The Day You Begin Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Act of Kindness
Celebrating Differences
Diverse Communities
by Jacqueline Woodson - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to explore the themes of bravery and telling your own story.

Being different takes bravery. Jacqueline Woodson leads the reader through several scenarios of being different than those who are around you. She shows how it’s not easy to step out onto a new horizon and that it takes being brave. This bravery is celebrated and telling your story is used as an avenue to break down those differences. When we meet others halfway, everyone is happier. 

Literature Guide by Kathy Adamonis

Before Reading 

ASK: Look around. Are we all alike? How are you different than those around you?  List some ways, and be sure to be generous and kind to yourself and others. 

SHOW: Look at the cover and talk about the title of the book: The Day You Begin. Ask children to predict what they think this story will be about. What details in the picture are evidence of what you think? Notice details of the little girl on the cover and talk about them. Point out that she’s holding a book and ask what they think that means? 

CONNECT: Have you seen anyone who looks like this? What book do you think she has in her hands? What is your favorite book? 

During Reading 

ASK: What is your first thought when someone is different than you? Do you say aloud the first thing that comes to mind when someone is very different? Why or why not?

SHOW: Point out some of the differences: hair, skin color, clothes, way of speaking, names, size, gender, etc. (Show the pictures of the girl looking out the apartment window and the other with her head down at the lunch table.) How does the child in the story feel about her summer activities and what her mother packs in her lunch? Why does she feel this way? What can she do to feel better? 

CONNECT: Have you ever been the new kid in a group? How did you feel? Do you remember how you got past being afraid and showing your bravery? Share what happened.  

After Reading 

ASK: What happens at the end of the book. Do differences matter now? How do you know? 

SHOW: Look at the last page. How are the kids feeling now? Describe their faces. Do they still look different? Why isn’t this a problem? 

CONNECT: How might you help someone who is different/new to you? How do you think your actions would make them feel? How can you make a difference by helping others? 


  1. Talk about the power of facial expressions. A simple service act of giving away your smile each day can be practiced. Reflect on how facial expressions can make a positive difference to those around us. 
  2. Establish a “Compliment Jar.”  Set aside time each day (maybe upon arrival or dismissal) to write a short positive statement about a peer. Take time to read a few of these each day. Differences disappear when we are able to recognize the good in each other.