“Just Ask” by Sonia Sotomayor is a beautiful book to share with students that presents important topics in a simple and relaxed way. The ease of the storytelling makes it easy for kids to understand and discuss the topics. The book celebrates diversity and children of all abilities and opens an honest dialogue to help answer questions about peers with differing abilities and needs. It addresses topics that are sometimes ignored and allows students to see that sometimes there is more than meets the eye.
The book celebrates diversity in such a special way. Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be so tough. The garden in the story helps students see that just as the flowers are all different, they each add their own beauty…just as WE do to the world around us. Different people, cultures, abilities, and needs are what make our world vibrant and beautiful.
“Just Ask” is a heartfelt story that many kids will be able to identify with and many will learn from. Kids are curious and discussing ways to speak up and ask about disabilities, medical challenges, or differences lends many learning opportunities. Each child's story in the book opens up great discussions of acceptance, inclusion, diversity, self-love, and recognizing differences that we cannot see.
Skills to teach with “Just Ask”:
- Making connections
- Compare and contrast
5 Favorite “Just Ask” Activities
“Just Ask” is a book that gives students prompts to consider for each child's story that is presented. It really gives students something to think about and there are so many great activities and conversations you can have together. Here are a few activities that you can do with your students after reading the book:
1. The Importance of Asking
The story begins with a beautiful metaphor, sharing that a garden is a place where many plants can bloom. We know that flowers grow in different ways, at different times or stages, and need different things to bloom…just like we do. The beginning of the book encourages students to “Just Ask” if they are curious about other kids. We each bloom in our own ways, and each of us is beautiful just as the flowers in a garden.
You can ask students to think about the importance of asking when they are curious. Why is it important to ask about someone's differences if you are feeling curious?
2. Different Ways to Learn
Each child's story in the book shows how their difference can be challenging. And many instances in the book lend to student's understanding of how we all learn in different ways. Some of us may communicate in a way that is different from others, some may ask questions, some may get distracted. But each of us can find ways that help us learn and grow.
Have students think about ways that they learn best. Do they like to listen, ask questions, be in a certain setting? We can learn about others while also learning more about ourselves and our learning styles too.
3. Each of Us is Unique
One important theme of the book is that we are each unique and we bring our own power to the world. Ask students how THEY make the world more interesting and richer? We each have something that is special and no one else has, we can use that to teach others, help others, and share our unique qualities with pride.
4. Discussing Feelings
“Just Ask” shares so many different stories and highlights some challenges and struggles that some people feel. Students can share their own feelings when they feel frustrated and discuss strategies that they use to cope.
5. Using Your Voice
Speaking up really takes a lot of courage and takes students out of their comfort zone. They can think about how they can find the courage to use their voice and ask about things they are curious about and to speak up about things that are important. Students can write about one thing that is important to them that they can use their voice to speak up.
“Just Ask” is a wonderful book to share with your students. Many students will be able to connect to the stories that are shared, feel comfortable enough to share their own stories, or empathize with the stories being told. Your students will walk away feeling confident in asking about things they are curious about while learning about acceptance and recognizing differences in others.
I hope you and your students love it!
You can grab a free one-page guide for using this book in your classroom here:
You can find “Just Ask” to purchase here:
You can find more of my favorite read-aloud books HERE.
And read more about why I think reading aloud is so important HERE.