Islandborn by Junot Diaz


Little Lola has a  homework assignment. Her teacher asks each of the  students to draw the country they are originally from and bring it with them to class the next day. Lola's classmates are all excited to share their memories of their home countries, but Lola has a problem. Lola moved from "the Island" when she was a baby and doesn't have any memories to draw.  "No problema", says her teacher, Ms. Obi, because even though Lola can't remember the Island, she has a family and community of people who do!

Genre - realistic fiction
Text Structure - picture book
Lexile Level - not yet available
Themes -  Afro-Latino identity, Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Dominican culture, immigrant experience, family/community, self-knowledge/ancestry, appreciating diverse experiences

Rings of Culture represented

Ethnicity:  Afro-Latinx/Afro-Caribbean
Age: 5-8
Gender:  girl/woman
National: USA

Why it's Validating/Affirming/Building/Bridging(VABB)

"Reading “Islandborn,” I saw myself immortalized in a children’s book for the first time, something that I would carry with me and my future family, forever. If I have a daughter one day, she won’t have to wait until she’s in her early 20s to see a character that resembles not just her looks but her life. The existence of “Islandborn” as a children’s book gives young Afrolatino children a small slice of representation that didn’t exist before."  Bianca Betancourt - The Washington Post   Click here for complete article/interview

  • Diaz validates/affirms the experiences of ALL immigrant children, in particular Afro-Latinx immigrant children, whose cultures/identities are often overlooked in discussions of race & identity in America

  • Builds/bridges the authentic lives and experiences of Afro-Latinx in a way that helps to challenge misinformation, misrepresentations and stereotypes of Afro-Latinx people

  • Illustrations validate/affirm the vibrant culture, skin color, hair texture, rich history and community of island born Afro-Latinx people in America.

Culturally Responsive Lesson Ideas

Set it Off (Into the Text)

1. Walk and Talk (A Turn and Talk but with walking!) - Use a walk and talk to activate prior knowledge, and help students think about, share information about their home country, and/or community before reading.

Use with precise or relative time, which would be appropriate when sharing/discussing elements of Afro-Latinx culture. (See more about responsive teaching and Concept of Time in April VABB Perspectives)

  • Precise: Teacher sets a timer for the amount of time students will Walk and Talk. Even more precise, the teacher assigns a specific amount of time that each person talks in the Walk and Talk. Then the teachers signals students to transition back upon completion of the set amount of time.

  • Relative: Students are told to use the time for the Walk and Talk as needed. Each student does not need to talk a set amount of time. When their discussion is compete, give options for what the students can do next. (Think individual accountability)



Walk and Talk Prompts -

-What is something special about the country you are originally from?

- What is something special about your neighborhood/community?

- Have your ever been to a Caribbean Island? If so, what is something special you remember about it? If not, what do you imagine an island might be like?

The Get Down  (Through the Text)

1. Picture Walk + Shout OutMove through the story, showing only the pictures, and at each page, prompt students to call out the things that they see in the pictures that stand out to them, and/or  that they connect to.

2. Teacher Read Aloud - After the Picture Walk, read the book aloud to students.

3.  Stop and Scribble Stop and Scribble is a movement protocol that allows students to show off their knowledge and creativity along with supporting each other and learning from each other.  Don’t forget to VA with music and wrap it up by having students discuss in small groups what they learned, what was confirmed, what they noticed, and what they still wonder.  Simply put, this protocol gets students up, moving, and thinking!  See the 9/28/17 - VABB It for more

  • Music choices for Stop and Scribble can reflect that of island culture, as well as students cultures. Ask them, and their parents for ideas. Students will be excited to hear music from their home culture.

Click image to see Sample Stop and Scribble Worksheet

Click image to see Sample Stop and Scribble Worksheet

What  ideas do you have for a CLR lesson for Islandborn?