Lesson Plans for Teaching Radiant Child


Steptoe was recently awarded the Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award for Radiant Child.

Radiant Child is a picture book biography of the artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat.  In this book, Steptoe gently explains how the son of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat grew up in Brooklyn where his mother supported his passion for art.  His dream is to become a famous artist, and the book ends with him achieving his dream.

Steptoe’s illustrations are in the style of Basquiat’s, and in the back of the book, there is additional information about the artist, “motifs and symbols in Basquiat’s work,” and an author’s note about the book.

Themes: creativity, art as a healing tool (Basquiat recovers from a car accident by reading and creating art), loss (Basquiat’s mother is hospitalized because of mental illness, however this is not explicitly stated in the story), family immigration, and city as art.

After reading the story, here are some suggested activities:
K – Ask the students to choose a “feel good color.”  With baby food jars, mix water, oil, drops of food coloring (based on the color that feels good), and glitter.  Each child now has a jar full of good feelings.

Grades 1 – 3 – Make Basquiat crowns.

Grade 4 – 5 – Learn about Picasso’s Guernica, which is featured in Radiant Child.  Create art inspired by Picasso and Basquiat, or inspired by personal histories.  Learn about Gray’s Anatomy, which is also in Radiant Child.  Conduct an author/illustrator study with Javaka Steptoe’s books.