Social Justice Booklist Series: Walk a Mile in Those Shoes
The other day, I sat with my mom, enjoying a cup of tea. We chatted about the new birds she had seen in her courtyard, a new book we had both just finished reading, and whether or not we should order a chocolate chip cookie to split. As we talked more, I noticed her telling a story I had heard before, but this time, as the story unraveled, I was hearing it with new ears, in a new light. It has been almost 2 years since my father, her husband suddenly passed away. As a daughter who has lost her father, I know how it feels. I know what it feels like to wake-up every morning for the first year shocked again and again that your father is gone. The brief moment of hope as your eyes flutter open that all is well until you realize that the truth is still there and your father is still gone. I know what it feels like to desperately want to share or tell your father something and know that you will never be able see the expression on his face, the sweetness in his eyes, and his smile spread across his face. This is my perspective.
Over this cup of tea with my mother, I started to wonder…what is her perspective? How does it feel to lose your best friend of 50 years in the blink of an eye? How does it feel to do everything alone again? These thoughts strike at my heartstrings. I had never thought about what it must be like for my mom. What would it be like to walk in her shoes for just a day? What does she see? How does she feel? How does she cope?
This experience inspired me to choose the book Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts to spotlight next from the Social Justice Booklist created by the NNSTOY. This book will help students better understand what perspective taking is and how to literally walk in someone else’s shoes. Perspective taking is the ability to understand another person’s thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs. Michele Borba calls this habit the “gateway to empathy.” This book will help us think about such questions as: What is it like to walk in someone else’s shoes? How can we help ourselves and our students or children understand how to walk in someone else’s shoes and understand their perspective?
Draw a picture of Mr. Alfrey and tape it to a pair of shoes. Tell your child to pretend that these shoes are the boy’s in the story. Have your child put them on and tell them to image being the boy and literally walk in his shoes. You could set-up your room like the classroom and pretend to be some of the other characters to help create more of a feeling of “being there.” Try asking some of these questions: How do you feel when everyone laughs at you? How does it feel to not be able to get or afford the shoes that other kids have? What can you say to the other kids? What can you say to yourself?
Tape black and white stripes on a pair of shoes. Tell your child to pretend that these shoes are Antonio’s shoes after the boy gives them to him. Have your child put them on and tell them to image being the boy and literally walk in his shoes. You could pretend to be the other characters or set-up your room like the book. Try asking some of these questions: How does it feel to be wearing these shoes? Why do you think your friend gave them to you? What do you think of your friend? How would you describe them?
What do you notice about the cover?
What do you think each of the characters is thinking? Why?
What do you think each of the characters is feeling? Why?
Let your child or students know that as you are reading, you want them to think about what it would be like to be each character. Have them think about how the characters might feel, what they are thinking, and why this might be.
What does the boy want in the story? What does he need?
What do you need in your life?
What do you want in your life?
How do you feel when others have something that you do not have?
How does it feel when you have something that someone else does not have?
Page 9 and 10:
Why do you think that Antonio Parker doesn’t laugh at the boy?
Have you been laughed at before? How did you feel?
Have you laughed at others? How did you feel?
What could Antonio Parker have said to the other kids who were laughing? (Such as: That’s not cool. That’s not okay).
The kids in his class all look different. Does your class have people that look different on the outside? How are they different?
How are people different on the inside?
How are people the same on the inside?
Would you buy shoes you really wanted, even if they didn’t fit? Why or why not?
What do you think that the boy is NOT going to do? Why?
Page 27 and 28:
How do both characters feel? How do you know? Why do you think they feel that way?
Would you have given your shoes to someone else? Why or why not?
End of the book:
What do you think after reading this book?
How would you describe the main character? (You can encourage value traits such as kindness, empathy, and generosity).
How did the boy change throughout the book?
How would you describe Antonio?
How would you describe the other students in their class?
If you could be any character in the book, who would you be? Why?
I hope you enjoy this book with your children or students! Please feel free to share your experience with the book or other ideas that worked for you!
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