Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Welcome

Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom.  The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2012).  It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. Teacher candidates have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings. If you have any questions or comments, please email bree@nycore.org.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Giving Book: Element 6 Taking Social Action

“The Giving Book”                
Written by Ellen Sabin and ________________


Reading level: Ages K-2
Publisher: Watering Can Press

Summary

As you can see by the “fill-in-your-name-here” design on the cover, this book offers the recipient an opportunity to take ownership for defining the world they live in. Beginning with the line for “co-authorship”, this book is designed to engage children in introspective thought about values and virtues and help them see that you can make a difference by caring and giving of oneself. Children can take an active role by including their photo, contributing illustrations, and completing their journal with personal accounts about caring and making a difference, forming intimate connections to philanthropy in action.  Responses include naming those persons who have shown them benevolence, instances in which they have been giving to others, listing what they appreciate in their lives and what they wish for others. Children are also asked about what their own special gifts and talents may be, and how they can use those talents to make the world better or help another person in some way, providing them with a sense of self-worth and empowerment. The format is colorful,  “user-friendly,” and inviting for a child to complete. The book also offers suggestions and resources for the adults that are significant in the life of the child to whom this book is given so that they can guide them and seek ways to help the child take action in the cause of their choice.



Activity
Because this book opens the door to identifying the issues that are meaningful to an individual child, follow-up activities should be based on the specific interests that are shared in the journal entries. A child and caregiver might work together to implement a plan of action that they take to the broader community of neighborhood, school or community.
While the design and approach of this book is centered on a more individual journey into a life of altruism, it could be adapted for use with a classroom of students.  Students can recall and list specific people in their lives that have shown them the meaning of caring and they can also share their wishes for the world in a classroom setting.  Should this be how the book is used, a teacher can work with the class to choose a particular social injustice that is meaningful to the group. Teacher and students can then develop a “take-action” plan focused on the chosen topic of interest.


Elements of Social Injustice

Element 6: Taking Social Action
“The Giving Book” is a great method for children, particularly young elementary school-aged children, to develop an understanding of what social action is all about, to acknowledge empathy in oneself and others, and to think critically about injustices at a rudimentary and age-appropriate level. By introducing young children to the concept that what you do and how you act effects the world around you, the perspectives of the next generation are being shaped in a positive way and the seeds of social activism are being sown. “The Giving Book” is intended to inspire moral thinking and motivate social action in children, and, hopefully, impart the enduring understanding that you can make a difference, be it big or small.

Buy It
• Barnes and Noble - Print
• Scholastic – Print
• Amazon Books – Print

Additional Information
Also worth noting is that this book is one in a series by this author intended to grow children with character. Other topics addressed are special needs, autism, money matters, environmental awareness, and maintenance of a healthy body.
If ordering in larger quantities, (10 or more), Watering Can Press offers a minimum of a 20% discount that increases with the size of the order.


Their website also provides more information about:
• Engaging Activities
• Parties with a Purpose
• Free downloadable guides to implementing social action in youth
• All books in the series available for purchase

The Giving Book

“The Giving Book”                

Written by Ellen Sabin and ________________


Reading level: Ages K-2
Publisher: Watering Can Press

Summary

As you can see by the “fill-in-your-name-here” design on the cover, this book offers the recipient an opportunity to take ownership for defining the world they live in. Beginning with the line for “co-authorship”, this book is designed to engage children in introspective thought about values and virtues and help them see that you can make a difference by caring and giving of oneself. Children can take an active role by including their photo, contributing illustrations, and completing their journal with personal accounts about caring and making a difference, forming intimate connections to philanthropy in action.  Responses include naming those persons who have shown them benevolence, instances in which they have been giving to others, listing what they appreciate in their lives and what they wish for others. Children are also asked about what their own special gifts and talents may be, and how they can use those talents to make the world better or help another person in some way, providing them with a sense of self-worth and empowerment. The format is colorful,  “user-friendly,” and inviting for a child to complete. The book also offers suggestions and resources for the adults that are significant in the life of the child to whom this book is given so that they can guide them and seek ways to help the child take action in the cause of their choice.



Activity
Because this book opens the door to identifying the issues that are meaningful to an individual child, follow-up activities should be based on the specific interests that are shared in the journal entries. A child and caregiver might work together to implement a plan of action that they take to the broader community of neighborhood, school or community.
While the design and approach of this book is centered on a more individual journey into a life of altruism, it could be adapted for use with a classroom of students.  Students can recall and list specific people in their lives that have shown them the meaning of caring and they can also share their wishes for the world in a classroom setting.  Should this be how the book is used, a teacher can work with the class to choose a particular social injustice that is meaningful to the group. Teacher and students can then develop a “take-action” plan focused on the chosen topic of interest.


Elements of Social Injustice

Element 6: Taking Social Action
“The Giving Book” is a great method for children, particularly young elementary school-aged children, to develop an understanding of what social action is all about, to acknowledge empathy in oneself and others, and to think critically about injustices at a rudimentary and age-appropriate level. By introducing young children to the concept that what you do and how you act effects the world around you, the perspectives of the next generation are being shaped in a positive way and the seeds of social activism are being sown. “The Giving Book” is intended to inspire moral thinking and motivate social action in children, and, hopefully, impart the enduring understanding that you can make a difference, be it big or small.

Buy It
• Barnes and Noble - Print
• Scholastic – Print


Additional Information
Also worth noting is that this book is one in a series by this author intended to grow children with character. Other topics addressed are special needs, autism, money matters, environmental awareness, and maintenance of a healthy body.
If ordering in larger quantities, (10 or more), Watering Can Press offers a minimum of a 20% discount that increases with the size of the order.


Their website also provides more information about:
• Engaging Activities
• Parties with a Purpose
• Free downloadable guides to implementing social action in youth

• All books in the series available for purchase

http://www.wateringcanpress.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Title: The Skin I'm In: A First Look At Racism 
Author: Pat Thomas
Grade Level: Early Elementary
Social Justice Element: Element 5 Raising Awareness
Purchase Here!
Summary: 

"The Skin I'm In" introduces children to the idea of racism. The book is colorful with many illustrations of children, they begin by imagining a world where every one had blue eyes. Then it plagues the question, "What if only the children with blue eyes could go to school?" The author makes a point to question the fairness of this treatment. The book defines the word racism and explains why it is bad giving examples of both blatant and subtle racism. The book even delves into what to do if you see racist behavior and how to react if you are the one 0n the receiving end. After the story ends, there is a page on how to use the book followed by contacts and further reading.


Social Justice Element:

"The Skin I'm In" is a great book for teachers to use to introduce element 5 and raise awareness in their classrooms about racism. Every student is different and it is important for them to understand that everyone is created equal. Equally as important, students must learn what is an appropriate way to respond to racism. This book is a great resource for teachers because there is no specific group being represented, every demographic is covered. The book is written for everyone so that everyone can relate, it builds an understanding of equality.

In-Class Activity:

 In order to raise awareness amongst young students, it is essential that the material is relatable. Students can first listen to the story being read out-loud, followed by a discussion on what the believe racism is and why they think people are treated unfairly solely based on the color of their skin. It is a great way to probe students about racism and what they understood about the books message. Following the class discussion, have the students draw a picture of their family. I would allow students 20 minutes to write a few paragraphs on what their personal thoughts on racism. By raising awareness about racism in the classroom, students will not only learn about what racism is but also how they can make sure they know how to react if they encounter a racist.

A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water across the World


A Thirst for Home 
A Story of Water across the World

Author: Christine Leronimo

Illustrator: Eric Velasquez

Age Ranges: 5 to 8 






Summary:
In Ethiopia water is very hard to find. There is rarely running water in homes and women and girls have to walk miles and miles to find a river, brook, or watering hole. Many times these water sources are dirty and contaminated. Alemitu and her emaye (mother) must walk many miles to reach any water in order to survive. Emaye knows this is not the life she wants for her daughter and makes the sacrifice to put Alemitu up for adoption. When Alemitu is adopted she moves to America where she lives with a very nice new family. In America she begins to go by the name of Eva. She is amazed at how easy it is to find running water whenever she wants and never has to worry about going hungry or thirsty. Although Eva has made a huge move and lives with a new family, she still remembers her beautiful home country of Ethiopia and Alemitu. She embraces this and says that she is Eva Alemitu! Whenever she sees water, a puddle, or rain, she will always remember how water connects her to her mother and her home country. 

Element 5 - Raising Awareness:
This book definitely raises awareness of issues around the world. I think it would be great to use in the classroom because it can help students in the US understand that not everyone is as fortunate as us to have access to water and have running water all around us. There are a lot of movements and acts trying to better the water situations in African countries. This book is a great way to make this issue relatable and understandable to young students. A Thirst for Home raises awareness about the lack of water supply some people experience in other countries, but it also raises awareness about other issues. For example, we learn that some mothers feel that their situation is so bad that they decide to put their child up for adoption. This cannot be an easy decision at all and it shows those who read what these families really go through. I think it would be beneficial for students to understand that people around them may be adopted and/or from another county. This helps to broaden their awareness and relate to others.

Activities: 
When using this book in the classroom I would want to teach students what it means to relate to others and how to look at something in another perspective. Alemitu's story is probably very unique to many American students. After doing a read aloud of A Thirst for Home, I would ask the students to reflect on the story and compare how Alemitu's life is different or similar to their own. As a class, we would make a T-Chart of similarities and differences. I would ask students to think about how their life would be different if they lived in Ethiopia. Students would brainstorm by doing a quick think-pair-share in which students would talk to the person next to them about what life would be like. Then in a whole-group discussion, students would share and make comments. Lastly, I would have students answer a short writing prompt. The prompt would ask, "How would your life be different if you didn't have running water?" Students would answer this in their journal. Students will be in small groups that act as their own book clubs and they will each get to read their writing from their journal. The other students will each make one comment about their classmate's writing. Continuing in small groups, I will then ask groups to think of things that they now appreciate more. I hope that by doing this students will realize that it's not always important to appreciate material things we have or special things we get to do, but even things we consider everyday necessities. From reading Alemitu's story it just goes to show that not everyone even has access to water; something we definitely take for granted. Hopefully each student will take a second to appreciate the things we have and try to understand what others who don't might go through. This lesson speaks to the quote, "Don't judge anyone, until you've walked a day in their shoes." It's important for students to understand that every individual comes from a different background and lifestyle and that no background or lifestyle is better than another. 

Mangos for Max



Title: Mangos for Max
Author: Dr. Jessica St. Louis
Grade Level: Pre-K- Early Elementary
Social Justice Element: Element 5 Raising Awareness
Buy Book Here!

Summary: 

Mangos for Max is a book that introduces allergies in a child friendly way. Max is a monkey who is allergic to bananas and must eat mangos instead. This book takes its readers on a journey through Max's life and discusses what it is like to have food allergies in a fun and engaging way. These concepts are introduced through rhymes and illustrations that children can relate to. Max and his friends learn about allergies and ways in which they can keep everyone safe.

Social Justice Element:

Mangos for Max is a great book for teachers to use to introduce element 5 and raise awareness in their classrooms about food allergies. Since many students have allergies to certain foods, it is extremely important that not only they know how to prevent and react to any outbreaks, but also that their classmates are aware as well. Mangos for Max was written for the classmates of students with allergies so they can understand what it is like to have a food allergy and the steps they need to take in order to keep everyone in the classroom safe. This book is a great resource to implement and practice food allergy education in a way that is accessible for young students.

In-Class Activity:

In order to raise awareness amongst young students, it is essential that you find material that they can relate to and engage in. Mangos for Max is a great book that can be read aloud to students in order to introduce the danger of allergies. After a read aloud, teachers can engage students in an activity in which they create a class contract or list of things the class can do in order to reduce allergens in the classroom. Some examples could include no food sharing/trading, hand washing before and after eating, using non food items for class projects and crafts, etc. Once students have come up with a list of ways to keep students with allergies safe in the classroom, they can then bring it to the attention of the whole school. By raising awareness of food allergens school wide, students will not only learn what allergies are, but also how to be aware of these allergies in communal areas such as classrooms and the cafeteria.

Stop Picking On Me









Author: Pat Thomas

Illustrator: Lesley Harker

Grade Level: Kindergarten- 1st Grade 









Summary:

The Book, Stop Picking On Me, is a story that gives children a first look at bullying. The story explains what bullies are and who could possibly be a bully. It gives reasons why bullies bully others. The story explores how someone might feel when being bullied and the fears and worries that come after being bullied. The book also gives positive solutions on how to deal with a bully if you are being bullied in school or even outside of school.  

Element 5 Raising Awareness:

The Book, Stop Picking On Me, represents element 5 raising awareness because the story raises awareness about the issue of bullying. It educates children first to let them know what exactly bullying is. It expresses how bullying is wrong and why we shouldn’t bully others. It then shows children how someone might feel while being bullied and after being bullied. It also shows and allows children to respond in positive ways when being bullied instead of using violence. Overall this books takes on the issue of bullying between children and raises awareness about the issue. This book creates an opportunity for children to relate and share their own knowledge and experiences about bulling with others to prevent more bullying from happening. 

Activities: 

While reading the story a teacher could stop and ask questions such as: Have you ever been bullied? How did it make you feel? What sort of things do you do when someone bullies you? Can you think of any other ways to deal with a bully? Ask these questions as the topics come up while reading the story. Then after the reading do an activity where you introduce a stuffed animal with a name. An example name could be “Tom.” Tell the students that Tom has experienced something while at school and you would like for them to help you understand how this makes Tom feel. Then say the following: Someone told Tom you can not play with us, but everyone else was playing. Someone hit Tom on purpose. Someone told Tom he was stupid and that no one liked him. Someone took Tom’s snack at lunch and would not give it back. After each phrase have students turn and talk to a partner about how they think that makes Tom feel. Then go over each phrase as a class and call on students for their opinions and input. Then explain how these are all different types of bullying. Identify what types of bully they are (Example: physical, verbal, relational etc.). The last part of the activity is to come up with a few rules about bullying that can be hung up, followed, and enforced by the students and teacher in the classroom. Example of a rule: Treat others with respect and kindness.