Me and My Hair is a thoughtful picture book that lends itself to making personal connections with anti-racism. It is most suitable for grades 4 to 6 students. In the story of Rayne, we learn about a young Black girl who initially loves her hair until she moves to a new school where students tease and harass her about it.
By talking about her feelings with her family and visiting a hair salon that specializes in Black hair, Rayne learns to love her hair again. It is in this connection to family and community where the emotional heart of this book can be found. It is a powerful example of how a loving community can support a young girl as she learns to traverse the challenges of this world, which includes racism for Rayne.
Not only does this book lend itself to the Language Arts curriculum expectation of extending understanding by making personal connections about times we have felt left out or different, but the story is also a great jumping off point to talk to students about how they can choose to be anti-racist. In this way, the oral expectation of using inclusive and non-discriminatory language can be addressed.
Near the beginning of the book, when she realizes the students have been laughing at her hair on the school bus, Rayne finds it difficult to speak and loses her smile. It is at this point that as teachers reading the book with our students we could ask, “What would you have done if you saw this happening to a new student on the bus? What would you do if you witnessed racism?”
I would like to think that we would all have the courage to speak out against the students’ bullying on the bus, but that takes a lot of strength and bravery. Discussing inclusive non-discriminatory language might help students think of ways to be anti-racist if there are moments when they witness bullying or racism in the future but are afraid to speak out or do not know what to say.
Katie Brubacher is a member of the Peel Teacher Local.