The Other Side Literature Guide
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Jacqueline Woodson has created a beautiful story about the confusion of children over racial tension. One of the most touching things about this book is that it is the children who give us hope for the future. With the help of this book, you can empower your child to feel that he or she can make the world a better place. We hope your family enjoys the suggested activities that encourage reflection and taking action about issues such as making friends, following rules, and improving the world.
ASK: What is the purpose of a fence?
SHOW: Look at the picture on the cover and read the title of the book. Talk about what is on each side of the fence on the cover. Talk about what those girls might be thinking. Think of some reasons why those girls aren’t playing together.
CONNECT: Name some boundaries you are not allowed to cross—maybe it is a busy street or even the door of your sister’s room. What other boundaries do you know about that are okay to cross. Talk about what a boundary is and some reasons boundaries cannot be crossed (privacy, safety, avoid disputes).
ASK: Why do you think the white girl seems so sad? How do you think the black girl feels about that girl?
SHOW: Look at the picture of the girls seeing each other in town. Notice how the girls are dressed so much alike. The mothers are dressed alike, too. Do you think it is confusing to the girls why they should be kept apart? They are neighbors, the same age, and have the same interests. Doesn’t it seem that, of course, they should be friends? Why do you think the girls are looking at each other but the mothers aren’t?
CONNECT: Why do you think the adults don’t try to change “the way things have always been?” Is it up to children to make changes in the world because adults won’t? What changes would you like to make to today’s world?
ASK: Why do you think Clover’s mother didn’t tell her to get down from the fence?
SHOW: Look at the pictures on the last two pages of all the girls on the fence. What do you think is going on in these pictures?
CONNECT: Have you ever felt like something was wrong and you knew something had to be done to fix it? What did you do about it?
- Annie and Clover were taking steps toward making their world a better place. Sometimes children are the best people to make changes because adults are used to doing things in a certain way. Think of something you (and your friends) can do to make the world a better place. Think of an issue, such as hunger, pollution, a sick neighbor, or recycling. Make a plan for a small thing you can do to improve the problem. Do it.
- Annie and Clover made friends slowly. They watched each other and moved carefully together, step-by-step. Talk about how you make friends. What do you say and do? Do you make friends in the same way in the neighborhood as you do at school? Where else have you made a friend? Do your friends look like you and act like you (same gender, same skin color, same religion, same personality, etc.)? Draw pictures of yourself playing with your friends.
- A fence is a boundary. Another kind of boundary is a rule. A rule tells you the limit for your behavior. Talk about how a family rule is like a fence. Name your family rules and write them down. Talk about what happens when you cross the boundary from following the rule to breaking the rule. What is the purpose of a rule (safety, avoid conflict)?
- Clover and Annie climbed up on the fence because they wanted to test the boundary between them. They were sure that someday the fence would come down. Have you ever tested a boundary (tried to cross it to see what would happen)? Think about boundaries such as a street and fence, as well as a boundary such as a rule. Why did you test it? Did you wonder if the boundary was important? What did you find out?
- The illustrator of this book, E. B. Lewis, used watercolor paints for the pictures. Get some watercolors and paint some pictures of trees and sky. Add the ground and a fence. If you feel brave and free, try painting people, too. Test different techniques on different pieces of paper. Use more water for a softer color and less water for a deeper color. Paint the background first and let it dry before adding details.
- Think of someone at school or the playground who often plays alone (or a neighbor who lives alone). Next time you are there, ask that person to play. Make a plan now for what you will say and do to include him or her in your play activity.
- Think about where you are right now. Name some “other sides” from where you are. For example, if you are sitting next to Mom, she has another side. Who or what is on her other side? What are some more other sides from you? (There is the other side of . . . the table, the room, the window, the street, the town, and the world.) Are you happy with which side you are on? Would you like to know more about the other side? How would you feel if someone told you not to go to one of those other sides?