I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About A Simple of Kindness by Kerascoët

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Summary

I Walk With Vanessa is wordless book that provokes a conversation about racism. The story begins with a black girl moving boxes into her new home with her family. Her name is Vanessa. Readers follow Vanessa as she starts her first day of school where everyone ignores her. As she walks home from school, a white boy starts yelling and pointing at her. We can see how scared and upset Vanessa is by this confrontation. A girl of color witnesses this act of aggression. She is shocked and saddened about what happened. After pondering for some time, she comes up with a brilliant plan that is sure to make Vanessa feel better. The wordless platform encourages readers to talk about disrupting racism.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Create II.B.1 Learners adjust their awareness of the global learning community by interacting with learners who reflect a range of perspectives.

  • Introduce the story by asking learners to look at the cover and read the title. Ask what they can expect to learn from the book.
  • Explain that this is a wordless story, so they will need to look closely at the illustrations and think about what is happening.
  • Ask the following questions as you read the story:
    • What is happening on this page? (title page)
    • What do you notice about Vanessa? (title page)
    • How is Vanessa feeling about being in a new class? How do you know? (pages 1-2)
    • Why do you think the children aren’t including her? How do you know this? (pages 1-4)
    • Why do you suppose the white boy yelling at Vanessa? What makes you think so? (pages 5-6)
    • How is the girl on this page feeling about the boy yelling at Vanessa? (pages 7-8)
    • What is the girl saying to her friends? How do the friends feel about it? (pages 11-12)
    • What do you suppose the girl is thinking about? (pages 13-18).
    • What do you think the girl is saying to Vanessa? (pages 19-20)
    • How does Vanessa feel now? How do you know? (pages 23-28)
  • Invite learners to imagine they are in the pages of the book, watching the boy yell at Vanessa. What would they do in the story? What would they do in real life if they saw someone hurting another person with words or actions?
  • Read more books featuring a protagonist that is treated unfairly because of their race, culture or identity. Learn how the protagonist overcame the injustice. Create an “I can fight injustice by…” poster

Tip: When looking for books about racism, find books that demonstrate what racism in America looks like today. That way, learners will understand that racism is still happening and not just an atrocity of the past. Take a look at the book resources on embracerace.org.

If you like these lesson ideas, please check out our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes detailed lesson plans, essential questions, worksheets, rubrics and assessments.

Click here to purchase I Walk with Vanessa from Bookshop.org.

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