Early Reader – Ruby Bridges Goes to School

In 1960 Ruby Bridges was just starting school. But she was not just any student: she was the first African-American elementary student to attend an all-white school. Not everyone was happy about this turn of events, and Ruby learned alone in a classroom that contained only herself and her teacher. She walked past crowds of protesters every morning on her way to school. Fifty years later, she has written an early reader talking to young children about this period of her life, as well as her work with children today.

This is a Scholastic Reader Level 2 book, intended for the developing reader, roughly grades 1-2. Most sentences are simple, but there are some longer and more complex sentences as well. The illustrations are all photographs from the period.

The story of Ruby Bridges is a powerful one, and has been already documented in picture books and biographies. The material has been written here in a manner that clearly has its young audience in mind. In the section where Ms. Bridges talks about the protesters, she says simply “They yelled at me to go away.” No mention is made of the daily death threats. I can’t decide whether this is a good choice in view of the fact that the average child reading the book is probably going to be about six years old, or whether the omission of these hateful actions somehow diminishes the impact of Ruby’s courage at at time when she herself was only six years old.

This is a great book to start a discussion with a first or second grader about racism and the ways in which racism can affect everyone, both young and old

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