Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Skin You Live In ~ Posted by Camille, Diane, Laura, & Marissa

Summary: The Skin You Live In written by Michael Tyler and illustrated by David Lee Csicsko was the debut publication of the Chicago Children’s Museum 2005 and is an important story for every child to read. Through a lively yet simplistic nursery rhyme style, this text delivers the vital message of social acceptance to its readers. Throughout the text various children with different colored skin talk about all of the wonderful things that they can do in their beautiful skin. In talking about their skin the voices heard in this text utilize simplistic language to tackle some major themes of child development such as self-acceptance, diversity, self-esteem, friendship, and social justice issues. In addition, this text displays children of various skin colors participating in and enjoying the same activities thus demonstrating the idea that even though these children may look different, they are in fact very much the same. Finally, the powerful words in this text talk about what skin is and what it is not therefore conveying the fact that having a certain skin color does not and can not make you “smart” or “dumb,” “tall” or “short,” or “rich” or poor.”

Reflections: The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler is an incredibly energetic story filled with vivid illustrations and relevant issues regarding today’s youth. We all loved reading this book and with the turning of each page we were more and more excited to hear the fun yet informative rhymes that lied ahead. Based on our excitement, we are confident that students will also be engaged and entranced by this powerful text. While this book may seem like a fun and simple read to some, to us, this text is filled with issues of social justice revolving around race, adoption, and being biracial or multiracial. After we read the story aloud we discussed how this text teaches children about all of the different skin tones that there are in a non-threatening way by comparing them to different ice cream flavors and talking about how different people in the same family can have different skin colors as well as how what each child does in their individual skin makes their skin and them significant. In addition, we found that this story taught students different ways in which they could accept and embrace their own skin color and the skin colors of others due to the wonderful things that we, as humans, do in our skin every day.

How I would use this book/curricular units: This text would be wonderful to utilize in the classroom when introducing the students to issues relating to race, the many ways people are alike and different (depending on the grade level), and in working on descriptions of self. While this story does not introduce the term race or racism, it does portray many different people of different races and could easily be the starting point for a discussion of what race is and is not. The students could look at where the people of each race come from geographically and how these locations have effected the color of their skin by talking about the role of melanin in determining skin color. In addition, this text can be used to talk about how people look different from the outside and that even though the most obvious body part, the skin, may be different from person to person that the color of a persons skin does not change what is on the inside and students can study the body to see that humans are all composed of the same organs, muscles, and bones. Finally, this story would be great to read when working on a unit in which students need to describe themselves. After reading this text students will recognize that their skin color is significant and all their own. They can write about the color of their skin, what it makes them think of or how it makes them feel, and create art projects in which they mix paint colors until they have created their own personal skin color and use that color to paint a self-portrait that they can hang in the classroom along with a description of who they are, where they come from, and why they are proud to have the skin that they are in.

Elements of Social Justice Education: 1) Self-love and Acceptance: Students will learn to love themselves for who they are and where they come from. They will see themselves in the text by being able to relate to one of the many children featured throughout the colorful illustrations as well as different activities described in the text that children do in their wonderful skin. In being able to relate to the words and images of the text, reading this story will foster a sense of acceptance not only for the students themselves and where they come from, but of other students and their origins as well. 2) Respect for Others: Students will learn to investigate other people and cultures and appreciate them for what they are by looking at the different skin tones of people from different cultures, talking about where these people are from in the world, and how the places in which they live effect the color of their skin tone. In concordance with this they will obtain a deeper understanding of skin color and respect and accept all people regardless of the color of their skin for who they are and where they come from. 3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will discuss and learn more about racism, adoption, and being biracial or multiracial and the effects that these issues have on all people. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: Students can explore the issues presented in the text and discuss how people have worked to change society like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did during the Civil Rights Movement when he worked hard to ban segregation, or separating people because of the color of their skin, in public establishments. In addition, they can connect these worldly issues, social movements, and social change to their own classroom and create ways in which they can combat similar issues that they see occurring in their classroom. 5) Taking Social Action: Students will learn how to take action and create social change on their own by looking at issues in the text, relating those issues to others that they see in the classroom, learning about how issues like these were and still are handled on the public scale, and utilize all that they have learned to synthesize and implement a plan for social change in their own classroom community.

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