Breaking Barriers Essay Contest Scholastic Book


Help students understand how Jackie Robinson broke professional baseball’s color barrier by using values, and motivate them to write essays about how they use values to face their own barriers. Students can enter their essays in the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest.


Students will:

  • Study the definition of what a “barrier”is
  • Discuss different obstacles people face in life
  • Read and discuss an informational text on professional baseball player Jackie Robinson
  • Discuss how character traits displayed by Jackie Robinson can be helpful in facing and overcoming different kinds of barriers
  • Learn about the concept of “values” and how they are used to face barriers
  • Build upon knowledge about Jackie Robinson and how he used values to help face the barrier of breaking baseball’s color barrier
  • Identify barriers in their own lives
  • Write personal essays about barriers they face and how they can use values to overcome their barriers

Culminating Activity

Students can submit the essays they write in the Breaking Barriers Essay Organizer: Writing About Your Barriers for Grades 4–8 lesson plan to the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest.

Related Videos

Continue the learning with these teaching extensions for film clips from Jackie Robinson, a film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon.

Breaking Barriers Lesson Plans

Welcome, Teachers!

2016 Grand Prize Winner Kendal Young of Spring Lake, MI, with teacher Mark Roessing (right), principal Mark Neidlinger (left), and Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson.

Each year, April 15 marks the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. The character education and language arts program Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life brings classrooms the story of this historic event, and also extends my father’s legacy of change to students today.

I’d like to thank teachers for their support of Breaking Barriers—and for encouraging their students to tell their own stories. I am inspired by the optimism of these students in their essays. They have found a way to move forward in spite of their barriers.

Created by Major League Baseball and developed with Scholastic, Breaking Barriers teaches students the values and characteristics that my father exhibited in his life and how to use them to face and overcome barriers in their own lives. At the heart of the program is the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest, which gives diverse students from across the country the opportunity to write about their own barriers, along with a chance to win valuable prizes.

I hope you and your students take part in Breaking Barriers!




Sharon Robinson
Educational Consultant, MLB,
and author,

Photos: Lesson 1, Courtesy Robinson Family; Lessons 2 and 3, Courtesy MLB Photos.

Additional Tools:
Support and enrich the lessons with suggested answers to discussion questions, academic and domain-specific vocabulary lists, writing prompts, paired-text reading suggestions, and a Grades 4–8 Common Core State Standards chart.


LESSON 1: What Are Barriers?
Through reading and class discussion, students will understand who Jackie Robinson was and what the concept of a barrier means.

LESSON 2: Values and Barriers
Through reading and class discussion, students will understand what values are and how they are important in facing barriers.


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