Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: The Bus Ride that Changed History


The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks, written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Danny Shanahan, is a simple book that uses repetitive phrasing to powerfully express its themes of civil rights and civil disobedience. It tells the story of Rosa Parks standing up to the bus law of the time forcing African Americans to sit in the back of the public buses, giving all priority to white passengers. Rosa Parks did not cooperate and refused to give up her seat for a white passenger, as a result she was arrested and put on trial, fueling the civil rights movement. The story itself is structured to point out each character of the event with phrases like “These are the black passengers riding the bus in Montgomery,””This is Rosa Parks…” and “This is the boycott triggered by the verdict of guilty at the trial…” etc. The pictures offer context for the narrative. All of the paragraphs end with the same phrase and follow a format similar to this example:

This is Rosa Parks, who said “No!” to
the driver who told her to move for the white man
left standing near the seats of the back passengers riding
the bus in Montgomery,
where they enforced a law forbidding
blacks to sit next to whites on buses,
which was overturned because one woman was brave.

The story really emphasizes the bravery Rosa Parks showed by standing up for her right to ride the bus with the simple wording and repetition. It would be a great book to read out loud for a class because of the it carries such a rhythm. Small cartoon children also supplement the narrative with their speech bubbles bringing up questions and offering small facts about that point in history. One such character brings up the obvious question to reiterate to kids: “Why make it so difficult for black people? Shouldn’t they be treated the same as white passengers?” The book presents many serious questions and themes through its story. Reading it can be a great way to start discussing these serious themes with children and get them thinking about the way society works.

Curriculum Connections
The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks
formally satisfies the Virginia SOL for civics: 2.10 – responsibilities of a good citizen – respecting and protecting the rights of others. But the book can also be used to talk about eras in US history like the civil rights movement, or important people of history like Rosa Parks. Students can have a better understanding of laws and how sometimes the law can be unjust.

Additional Resources

  • Here’s a great site with additional information about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Check out biographical information about Rosa Parks and her legacy, news articles and a time line of the civil rights movement.

  • For some great photos of Rosa Parks and a documented interview, check out this site.
  • Here’s a fun coloring page printable of Rosa Parks for kids to color.

Book:  The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks
Pamela Duncan Edwards
Illustrator: Danny Shanahan
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 2-5
ISBN: 0618449116

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