All posts by jcaylen98

Bon Voyage!

I appreciate you reading my blog! This book touched my heart and spirit beyond measure. I hope that you have some ideas for ways you can incorporate it into your own classroom or with your family. I think it is a great stepping stone for familial discussions about discrimination, difference, diversity and ultimately loving one another. I hope to continue posting not just about Nelson Mandela but other topics that inspire me on this blog. Thank you kindly for visiting!


Amazing Resources

Apartheid, segregation, discrimination…they can all be challenging topics to teach both students and our children about. I have often grappled with how to present this information to students without desensitizing them or jading them to the world.

The Apartheid Museum in South Africa has a ton of resources and permanent exhibits to show students, I have done virtual tours with my classes before.

The New York Times has a great slideshow of images and words highlighting Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy.

BBC Kids has a well-rounded biography section on Nelson Mandela. Gives a good foundation for understanding his life.

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility has an INCREDIBLE lesson on Nelson Mandela and his crusade against apartheid.

Those are just a few resources. There is much to be said about comparing our own struggles with segregation and apartheid in South Africa. I think that this would be great foundation to any student learning about apartheid. I think the visuals can sometimes be challenging to swallow so be cautious when you show your students/kids and provide them with appropriate context.


If I were reading this story (Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson, 2013) with my class (which I am going to be) I would use this as a framework for my discussion:

**Please keep in mind that I crafted these questions for middle-age students based upon my recommendation for students who should read this story.

BEFORE You Read:

  • What does discrimination mean?
  • Do we have discrimination in our own country? Our own lives? What?
  • What does it mean to HATE?
  • What is the opposite of hate?
  • Who is someone that has changed your life? Why?
  • Who is someone that has changed our world? Why?
  • Do you know who Nelson Mandela is? (this will be a good spot to start reading the story)

AFTER You Read:

  • First, what struck you about the story? What was the most POWERFUL moment for you?
  • What was Nelson’s most challenging obstacle? Why?
  • What do you think scared him the most?
  • What sort of discrimination did he face? The people of South Africa?
  • Do you think the hatred ended when Nelson Mandela became president? Why/Why not?
  • Do you think it would have been different for him in any other part of the world?
  • 27 years; what does that mean to you? Compare it to something you read.
  • Can you compare South African apartheid to anything in our history? What?
  • What was Nelson Mandela’s strongest characteristic?
  • The book did not show much weakness on Nelson Mandela’s part; do you think the author should have? Why/why not?
  • What was his legacy? Write it in a news headline.
  • Why is it important to learn about him?
  • What is something else you want to learn about regarding this topic?


THE Story!

Nelson Mandela (pictured above)

The Basics

*ExCITING Info: Nelson, K. (2013). Nelson Mandela. New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books.

*Age Range: The publisher suggests four-to-eight years old for reading this story. I politely disagree. It could absolutely be read by a young child (four-to-eight) but to really understand the story and PROCESS the information I would suggest at least sixth grade level to eighth grade level. Many of the words written in the native language would be very hard to pronounce and understand by a four-year-old. I truly believe that a middle school or high school student would get a deeper appreciation and understanding of the author’s intent and Nelson Mandela’s legacy. Furthermore the idea of apartheid can be complicated even for an adult to wrap their mind around; such hate and cruelty based on appearance.

*Summary (the good stuff!): Nelson Mandela the man goes beyond his presidency. This story wanders through his life as if it were a fly on the wall; tragedies, triumphs and everything in between. The beautiful artistry allows readers to peek into what life was like for Mandela in South Africa beginning in his village and ending with his election to presidency. It does not leave out the difficult moments; Kadir Nelson shows readers the jail visits, discrimination and hatred. It leaves readers with a sense of empowerment and justice; at last, justice.



Why Read THESE Books?

When I was in middle school (which, scary to think, was twenty years ago now) I remember having to read a biography in sixth grade. My options seemed limitless at that time. Now, looking back, my options were very limited. First, I do not recall a single female being represented unless we were reading about Amelia Earhart or Helen Keller. What else was missing? Anyone of indigenous background, one representing an alternative sexual orientation or anyone with a disability. The biographies we read seemed to focus on Presidents, inventors, scientists and men who had found success. There were books about those from a different race but Dr. King is the only one that comes to mind.  More of my friends and students are those of diverse background instead of white men. Even myself being female, cannot relate to 99 percent of those biographies we read. There was no connection, there is no connection.  Why should we provide the future generation of kids who we tell to embrace their differences that the only people that MADE a difference were white men. Not only are we raising them in a delusion but it is diminishing their ideas of what success looks like (literally and figuratively).

There are so many incredible reasons to read diverse biographies; they can be summed up best in In Culture Parent magazine found digitally. The authors provided multiple valuable reasons but the one that stuck with me the most was that reading these multicultural books to our children (not having them read to but reading WITH them) provides them a sense of global awareness and empathy towards others from a different background. Many children encounter others who are different than they are. By providing those children with that context you set them up for seeing that person for who they are inside and out.  Furthermore, I also implicitly agree with the author discussing that mainstream books often times stereotype. If we allow students to continue to see and understand culture, religion and ethnicity from the media as their main source they are never going to have an authentic understanding or appreciation of those cultures and backgrounds!!! I highly recommend reading the article from In Culture Parent, it truly lays out tremendous reasons for reading multicultural children’s books as a family.

I chose to read Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson (2013) as my work of multicultural biography. First, after Nelson Mandela died his life and legacy were celebrated across the world. It was incredible to see the impact he had made on so many, not just in South Africa. Since that time (2013), talk of Nelson Mandela in my community at least has dwindled. I brought him up in my Global Studies class and few students knew who he was or what he had done in the world. I truly believe that his story over triumph over very adverse situations is one that can resonate with anyone regardless of age or background. I also think that as a family you can discuss his contributions to his family, his community, his country and the world. It also transcends that. What characteristics did Nelson Mandela embody that made him so diligent and persistent? I think this story will help open up those conversations and can be such a character builder as a family. Furthermore, the artwork of this story is so beautiful. I think that not only will families appreciate the words and message but also see such beauty in the art that tells the story. I think it could also be a conversation piece as well.


Thank you for visiting my blog! My intention is to bring awareness to students and parents about Nelson Mandela and his role in ending apartheid in South Africa. The vehicle that I am using to help aid others in their greater understanding is the book Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson (2013).

I hope once you read the story or if you know anything about Nelson Mandela you will understand why I chose the theme/design of my Blog. I appreciate you taking the time to read it!