The overarching theme that runs through each book is of identity, diversity and uniqueness.
The books connect with each other in different ways. Within each book, there are sub-themes that relate back to the overarching theme of identity and difference. For example:
- the transformational power of self-discovery and the role you can play in the world weaves through I am Malala, The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket, Artichoke Hearts and Raymie Nightingale
- role models, heroes and heroines
Many of the books have a symbolic power and provoking responses to big questions and ideas, such as the red leaf in The Red Tree, light in Raymie Nightingale and the power of words and education in Booked and I am Malala.
Start with the question, ‘What is identity?’. Write the question on a large piece of paper displayed in your reading area. Invite the children to add their thoughts and comments over the course of one or two days. Follow this with a review of what has been written and a brief discussion.
Introduce a range of stimuli to promote further discussion. Here are some suggestions for what might be included:
- quotations about identity
- different shades of the same leaf
- jar of candy hearts,
- friendship bracelets
- pictures of family and friends,
- maps, postcards, books,
- hobbies (twirling baton, football)
- Little Mix song lyrics from We Are Who We Are
- verses from Justin Timberlake’s song Mirrors
- range of self portraits
- ‘..or who you are meant to be’ page from The Red Tree
Make available some prompt cards to support paired or small group discussion. Cards could include the following prompts:
- Do any of these words, phrases, pictures or objects help you find your identity?
- Are you born with your identity? Or is your identity created?
- Is identity the same as individuality?
- Do you have to fit in with others in order to have an identity?
Capture the responses that are generated in response to the discussions. They can be recorded on post-its, annotated lyric sheets. Invite the chidldren to respond to each other’s ideas by adding their own thoughts. Do they agree or disagree with each other?
Introduce the ‘I Am Who I Am’ book selection and display along with the children’s preliminary ideas,
Delve deeper by inviting children to read and share the books. Gather the class together periodically to discuss connections and points of difference between the books that they have been reading.
Some questions you may want to use to frame a group or class discussion:
- What three words would you use to describe the main character/protagonist in the book that you have been reading? Do any of the characters in different books have similar traits?
- Map out the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery and identity. How have they matured? Which events and relationships have influenced and helped them mature?
- Do you think any of the relationships and friendships that the main character/protagonist develops has an impact on the formation of the character’s identity? Do any of these relationships change the way the main character/protagonist thinks about themself?
- Can you identify a relationship which had a transformative power over the protagonist?
- Can you identify a relationship that transforms the protagonist’s perception/ view point or outlook (on life)?
- Can you relate to any event or relationship in the the book that you have been reading?
- Do you think role models are important?
- Do any of the characters have strong views about education? Positive or negative? Why? Do you agree with these views?
- What do you think the phrase ‘look for the hero inside yourself’ means? Could this be applied to any of the characters that you have been reading about?