On Monday, May 15, fifth-graders from Manhattan Country School, Central Park East II and Children’s Workshop School presented the MLK Living the Dream Book Award to the children’s book I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, in a ceremony at Manhattan Country School. The award is presented to a children’s picture book that embodies the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Students write their own criteria for the award: a main character fighting for equal rights, a meaningful message relating to what Dr. King fought for or what he would fight for today and expressive illustrations. They measure several children’s books against the criteria, debate the merits of the final selections and choose the award-winning book. Throughout the process, each student participates in active discussions with children from each school. Themes of racial and social justice, LGBTQ rights, advocacy and inequality are an important part of the focus of these talks. This process not only allows students to use their voices to express their opinions and insights, but also provides them with space to grow as writers, readers and listeners.
This year’s honoree, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, is based on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ruth grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in the 1940s alongside many other immigrant cultures. Her life was different in one crucial way. Ruth’s mother believed that girls should have the same opportunities that boys had at that time. Through several family trips, Ruth got to see how others lived and thrived, but she was also witness to racial and religious biases as well. This had a powerful impact on Ruth’s belief system as she went on to pursue and earn a law degree, which was a rare thing for women at the time. She then made it her mission to fight for the rights of women and people of color. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court. She continues to fight for the rights of many people from varied backgrounds as well as providing inspiration for young girls and so many others.
The Living the Dream Book Award is a project of Manhattan Country School’s Public Outreach Program, in collaboration with Central Park East II and Children’s Workshop School. Manhattan Country School was founded in 1966 as a place where equity, social justice, diversity and the inspiration of Dr. King would form the basis of children’s education. Today, MCS is a progressive, independent, co-ed school with broad racial and socioeconomic diversity fostered by sliding-scale tuition.