READ + DISCUSS: Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Tell Your Story
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The story Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson follows six students that all have different stories to tell. Each student brings something different to the table and has experienced hardship and faced marginalization as well as questions of identity. Though each student comes from a different background, they all are able to come together and share aspects of their experience with one another. Woodson does an exemplary job of weaving a story of acceptance, understanding, and confrontation of the cultural biases that are held in society.

Harbor Me struck us as an important read because it emphasized the effect that students in schools can have on each other. The connections that are made in the book, between the students, are the glue that binds them. Connecting with one another and learning about others whose stories differ from one’s own enables compassion not only for others but for one’s self. Friendship and compassion are major themes of this book as well as being open to understanding perspectives that differ from one’s own.

Learning Activity: Telling Your Story

  • Have students choose to tell their own story or a favorite character from a book, television show, or movie if they are unable to tell their own.

  • In class, the students should be given an appropriate amount of time to brainstorm, outline, or work on what they would like to do/say.

  • This activity could end up looking a variety of ways, depending on how creative students are willing to get. Some options could be to either create a collage, do a short 200-300 word essay, create a short song, or a short film if they so wish.

  • Allow time in class, for those that are willing to, to share their story for their classmates.

  • When sharing, have students arrange the chairs in the classroom so that they can sit in a circle to promote a safe and equal space.

Group Discussion

Before the discussion have students watch How to Teach Kids About Taboo Topics and read Teaching Tolerance at School.

Discussion: What Is Tolerance?

Supplies needed: colored markers, colored pencils, or crayons and blank or colorful paper- color is preferable because it is a nice visual aid.

Have students create an identity chart by writing their name in the center of the paper.

From their name, students will draw a “web” of sorts and write down interests or things they feel define them.

Give students the opportunity to go around and share two of their interests for the class if they are willing.

What to Read Next? Books on Similar Topics for Young Adults and Middle Readers

First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants by Donald R. Gallo

This compilation from eleven different authors offers a look into the lives of many teenagers from around the globe who are in the process of immigration. While not chronologically set in a classroom, First Crossing is sure to engage readers' attention and emotions through the perspectives of many different characters from many different places!

SanTana’s Fairy Tales by Sarah Rafael García

This book will be familiar to readers of Harbor Me in the sense that it deals heavily on the topic of immigrants and the issues that they face in their everyday lives. From ICE, public relations, and economic struggles SanTana’s Fairy Tales will expose the reader to a perspective of those who come to the United States with the hopes of a better life but are instead met with inequality and unjust demonization.

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