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Free Resources for Romiette & Julio by Sharon Draper

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

Romiette & Julio by Sharon Draper is an amazing book to use with teen readers by itself or as part of an introduction to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. When I first started teaching in 2005, I was told that the 8th graders were supposed to read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and As You Like It by William Shakespeare. Yikes. I was fresh out of school and was hired in December to teach five sections of 8th grade. Their original teacher did not come back from maternity leave, and the long term sub could not finish the year. These two teachers had worked with the other 8th grade teacher to choose the books, but really, they were just the books that had been taught traditionally year after year. Because I was new, I wasn’t going to say anything, and because I was in survival mode (like all first year teachers), I was just going to do the best I could with what I had and figure out the rest next year.

After a long ½ year of torturing some of my struggling readers with the above book list, I started my second year of teaching determined to find more interesting books that they could immediately connect with. Although you can create bridges between books and students by connecting the ideas to students’ lives, I prefer to take the easy way and just give kids books that they immediately connect with-no humungous song and dance required by the teacher. We were only allowed to teach the books in the school book room, so I did not have a lot of leeway, but I spent the summer sorting through the book room and reading through everything in there. Somewhere along the line, a teacher or department chair had ordered Romiette & Julio by Sharon Draper, Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, and a fair amount of Walter Dean Meyers. I knew I could use these books and have a way more successful year than the one I had had the year before, and I started with Romiette & Julio.

Romiette & Julio is an easy sell because it is about forbidden teenage love (I know-totally shocking!). Romiette is Black and Julio is Latino and their parents, as well as gang members at the school, do not want them together. Romiette and Julio have to fight for their love. Young teens love books about love, but the conflict with the gangs and others in the book make it more than an innocent love story.

The book opens the door to conversations about destiny, fate, gangs, online dating, and friendship. Below are some of the materials that I used when I taught the book, but what strikes me about my earlier work is that it is not gritty. Even though this book is about race and interracial dating, I never tackled it. I am not surprised by this because at the time I did not even know how to have these conversations, and I'm sure I didn't even know if I was allowed to. I am a way different teacher now, but it's definitely been a journey. When you teach this book, do it justice by not skipping over the hard conversations.

All of the materials for this unit can be found here. There are activities that you can do before, during, and after reading the book, and a fair amount of reading quizzes.

I enjoyed teaching this book as a class text since there are a lot of different important topics to discuss as well as many different types of characters that students could relate to. It is helpful at building background knowledge about Romeo & Juliet as students prepare to tackle Shakespeare later in the high school career. The book would also lend itself well to book circles focused on love, gangs, race, destiny, or fate. Enjoy!

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