What was your favorite childhood picture book? Did the story feature children of different races? If so, we can thank Gyo Fujikawa. She paved the way for racial inclusion in picture books.
It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way, by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad, is a fascinating story about how Fujikawa ended up creating books for children. Fujikawa was born and raised in California in the early 1900s. She loved drawing, and home was a place where she could fill pages of paper with pictures. Her parents encouraged her by supplying drawing tools and books.
At school, Fujikawa’s classmates paid no attention to her or her drawings. She felt invisible in her school where most of the children were white. One teacher noticed her artwork, and found funding to enroll Fujikawa in art school. Fujikawa’s studies led her to a career in illustration.
Fujikawa continued to be struck by racial injustice throughout her life. During World War II, her family was sent to a Japanese American interment camp. In the early 1960s, she recognized the injustice of segregation. These events compelled her to write and illustrate books featuring children of different races together on the same page. Fujikawa met resistance about her multi-racial books. She insisted that these books mattered. She was right, and her book were a hit.
Readers will enjoy learning how one person made a difference in the picture book industry. Fujikawa’s life was full, and author Kyo Maclear does a great job telling the story to young readers. The illustrations by Julie Morstad are gorgeous. Some of the drawings are black and white. Other illustrations have color. This technique engages readers to look closely at what the illustrator wants to convey by using different art styles. The end result is a book you’ll appreciate every time you share it with your class.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Think ll.A.3 Learners contribute a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by describing their understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community.
Gyo Fujikawa understood why all races need to be represented in picture books. Children want to see themselves in books and make connections with the stories.
Discuss how Fujikawa wanted all children to see themselves in books. Some people refer to these books as “mirrors”. Ask learners to think of a book where they saw themselves in the book. How did the book help them learn more about themselves?
Explain how some books are referred to as “windows”. Books can provide windows to the lives of different people and places. Ask learners to share titles of books that helped them learn more about the world around them. Invite them to share what they learned.
Dr. Rudine Simms Bishop first described books as windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors. Click here to read more about her great work.
If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.
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