Ruby's Wish

Multicultural Picture Book Read Aloud

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"Ruby's Wish" by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sophie Blackall was published in 2002 by Chronicle Books LLC.

This read aloud is planned for 5th graders. "Ruby's Wish" is about a little girl in old China. This story depicts the conflict between Chinese tradition and Ruby's desire to attend university instead of getting married as would be the norm. At the time, boys were the only ones who attended university. Based upon the inspirational story of the author's grandmother and accompanied by beautiful illustrations, "Ruby's Wish" is an engaging story of a young girl who strives for more and a family who rewards her hard work and courage.


The book has been honored with several literary awards, including:


2005 Monarch Award: Illinois K-3 Children's Choice Award Master List

2003 Amelia Bloomer Project/ALA Recommended Feminist Books for Youth

2003 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award

2003 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award

Best Books of 2003, Arne Nixon Center for Children's Literature

2002 Publishers Weekly, Best Children's Books

2002 Publishers Weekly's 13th annual Off the Cuff Awards, Most Eye-Catching Jacket

Research regarding "Ruby's Wish"

This story is based on the true story of the author's grandmother. Shirin Yim Bridges has lived in many countries around the world, including Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. She has written a few children's books, mainly centered around the idea that girls can do anything when they apply themselves to it. She now runs a publishing company, Goosebottom Books. Shirin Yim Bridges has also taught writing and publishing at many conferences and universities. She currently resides in California.


Sophie Blackall, the illustrator of this story, is an Australian artist who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has illustrated over twenty children's books, among many other book types and projects, and has won several awards for her work.


One tradition that is mentioned a few times in this story is Chinese New Year.During this 15-day long celebration, red is used prominently. Red is the color of happiness and abundance, and because of this it is the color of celebration. One such instance is in the giving of red envelopes, called hongbao in Mandarin. Inside of these envelopes is placed "good luck money" and these are given to your children, relatives, and employees, as well as friends and their children. The giving of the hongbao is a central part of the ending of this story.


The Lantern Festival is another part of Chinese New Year that Ruby references in the story. This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth and final day of the Chinese New Year celebration. The lanterns are sometimes simple, and sometimes in the shape of animals. Often, they are red to symbolize good fortune. The lanterns are a symbol of letting go of your past self and getting a new self, which will then be repeated again the next year. The most common ways to celebrate during this festival are to light and enjoy lanterns of many types and shapes, setting off fireworks or firecrackers, guessing riddles written on the lanterns, and lion dances.

In telling her grandfather of the preference given to boys in the family, Ruby brings up the mooncakes given during the Moon Festival. Chinese people believe that the full moon is a symbol of peace and prosperity, as well as a time of family reunion. The Moon Festival occurs in mid-autumn. During this time the harvest moon is supposed to be the brightest and fullest moon of the year. In ancient times, mooncakes were a sort of offering to the full moon, but are now the most popular treat during the festival. While mooncakes can have a variety of fillings, a common one is that of a whole egg yolk placed in the center of the cake to symbolize the full moon.

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Multicultural Literature Criteria

  • "Ruby's Wish" portrays cultural accuracy and authenticity of characters because the author has personal experience and a connection with this story. It is based on the true story of the author's grandmother. Ruby's experience of growing up in old China involved having to fight for what girls normally were not allowed to have; in this case, an education.


  • This book provides insight into a cultural issue for China and its people. In the story, Ruby questions why boys are given preference in regards to several matters, with education being the most important to her. She wants an education, but this is not normal for girls. A female attending a university is especially unheard of. The Chinese preference for boys is one that dates back for centuries. Girls have long been aborted or abandoned at birth, and boys treated favorably in regards to food and health care. In Chinese culture, the familial bloodline passes through the male side, and women who marry look after their husband's parents, not their own. Therefore, sons have long been the desired child as this would guarantee provision for the parents in their later years. The one-child policy has been in effect in China for almost 40 years, which has amplified this issue.


  • Because of the underlying issue presented in this story, "Ruby's Wish" is a book that readily invites readers to reflect, think critically and analytically about these issues, and respond in a number of ways. A discussion could be had about the preference given to males in this culture and why, or about the courageous attitude that Ruby had about the predicament she was in and how she was determined to find a way to attain the goal that she desperately wanted. Students can reflect on Ruby's story and think how they could apply these same attributes to situations in their own lives.


I felt that this book would be a good choice for my class because it might be a new experience and new information for them. There are no Asian students in the class, and very few at the school overall, so I thought this culture might be one that they have had less exposure to. Being 5th graders and getting ready to head into middle school, they might also be starting to think about their futures and what career or college might interest them. Sharing a story with them about a young girl who had to actively pursue and work so hard for her education and desire to go to university may be inspiring to some of the students. They might be the first in their family to go to college or it may just be a dream that they have always had. This story could be an inspiration to them to stay determined to accomplish their goals, whatever that goal may be.

The school has also been focusing on the character trait of courage this month, and I think that Ruby shows a lot of courage and determination in pursuing her dream. I felt that the students would be able to relate to this because it is a trait that they have been talking a lot about lately.

Instructional Procedures:

1. Introduce the book: "Today I am going to be reading aloud a book to you. The title of the book is Ruby's Wish. It is written by Shirin Yim Bridges and was illustrated by Sophie Blackall. This story is about a young girl named Ruby who grew up in China many years ago. But first, there are a couple of words that I would like for you to keep in mind while I am reading the book to you, so before I start reading we are going to do a short activity with those words."


2. "I am going to show you an example of what we will be doing. For my vocabulary word I chose the word determination because I think that Ruby showed a lot of determination in this story."

Show students my completed example word chart for determination. "Have you seen or done an activity like this before?" If so, review. If not, explain: "First, I wrote the word in one of the boxes. Then, in the next box over I needed to define the word to understand what it means. Can someone read the definition I have written?"

"Next, we can use the word in a sentence. Who can read the sentence for me? And last, we will list a few synonyms for the word. Who can tell me what a synonym is?"


3. "Let's practice doing one together. You will make your own card while we discuss it as a group." Have students draw lines to divide a sheet of colored construction paper into four boxes. Hold up the card with the word preference on it. Ask if the students know what it means and if they can help to define it. Talk about preferences that they might have (foods, colors, sports, books, etc.) and write the word and the definition that we come up with on the whiteboard. Have the students write the word on their paper and copy the definition.

Using information learned from discussing the students' preferences, practice writing a sentence using the word. Write the sentence on the whiteboard.

Talk about possible synonyms and decide on two or three for them to write down.

Ask, "How do you think that a preference might show up in this story?" If needed, remind them that it is about a young girl in China many years ago.


4. Show students the second vocabulary card with the word predicament on it. Ask if they know what a predicament is. "Have any of you found yourselves in a predicament - or a difficult situation - before? What was happening and what did you do to get out of it?" Discuss and work on creating a definition for this word to write on the whiteboard. Then, explain that they will be working with a partner to fill out this word chart by themselves.

During this time, I can walk around the room to make sure that students are staying on task and assist with any difficulties.


5. When students are finished with their charts, I will have them come sit on the floor while I read the book to them.


6. There will be certain spots in the book that I may pause to ask a question or answer a question that a student has.

"Does anyone know what a terrapin is?" Another name for a turtle.

"What have you learned about Chinese New Year? What do you know about the red envelopes?"

"Do you know what calligraphy is?" A decorative handwriting, often with a paintbrush.

"Remember the vocabulary word we just practiced - preference? What preference do you think Ruby might be feeling?"

"Do you know what a cockerel is?" A rooster.

"What do you think is in her red envelope?"


7. Discuss with the students after I finish reading the story:

"What was the predicament that Ruby found herself in? How did she find a way to get out of it?"

"What was the preference that you saw or heard in this story? Why do you think that preference might have been there? Do you think that preference still exists today?"

"How do you think that Ruby showed determination?"

"Is there a predicament that you find yourself in that you need some determination to get out of?"

"How can you apply determination in your own life to reach a goal or a dream that you have?"



Vocabulary definitions and synonyms:

Preference: an advantage that is given to some people or things and not to others. Inclination, favorite, first choice, favorable.

Predicament: a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Dilemma, hardship, circumstance, difficulty.

Determination: continue trying to do or achieve something difficult.

Perseverance, courage, dedication, bravery.

Reflection

I felt that this book would be a good choice for my class because it might be a new experience and new information for them. There are no Asian students in the class, and very few at the school overall, so I thought this culture might be one that they have had less exposure to. Being 5th graders and getting ready to head into middle school, they might also be starting to think about their futures and what career or college might interest them. Sharing a story with them about a young girl who had to actively pursue and work so hard for her education and desire to go to university may be inspiring to some of the students. They might be the first in their family to go to college or it may just be a dream that they have always had. This story could be an inspiration to them to stay determined to accomplish their goals, whatever that goal may be.

The school has also been focusing on the character trait of courage this month, and I think that Ruby shows a lot of courage and determination in pursuing her dream. I felt that the students would be able to relate to this because it is a trait that they have been talking a lot about lately.


The vocabulary word chart activity that I chose worked beautifully with these students. Working through the process using "I do, we do, you do" seemed to be effective in aiding their understanding. As they were working on their own charts and I was walking around checking on them, I had a couple of students who told me that they liked doing this activity.

They also seemed to really grasp the meaning of the words and how they applied to the story as I read. About halfway through the book I asked them if they thought that Ruby was feeling a preference and almost all of the students said yes or nodded their heads and were able to tell me what that preference was. In asking questions after I finished reading the book, it was apparent through their answers that they were making the connections between the vocabulary words, the concepts presented in the book, and how these ideas could be applied to their own lives. The students were engaged in answering the questions and taking part in a discussion.


Next time, I would make my example word chart on a piece of chart paper instead of a normal size sheet of paper to ensure that the students in the back of the room are able to read what is on it.


Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has shown me that regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, and time period, everyone can relate to the same stories. I think this is true because humanity is all the same regardless of what their culture or background is. Without me even alluding to the idea of it, I had one student who said that he thought the story told us that it doesn't matter if you are a boy or a girl because we are all the same and no one is better than anybody else. I think this idea is what we can help our students find through incorporating multicultural literature into our classrooms.