The Day you Begin

This is the perfect beginning of the school year read aloud- it teaches inclusivity, cultural responsiveness and social emotional skills. The theme is hidden in the illustrations on several pages as the "ruler" reminding students that what makes them uniquely them is immeasurable. Learning about one another is how we feel "known" and necessary for building vibrant learning communities. For older learners, analyze the themes and Jacqueline Woodson's craft. How does the author intersect concepts about race, language, culture and socio-economic status?

Social Justice Activities:

  1. Analyze characters on the page, "And because they don't understand, the classroom will fill with laughter until the teacher quiets everyone." Why do they laugh? How does that make Rigoberto feel? Compare and Contrast what you think Rigoberto's life is like at school vs. home. (Identity 4,5)

  2. We learn that rice is the most popular food in the world. Does that surprise you? What does that tell us about our perception of the world? Research other facts about things that are "popular" around the world or in other countries. (Diversity 6,8)

  3. What does it mean when Nadja wrinkles her nose? What silent message is she sending to the girl about her food, which is a popular dish in Korea? What other ways do we influence relationships? (Justice 14)

  4. Analyze the ending of the story. What character traits/actions did the characters show to be more inclusive (bravery, sharing stories, making connections, laughter, shared experiences and appreciating diversity).

  5. Discuss inclusivity and the skills/actions/attitudes needed to be inclusive. Create a chart and allow students to add to it daily as they share stories about what they experience or observe about inclusive interactions.

  6. For older students, research groups in your community who are under represented. Build relationships with those communities and co-create action plans to raise awareness about their issues. (Action 17)

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

Identity 4. Students will express pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem without denying the value and dignity of other people.

Identity 5. Students will recognize traits of the dominant culture, their home culture and other cultures and understand how they negotiate their own identity in multiple spaces.

Diversity 6. Students will express comfort with people who are both similar to and different from them and engage respectfully with all people.

Diversity 8. Students will respectfully express curiosity about the history and lived experiences of others and will exchange ideas and beliefs in an open-minded way.

Justice 14. Students will recognize that power and privilege influence relationships on interpersonal, intergroup and institutional levels and consider how they have been affected by those dynamics.

Action 17. Students will recognize their own responsibility to stand up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

Reading Strategies:

Comparing: Jaqueline Woodson said she was inspired to write this book after she wrote a poem for the book Brown Girl Dream. Read about it here: Evaluate the poetic elements, compare and contrast with The Day You Begin, and discuss the theme in the book and in the poem.

Character Analysis: Analyze and compare the ways each of the children are incorrectly measuring their self-worth. Analyze how the author intersects race, language, and socio-economic status.

Descriptive & figurative language: There are metaphors, similes and descriptive language throughout the text.

Book Details:
  • Fiction, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Diversity
  • Author's stated heritage: Black
  • Subject Integration: Math (measurement), Art, Geography

Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain