By Dustin VandeHoef, College of Education intern
PULLMAN, Wash. – You’re never too young to start making a difference. That’s what author and civil rights activist Paula Young Shelton will tell elementary school students – and university students learning to teach them – when she visits Pullman on Monday, Feb. 8.
Shelton will stop at a Jefferson Elementary School assembly before conducting a workshop for Washington State University education students, “Teaching Social Justice in the Elementary Classroom,” 4-6 p.m. in CUE 203.
Shelton’s book, “Child of the Civil Rights Movement,” was the main text for a lesson about social justice recently presented to Jefferson fourth graders by student teacher and WSU student Caty Carino.
“We thought her book would be a good way to show the child’s point of view of the civil rights movement,” she said.
The fourth graders wrote letters to Shelton about how they plan to carry on her work in social justice. They wrote about school bullying, gender inequalities on some sports teams and the Flint, Mich., water crisis, Carino said.
Shelton responded to every letter.
“Kids are ready to have these conversations earlier than most people realize,” said Paula Groves Price, associate dean for diversity and international programs in the WSU College of Education. “They naturally want justice. They want fairness. If things are unequal it bothers them to the core.”
She said the WSU workshop is focused on helping pre-service teachers and parents have appropriate conversations about social justice with young children.
“These early conversations matter because they make children think,” she said. “They help make them aware of the world around them.”
In her illustrated book, Shelton recounts what it was like as a child to experience racism in the 1960s. At age 4, she marched alongside her father Andrew Young and “Uncle Martin” (Martin Luther King, Jr.) in Selma, Ala.
“The fourth graders feel like they already know her, so they’re very excited,” said Craig Nelson, principal of Jefferson Elementary School.
Paula Groves Price, WSU College of Education, 509-335-7987, firstname.lastname@example.org