Here’s an excerpt:
‘It’s OK to Be Different’
In order to deepen our discussion of gender, I selected another read-aloud. Before we read, I asked my students: “I would like to know—how many of you like to dance?” Most raised their hands.
“How many of you have been told you can’t do something because it was ‘only for boys’ or ‘only for girls’?” Many hands went up.
Then I read Oliver Button Is a Sissy. In the book, Oliver is bullied because he prefers dancing to sports. The students quickly realized that this was not fair and empathized with Oliver Button.
The following day we read It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr. Parr’s books are quite popular in the primary grades because they include an element of humor and simple, colorful illustrations. We read:
It’s OK to wear glasses.
It’s OK to come from a different place.
It’s OK to be a different color.
As we read, I asked questions to empower the students: “Who used to live in a different place?” Students proudly held up their hands. “Awesome!” I replied. “My mom comes from a different place, too. She used to live in Hong Kong.”
Then I guided the direction of the conversation toward gender. As a class, we brainstormed a list of things that students thought were “OK” even though they might challenge society’s gender norms. Monica told us very matter-of-factly, “It’s OK for a girl to marry a girl,” and Jordan said, “My dad carries a purse and that’s OK!” At that point I explained that my father and my friend Wayne both call their man purse a “murse.” The children were fascinated.