Images of Struggle and Triumph: Using Picture Books to Teach about Civil Rights in the Secondary Classroom

By Wilkins, Karen H.; Sheffield, Caroline C. et al. | Social Education, May-June 2008 | Go to article overview

Images of Struggle and Triumph: Using Picture Books to Teach about Civil Rights in the Secondary Classroom


Wilkins, Karen H., Sheffield, Caroline C., Ford, Martha B., Cruz, Barbara C., Social Education


Colored men and women traded in the five and dime all the time. They kept money in the bank and on some Saturdays were allowed to sit in the balcony of the theater to watch a movie. This all seemed normal to me. It's true that they couldn't drink out of the same water fountain as white folks or eat in the same coffee shop. They had to wait to be served in the stores until white folk had been served, but that's just the way things were. (1)

The African American experience prior to the civil rights movement is difficult for secondary students to grasp. The unabashed racism of the time is unfathomable for most students in twenty-first century America. While racism and other prejudice still exist, it is now more subtle and less obvious to the casual observer. The above quote, from the 2004 NCSS Notable Trade Book Mississippi Morning, conveys the pervasive nature of racism in the United States prior to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Mississippi Morning presents the perspective of a young white protagonist in this vivid picture book about Depression-era Mississippi, a place and time where the Ku Klux Klan dominated society. As a result of the Klan's dominance, African Americans lived in fear, forced to live in an atmosphere of prejudice and discrimination. The richly descriptive prose engages readers in a way that no standard textbook can. Fortunately, as social studies educators, we have a wealth of books that we can use to bring the past to life and to our students.

Why Picture Books?

As mentioned above, Mississippi Morning is a picture book. Traditionally 32 pages in length, with an image on every page or two-page spread, the picture book format enables the author to address the difficult and emotionally charged topics of racial discrimination and prejudice both visually and textually. This connection of picture and text creates a rich portrait of the period; the characters and the setting of a picture book are accessible to the student through the visual representation. (2) The use of selected images also enables the author to emphasize themes, emotions, and significant details that might otherwise be lost in a conventional text-only medium. (3)

Although picture books are traditionally associated with elementary level learners, they can also be utilized effectively without patronizing older students. The picture book format is not an indication of the reading level or content. It can be more accurately described as the medium that the author felt best captured the concept. In fact, many recently published picture books may be inappropriate for use in a younger class setting. (4) Mississippi Morning includes images and references to Klan-related violence that are not age-appropriate for students at the primary level. Comprehending many of the complex topics addressed in today's picture books--such as the civil rights movement--requires more background knowledge than most elementary students have. Additionally, the vocabulary and reading level of many recently published picture books are too advanced for the traditional elementary student. (5) The excerpt at the beginning of this article is written at a 6.5 grade level, well within the appropriate range for middle school inclusion.

Picture books are fun and visually arresting. We have found that secondary students clamor to see the illustrations, listen intently to the text, and enjoy the novelty of a read aloud. The format's concise text is enhanced through the use of vivid imagery. The images are often great works of art in and of themselves. All of the books highlighted in this article present artwork by award-winning illustrators who also display their works in formats other than picture books.

The visual-verbal connection of picture books also facilitates learning for a variety of special needs students: the English Language Learner (ELL), the exceptional education student, and the reluctant reader. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Images of Struggle and Triumph: Using Picture Books to Teach about Civil Rights in the Secondary Classroom
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.