Today is Jackie Robinson Day! It was on April 15, 1947 that Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, which broke the color barrier. He was the first African-American MLB player.
Bob DuPuy, who was the President and Chief Operating Officer of Major League baseball when Jackie Robinson Day first began in 2008, described it as a significant day “not only for baseball, but for our country in general.”
Robinson wore jersey number 42, and today, players, coaches, and umpires will mark the occasion by doing the same.
One way that you can mark the occasion with your kids is by reading a book with your kids about this American hero. There are lots out there to choose from, but if I had to pick, I’d say to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with the book The Hero Two Doors Down: A Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend. It is by Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s Robinson’s daughter.
She’s written many books, including a few about her famous father, but this one is special because it tells the story of his friendship with Steven Satlow, who was eight years old when Robinson moved to his Jewish neighborhood Brooklyn in 1948.
It’s intended for kids in grades three through seven but it’s such a great book with important lessons that I’d say it’s good for older kids, too.
The Kirkus Review says, “The Jackie Robinson in the book seems just as kind and thoughtful as the real Jackie sounded in interviews and news stories. … There isn’t much conflict here. The story is just as down-to-earth and remarkable as the actual baseball star, and it would feel mean-spirited to wish any more drama on these two genuinely endearing people.”
The book is about a lot more than baseball, and covers important topics like differences in class, races, and religion. There are clear messages about the evil of prejudice, the importance of respecting each other’s differences, and what it means to be a friend.
I loved the relationship Jackie and Steve formed, and the message that friendship can happen between very different people is a good one for both kids and adults. And yes, I got a bit teary when I saw the photos at the end that showed how their friendship lasted a lifetime.
We read this book as part of the Scholastic 20 for 20 Reading Challenge and it was a great example of how even just a short amount of time with a book can make a big difference. My daughter, who isn’t a huge baseball fan, enjoyed it and it was great to see her and my husband, who is a big baseball fan, talking about it and how the game of baseball can have societal implication that stretch far beyond the outfield.
There are a lot of conversation starters in this book that are great to use with your kids. Also, it’s just fun to imagine your hero moving two doors down from you. Ask your kids who they would most want to move into your neighborhood and how they would approach them.
You can see a video of Sharon Robinson talking about her dad and the book, with the help of a few Mets players, here. You can also listen to a podcast featuring Sharon Robinson talking about the book and filmmaker Ken Burns discussing his new documentary, “Jackie Robinson,” out this month here.
You May Also Like: How the Scholastic 20 for 20 Family Reading Challenge changed our family
Prior Post: Fun Facts about The Jungle Book Movie
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