biography, culture, disabilities, family, spotlight

Spotlight: The Electric Slide and Kai/All the Way to the Top

The Electric Slide and Kai (Lee & Low Books)
Written by Kelly J. Baptist
Illustrated by Darnell Johnson

For ages: 5-8
Dancing is a fun part of any wedding, and you want to join the rest of the family and friends on the dance floor to celebrate. Kai hears Aunt Nina is getting married and wants to sharpen up his moves. Everyone in the family has a dancing nickname except for Kai, and he hopes this year it will change. He gets help from his family members, and they happily aid him. However, when the wedding day comes, Kai gets scared during the reception and slips away. Uncle Troy, Nina’s new husband, tells Kai he’s nervous about getting a dance nickname, too, and they hype each other up.

This is a wonderfully relatable book for many children who get nervous about performing in front of people while simultaneously feeling drawn to it. The various ways Kai tries to learn the Electric Slide are delivered with good-natured humor. Darnell Johnson’s illustrations help by showcasing Kai’s dizziness and confusion when trying out moves and trying to understand his family’s advice. The book’s message is ultimately to lean into family when you need help and keep practicing and trying because you will eventually get better at your skills.

Activities

1. This book provides a great opportunity to have circle time and share compliments to each other about skills & abilities that strengths in others. Having compliment time like this helps foster a positive classroom culture and should be done weekly.

2. Getting a dance nickname is a key part of what makes Kai want to improve. Have students assign each other dance nicknames and write about why this person matches the name.

3. Have students pick a dance they know well and outline each of the steps in their writing. Then have them teach the class their dance using their writing.


All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything (Sourcebooks Explore)
Written by Annette Bay Pimental
Illustrated by Nabi Ali

For ages: 5-8
Jennifer Keelan was born in 1982 and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after. By age eight, she was climbing the steps of the U.S. Capitol as part of a protest in support of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Keelan is a person who has never allowed the limitations of her world to stop her from doing what she wants. The book shows that Jennifer and her family discovered how inaccessible facilities were to her when she started elementary school. She couldn’t even eat in the cafeteria with her class. Tired of being ignored, Jennifer and her family join up with a group of disabilities activists to fight for the ADA. During a major protest in D.C, Jennifer begins crawling the capitol steps after she is told no by many of the adults present.

Jennifer’s story is a vital one for all children and adults. Despite the passage of the ADA, people with disabilities are still marginalized in American society. While many buildings have been built with accommodations in mind, there is still much improvement. People with disabilities saw the possibility of a better world at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home and other precautions served to make the world more accessible. Unfortunately, now that the rabid push for a “return to normal” is in full swing, people with disabilities are again having their access and safety threatened. Jennifer is not an Other; she’s us. By hearing her story and being inspired, we should be driven to fight for that better, more inclusive world where everyone’s voice is essential.

Activities

1. Take your students on a walk through the school/neighborhood. Make a list during your walk about the ways your school/neighborhood has been made more accessible for people with disabilities. Share what you saw and have a discussion.

2. Students can write a reflective journal imagining how Jennifer must have felt on that day in D.C. Students should also share how they would have felt in her place and why.

3. Identify a place in your school/community where accessibility could be improved. Write a detailed letter and send it to local representatives. Make this a major project at your school and keep at it until accessibility is improved. This is a great opportunity to show students that legislators must be held accountable.

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