civil rights picture book, ruby bridges, mason steele,

Civil Rights for Kids Picture Book of the Day

Today, when I searched for a perfect picture book for Picture Book of the Day, a picture book on Civil Rights for kids found me. As Fast as Words Could Fly had been sitting on my pile waiting patiently. A long while. But just yesterday, I had the honor and privilege of bringing Civil Rights Icon, Ruby Bridges, to my elementary school. I was able to spend time with her by  driving her to her hotel in Boston after the presentation along with my two girls.

Ruby Bridges with Pragmatic Mom

My girls noted how elegantly composed she was. It was the way she spoke, they noted. And she was warm, friendly and down-to-earth. There is something about her presence that, while she is able to go about everyday life unrecognized, makes you sit up straighter and take notice. At least, that was the effect for about 200 kids at our elementary school. Her message was both about to effect change (and it does take a village) as well as a more personal one about giving every person a chance.

It’s apt that her last name is “bridges” because she was the person who crossed a very dangerous bridge allowing others to follow. Ruby is here with two of our teachers. Mrs. H. to the farthest left came up to tell Ruby that because of her work, she was able to attend a previously all white private school in Brookline. Mrs. H-C to the far right is a teacher who also teaches diversity and acceptance as a core message to kindergarteners.

Ruby Bridges, Ruby Bridges with teachers she affected

Ruby Bridges fought for integration in New Orleans. The year was 1960 when she was finally allowed to attend an all white school. In other parts of the country, this very same battle happened over and over again.

While Ruby’s story might be the most well knows as it is told through four books and a Disney movie, there are manu more stories of kids who overcame adversity, prejudice and hatred to attend integrated schools. As Fast as Words Could Fly is the story of author Pamela M. Tuck’s father and the role he played in Greenville, North Carolina.

Ruby Bridges talked about the importance of communication in the fight for civil rights. Letter writing was an important tool to get political leaders to help. Young Mason Steele became the de factor communications arm for his father’s civil rights group, writing the letters to politicians and business leaders about the injustices taking place. Words, and the tools of communication — then the typewriter — ended up being powerful tools for Mason.

For both Ruby Bridges and 14-year-old Mason Steele, proponents of segregation used inferiority as one of the reasons why schools could not be integrated. Ruby, along with 136 other rising first graders, had to “pass” an all day rigged test created to make them fail. She was one of six children who passed. Mason Steele uses his typing skills as a communication vehicle that showed white people that blacks were just as good, if not better, in a high school typing competition.

As Fast as Words Could Fly by Pamela M. Tuck, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

14-year-old Mason Steele used his typing skills both as a writer and a speed typist to prove that he had the right to attend a previously all white school. His important Civil Rights story showed that kids could make a difference as well as the personal battles they fought every day at school.


For anyone who wants to learn more about Ruby Bridges, including how to bring her as a speaker to your school, the information is here at her site.

Disney’s Ruby Bridges

Ruby said that she worked really hard on the movie to make sure it was historically accurate and she’s proud of the result. Our third grade watched it in the classroom before her visit. It also makes a great family movie to watch together.

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story (Scholastic Reader, Level 2) by Ruby Bridges

The Story Of Ruby Bridges: Special Anniversary Edition by Robert Coles

p.s. I have more books for children on The Civil Rights Movement:

Top 10:  African American Picture Books. If you read the 10 books in order, it covers the key periods and people in African American history through picture books.

Celebrating MLK Day with 3 Children’s Books. I selected two picture books and one chapter book to help tell the story of the impact Martin Luther King, Junior made.

Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Children’s Books. I have seven books for kids including picture books, YA, non-fiction and chapter books.

Ten Chapter Books for Kids on the Civil Rights Movement. This list covers many genres including picture books, chapter books, Young Adult and non-fiction.

5th Grade Slavery Unit. I cover a little of the history of the Underground Railroad where I live, what life was like during this time and book list including picture books and chapter books.

Booker T Washington: Picture Book of the Day. The story of Booker T. Washington told through an advanced picture book.

To view any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book. I’m an affiliate.

civil rights picture book, ruby bridges, mason steele,

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. This is such an amazing post. I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the book, and I have recommended it to several teachers. Thanks as always!
    catherine recently posted…Sight linesMy Profile

    • Hi Catherine,
      I’m so glad that you liked the book. I think it’s so important to tell these “ordinary heroism” stories of kids who collectively have changed the world. It was so eye opening to me that something that we take for granted — typing skills — was used to demonstrate effectively for Civil Rights. It makes so much sense that protest can be as peaceful and powerful as winning a typing competition. I just wish that someone had cheered for him and given him the award too. He deserved that.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…K’NEX Competition with Prizes: A Fun Summer Project!My Profile

  2. If only these books could change adults perceptions. There is still lots of bigotry today and it starts at the top. It’s usually the more accepting people anyway who give their kids books like these
    Faigie recently posted…Kids don’t know what to color? Have them finish the pictureMy Profile

    • Hi Faigie,
      I hear you! But I’m also hoping that the story inspires kids to realize that they can be agents of change in their own way. It doesn’t have to be big and flashy or Super Hero-y. Sometimes just quietly standing up for someone or something they believe in can change the world in ways that reverberate forever. I really like these true stories of ordinary heroism. It gives me hope.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…K’NEX Competition with Prizes: A Fun Summer Project!My Profile

  3. Maria Gianferrari

    Thanks for the inspirational post! Can’t wait to read it!

  4. I loved the story of Ruby Bridges and appreciated how valuable it was as a teaching resource. I can’t wait to see this book because I know it will be another winner!

    • Hi Barbara,
      It was such a honor and pleasure to meet Ruby Bridges. She said that the work she does gives her hope for the future. She’s changing kids by opening their eyes one auditorium at a time. I just think it’s too bad that she wasn’t able to go college because she would make the most amazing teacher. I guess she is teaching now as well but if she ever stops doing school visits, I think she should be in the classroom.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…K’NEX Competition with Prizes: A Fun Summer Project!My Profile

  5. How cool!!! We read the level two reader she wrote earlier this year, and loved it! I didn’t know there was a movie, but now I will get a copy for us to watch. I think she is a wonderfully inspirational person!
    Maryanne recently posted…Baby Sign LanguageMy Profile

    • Hi MaryAnne,
      I didn’t realize there was a movie either until the event but it sounds like a wonderful way to make Ruby’s story come alive. She said that she worked very hard on it to make sure it was accurate. There were some details that are misconceptions like she refused to eat her lunch and hid it because she was afraid of being poisoned. She said that wasn’t true though the threats to poison her were real. The federal agents asked that her mom pack her a lunch for safety reasons but the reason she hid her lunch was to be allowed into the cafeteria so that she might meet some kids to play with. The principal was hiding the white kids who were there (a handful of kids whose families wanted to support Civil Rights) but they were hidden deliberately so they could not play with Ruby. My kids were horrified that the principal was so evil. I wonder who this person is and how she feels about it decades later. I also think that the families who risked their jobs and lives by sending their kids to school with Ruby should be commended and identified too. Ruby said that they were not offered Federal protection and that crosses were burned on their lawns, bricks were thrown through their windows and the husbands lost their jobs. So many people fought for Civil Rights … it a good reminder of the extent of the movement!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…K’NEX Competition with Prizes: A Fun Summer Project!My Profile

  6. I love success stories and especially if they are stories about liberation. I have to read this one.
    Viren recently posted…Email Marketing To BusinessesMy Profile

  7. Ann

    Wow the real Ruby Bridges wow! We loved the Disney movie!
    And we will have to check out. This book we loved the one you recommended about Booker T Washington!
    Ann recently posted…Summer ReadingMy Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      It’s good to know about the Ruby Bridges Disney movie. I didn’t know about it until the presentation but I hear that it is excellent. The kids who watched it before meeting her seemed to get more out of the presentation as well.

      And I’m so glad that you liked the Booker T Washington picture book. I do love the As Fast As Words Could Fly as well and would recommend it for a Civil Rights unit. We do that in 4th grade at my elementary school.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Three “Banned” Books Your Children Must ReadMy Profile

  8. Rebecca from Here Come the Girls

    I love how you have approached this topic through books.

    Thanks for linking to The Sunday Showcase. I’ve pinned to our board.
    Rebecca from Here Come the Girls recently posted…The Sunday Showcase – Father’s Day IdeasMy Profile

  9. This is such great information! Civil rights is such an important topic and good books make it much easier to teach! Thanks for sharing this at Teach Me Tuesday at Preschool Powol Packets!!
    Carla recently posted…Summer Fun For Preschoolers: Water Activities!My Profile

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