Monday, January 29, 2007

Mrs. Katz and Tush

Mrs. Katz and Tush (Patricia Polacco) is about a young African American boy, Larnel, who develops a close relationship with his Jewish neighbor, Mrs. Katz. She shares stories from her past and tells him about her experiences as a Jewish woman. She drews connections between Jewish and African American history, explaining how their races are very much alike. She shares Jewish culture with Larnel through food and even holidays. The story explains how friendship can bridge gaps in age and race. Though Larnel and Mrs. Katz possess a great deal of physical differences, they have many similarities.

I would use this book in my classroom to help students understand that even people who appear to be different are actually very similar. Together we would create a chart that explains how Mrs. Katz and Larnel possess both similarities and differences. Then I would pair up the students so that they can could find similarities and diffferences among themselves. The book also explains how people who are unfamiliar with a particular culture can still appreciate those customs and ways of life. Though Larnel was not Jewish, he still enjoyed eating Jewish food and celebrating Passover with Mrs. Katz. I would ask my students if they have a close relationship with someone of another culture. We would talk about how those differences make their relationship interesting and how they share their own cultures with each other. Students can also interview each other or people in their neighborhoods who come from a different race or practice a different religion. This would help students to accept and celebrate different cultures.

Mrs. Katz explains how African Americans and Jewish people are similar. They have both experienced hard times and suffering, yet they found ways to overcome it and found strength within themselves. Both cultures have been oppressed and forced to live in a way that they did not agree with. With my students, I would have discussions about these similarities. We would discuss the treatment of Jewish people and African Americans, as well as other oppressed groups of people. We could also discuss the ways in which the two groups fought for change. From there my students would realize that many cultures have unfairly suffered from injustice but found ways to promote change.

This book falls within each stage of social justice:
1. Self-love and acceptance - Students learn to appreciate their culture by sharing it with others.
2. Respect for others - As they read about Mrs. Katz and Larnel's relationship, students will learn that people should respect other cultures and celebrate them.
3. Exploring issues of social justice - When Mrs. Katz compares Jewish people and African Americans, she touches upon the ideas of racism and oppression.
4. Social movements and social change - Though the book itself does not provide specifics about the ways in which people have struggled for social change, it can spark conversations about individuals who have helped different groups of people find freedom and equality.
5. Taking social action - After reading this book, students can begin thinking about groups of people who are currently being oppressed and discuss ways in which they can work for change.

Here is a link to a website that tells you how to use the book to teach anti-semitism. The second link gives a list of quotes from the book that you can use to address various concepts, such as Jewish language, immigration, and holidays.
Challenging Anti-Semitism
Mrs. Katz and Tush Reference Page

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