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.

It takes courage to be yourself when you feel different. Jacqueline Woodson leads the reader through several scenarios of children being different than those around them. She shows how it feels to be an outsider and different. Telling your story is used as a way to bridge the differences. The day you begin to tell your story, you see that everyone is a little bit different and a little bit the same.

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 what this story might be about. What details in the picture are evidence of what you think? Point out that the girl is holding a book and ask why that might be important to the story. 

CONNECT: How might you describe how the girl on the cover is feeling?  Have you ever felt the way her face seems to show?  

During Reading 

ASK: What is your first thought when someone is different than you? Are you curious? Why isn't it a good idea to say aloud the first thing that comes to mind when someone is very different? How might you learn more about that person?

SHOW: Point out and talk about some of the differences between the children in the story: hair, skin color, clothes, language, names, food, size, ability, family, and vacation stories. 

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 began to show your bravery? Share what happened.  

After Reading 

ASK: What happens when you begin to tell your story? Why does the girl's voice get stronger when she tells her story? How did the other kids respond to her when she began to open up?

SHOW: Look at the last page. How are the kids feeling now? What did they learn about being the same and being different?

CONNECT: What can you say kindly to learn more about someone who is different/new to you? How do you think your actions would make them feel?  


  1. Make a list of ways to use your face, words, and body to be friendly and kind. Discuss where and with whom that is safe and appropriate. A simple service act of giving away your smile each day can be welcoming. Reflect on what a difference it can make.
  2. Make a family or classroom “Compliment Jar.”  Write a short positive statement about someone and put it in the jar. Do that every day and include everyone. When the jar has several notes, read a few of these each day. Differences are celebrated when we are able to recognize the good in each other. 
  3. Make a chain of talents for the family or classroom. Everyone writes on strips of paper their talents or things they know or can do that make the group stronger. Link the strips together and hang them across the room.