Are there fences of division in our town? In our lives?
In Jacqueline Woodson‘s, The Other Side, segregation is explored through the eyes of two young girls. As their fearful mothers look on, these two girls, Annie and Clover, meet at the fence. The fence literally divides the town into a white side and a black side. The girls are curious of each other. Their relationship grows from observing, to talking across the fence, to sitting together on the fence, to crossing over the fence to play together. As one of the girls says, “Someday somebody’s going to come along and knock this old fence down.”
I used this book in my fourth grade class, as it makes the feelings and depth of the issue of segregation real for kids. Not only did we use this story to learn about segregation and that time period, but the characters are beautifully developed. From their traits, to their motives, it’s a perfect book for teaching inferring and character development. Obviously, there are strong themes sewn through every page of this book- friendship, division, and standing up against the ways of the world.
My students would have profound discussions from this story! I cannot wait to read it with my own kids, and I hope you read it with your own kids or students too!
Not only is it important for us as adults to have conversations around race, our history, how far we’ve come, and the areas we still need to improve, it’s important to discuss the same things with our kids!
Here are some great discussion questions:
What does the fence symbolize?
What type of fences exist in our town? In our world today?
What do you think of Annie and Clover’s mothers? What do you think they think of the girls’ friendship?
Which character do you most identify with and why?
Why do you think the fence was built in the first place?
What did Annie mean by, “This fence was made for sitting?”
Do you think the fence was knocked down? Why/why not?
**This is one of my favorite stories!! Since I love it so much, I’m going to give one away! (My first give-away!) If you share and/or comment on this post, I will put your name in a drawing for the book. I’ll announce the winner on 7/29/13! Good Luck, and thanks for sharing.