLOAD PDF: Teach Peace Now Ruby Bridges Lesson Plan
Ruby Bridges' Foundation Facebook Page
BCC Documentary Interview with Ruby Bridges
The Story of Ruby Bridges read by Barbara Diegmann