Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: The Story of Ruby Bridges

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Introduction and Summary

The Story of Ruby Bridges, written by Robert Coles, is the true story of a little girl in New Orleans that became the first African-American student to attend Franz Elementary School in 1960.  When the parents of the other students in the school found out that Ruby was attending school too, they pulled all of their children out of class.  Every day an angry mob of people would stand outside of the school in protest and yell hateful things at Ruby.  Ruby was the only child in her class and her teacher realized that she wasn’t scared and she wanted to learn.  The Story of Ruby Bridges is bittersweet as she tries to bridge the gap of equality in the south by becoming the first African American child in an all-white school.

Curriculum Connections

This book is a wonderful story to introduce equality and respect for individual rights and freedoms (Virginia SOL Civics 3.12).  It would be great for students to read to learn about the principles of the civil rights movement and why it was such an important time in the history of our country.  Students could read The Story of Ruby Bridges and then write a reaction journal to how they would feel if an angry mob tried to scare them from coming to school everyday because their skin was a different color.  A great way to add in writing skills for language arts while learning about civics.

Additional Resources

  • Word Wall – An activity to make a word wall using the words from The Story of Ruby Bridges.
  • Video Clip – Video of The Story of Ruby Bridges as retold by a child.

General Information

Book:  The Story of Ruby Bridges
Author:  Robert Coles
Illustrator:  George Ford
Publisher:  Scholastic
Publication Date:  1995
Pages:  25
Grade Range:  1-3
ISBN:  978-0-439-59844-6