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MAR Book Review: The Day You Begin

Each week Moms Against Racism will review a book from our monthly book list and provide questions and prompts for discussion with your kids. Let us know how it goes!

Book Cover with drawing of a young Black girl entering a room with multicoloured words beside her that read The Day You Begin.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

“And all at once, in the room where no one else is quite like you, the world opens itself up a little wider to make some space for you.” - The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin is a moving story written for young children about the experience of feeling less than and what it is like to be “othered” based on racial and cultural differences. Jacqueline Woodson writes in descriptive poetic imagery which is brought to life by beautiful and colourful illustrations by Rafael López. The writing does not feel too preachy or didactic, and also manages to avoid feeling cliche or overly idealistic as it shows that differences aren’t always celebrated and life is not all sunshine and rainbows. However, despite the heavy and potentially emotional subject matter, the overall tone of the book is hopeful and reassuring, and builds empathy as readers are encouraged to consider different perspectives and the experiences of others. Differences such as skin colour, hair texture, speaking with an accent, names, socioeconomic status, food, and ability are touched upon in a gentle and age appropriate manner. All children will be able to relate to being excluded from a group. The book also contains a powerful message about being true to yourself and the validation that comes from feeling seen by others upon finally sharing part of yourself and your story.

Three young children sitting on a couch with the middle child reading The Day You Begin to the other two.

My kids love "The Day You Begin" by Jacqueline Woodson and now my son loves to read it to his siblings on his own! - Kerry Cavers, Founder, Moms Against Racism

Questions to ask during/after reading:

  • Can you think of a time when you felt different from others? What was happening? How did this make you feel?

  • What are some things that make you special and different?

  • Have you ever felt left out of a group? When? What happened?

  • What does it mean to be an "excluder"? What does it mean to be an "includer"?

  • Have you ever been an excluder? How did this make you feel?

  • Have you ever been an includer? How did this make you feel?

  • How could you help others to feel included?

  • What could you say or do if you saw someone being excluded?

  • Can you think of a time when you were brave and shared a story about yourself? How did you feel before sharing? How did you feel after sharing? How can you help others to feel brave and safe enough to share themselves and their stories?

We hope reading this book with your children help both you and them become more comfortable talking about race, racial injustice, residential school trauma, and Canada's history . If you would like additional support, make sure you join our Moms Against Racism Facebook Group.

This blog post has been brought to you by our partner-sponsor Bolen Books. If you are looking to add anti-racism books to your personal library, please buy from Bolen!

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