GUEST WRITER JANE BURKE RECOMMENDS FOUR FEET, TWO SANDALS BY KAREN LYNN WILLIAMS AND KHADRA MOHAMMED
Books act as both a mirror to self-reflect, and a window to unveil the lived experience of others. Stories allow us to broaden our horizons by perceiving other ways of living and being in this world. In this way, books become a mechanism for the social connection needed for dialogue to affect social change. I teach and learn through story. Books are a way to connect as we vicariously experience the world in a thousand lives from a thousand minds to broaden our perspectives. Books are the heartbeat that give learning life in my classroom.
In grade 2, we have been building our capacity throughout the school year to “respond critically to texts and to develop an understanding and respect for diversity” (ACELAC K-3, GCO7, SCO pg.31). We need to be mindful as book detectives to find and include books written from a variety of perspectives and in a variety of voices to foster empathy and affirm the history, culture, family background, and experiences of every child in our classroom. If we include books that wrongly represent the experiences of students or lack books that represent all students, we will never open our students’ hearts and minds to inclusivity and we will continue to teach them to judge others based on their isolated experiences and shallow reading identities.
Four Feet, Two Sandals, a collaborative work by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed is a portrayal of two fictitious refugee children based on past true stories and experiences from Mohammed’s work in refugee camps. By mid-2020, 80 million people had been displaced from their homes worldwide, including 26 million refugees and about half are under the age of 18. This individual story is just one out of millions of childhood refugee experiences. These stories have the power to foster empathetic feelings and impact the attitudes of how children in future host countries perceive child refugees. A single story on its own is not enough to foster or cultivate empathy. I recommend Four Feet, Two Sandals as part of a varied collection of childhood refugee stories for any classroom library.
Other recommended childhood refugee stories:
S. Jane Burke, grade 2 teacher at Townsview School, learning from and teaching through stories.