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


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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade 

Written By Justin Roberts
Illustrated By Christian Robinson


Sally McCabe is the smallest girl in her school. She is so small, in fact, that hardly anyone ever notices her. She spends all day, every day being overlooked by those around her. While everyone is ignoring her, however, Sally is observing everything that happens around her. She witnessed all kinds of things she did not like, such as children being mean to one another on the playground, and school gardens being bulldozed over. Sally saw it all, and one day she decided she had had enough! She stood up in the lunch line and yelled at everyone to start paying attention to the wrongs happening around them. One by one, everyone in the school joined her stance, and put one finger in the air for support. Even the teachers and the principal stood behind Sally and supported her movement. From that moment on, Sally inspired the rest of her school to be more aware, and to ensure they did not al succumb to apathy as they had before. Everyone also began to notice Sally, and treated her as a member of the school community. She was no longer a tiny outsider looking in, but a big important part of a school actively combating bad behavior and injustice. This book would be perfect for any Pre-K, Kindergarten, or First Grade classroom. 

Element Six: Social Action

Sally took advantage of her unique position in the school community, taking note of everything that happened around her. Good and bad, Sally was aware of it all. She took this opportunity as a chance to take action and make her school a better place. She did not just make everyone aware of the injustices around them, she inspired a movement to better the school community. After Sally spoke up and challenged those around her to be better, a ripple effect began to take place. Students began to include each other in activities they never had before. The students took back the school garden. Everyone made an effort to be nicer to one another, including the smallest girl who had called them all to action, Sally McCabe.


In honor of Sally's movement, schools and classrooms could be inspired to do the same type of reform. Teachers could effectively facilitate the necessary extent of understanding by choosing a few students in the class before reading the book to be the "Sallys" of the class. These students would be chosen to observe activity in the school. Either over an afternoon, a few days, or maybe even a weeks time, depending on what works best, these students would be asked to observe the good and bad actions they see take place around them. This would have to happen unbeknownst to the other students, so certain students would have a sort of "in" to the activity. After reading the book as a class, the "Sallys" in the room would describe some of the behaviors, good and bad, that they observed. Students would then, as a class, raise their hands as the students in the book did to pledge a better school environment. Administrators, other teachers, and other classes could be invited to join into this project through speech or writing activities. This activity could also be extended to planting a school garden, as is done in the book. 

How I Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Author: Robin Nelson

Grade Level: Pk-2

Buy it here!



This books provides children with creative and easy ways on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. It shows children the steps they can take to reduce trash and energy at home. It encourages children to come up with new ideas on how to reuse materials found around them, such as turning empty water battles into bird houses. There are illustrations in each page to help children visualize on how to apply each concept, such as how to recycle different types of materials. It also includes an activity, fun facts, glossary, and index, which can be incorporated into a lesson plan. This book will inspire children to become active members of their society and help take care of our planet.

Element 6: Social Action

This book goes beyond raising awareness of how we must take care of our planet, to providing students with creative ideas that will inspire them to create change and take action in helping care of our environment. It encourages children to be responsible, and provides them with the skills and knowledge they need on how to make green choices and take part of social action.

  1. Children will be write the glossary words in their notebook
  2. They will chose one word from their list, for example: Reuse
  3. They will write a story where they will have to come up with creative and fun ways they can reuse things arounds them. 
  4. They will  include an illustration that will show what is going on in the story.
  5. They will share it with the  class and we will have discussion about the topic.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Element 6- Social Action

The Berenstain Bears: No Girls Allowed 

By: Stan & Jan Berenstain

Grade:  K-2
Buy it here!!


"No Girls Allowed" is a book about a little cub girl who always tagged along with her brother and his friends. At first Sister Bear ran slower than the Brother Bear and his friends, she could not climb trees as high as Brother Bear and his friend, and she did not know how to play with marbles. But as she grew older, Sister Bear became better at running, climbing trees and playing marbles than Brother Bear and his friends. Brother Bear and his friends were tired of seeing Sister Bear always winning.Therefore, they decided to build a secret clubhouse to stay away from Sister Bear. On the outside of the clubhouse it had a big sign that said, "No Girls Allowed". When Sister Bear find out about this, she was very upset. She decided to build her own clubhouse and do not allow any boys in the house. Furthermore, on opening day of the Sister Bear's club house, Papa Bear put some honeycomb and salmon on the barbecue. Everything smelled so delicious that it went all the way to the Boys clubhouse. They followed the smell all the way to where Papa Bear was cooking. Once the girls saw all the boys outside the clubhouse, they decided to vote and allowed the boys to come in. After eating the delicious meal, Brother Bear invited the girls to their clubhouse for dessert. Now the sign at the boys clubhouse changed, from being "No Girls Allowed" to "Girls Welcome".

Element 6- Taking Social Action

This book represents element 6, social action. Sister Bear was very upset and mad for what Brother Bear and his friends did to her. They didn't want to play with her, they were hiding from her and they did not allowed her in the clubhouse. Therefore, Sister Bear felt she must do something. She truly believed that this was "not fair". Sister Bear build her own clubhouse, and even though she did not wanted to see any boys there, she allowed them to come and eat with her and her friends.  Sister Bear took action on what felt it was wrong. She believed that what the boys were doing was not fair, and she stand up for her self and feelings.


After reading this story to students, and explaining what element 6 is about, I would have them share with a partner a time where they felt something was not fair to them. Then, I would have students share their answers. After this, students will write a letter to a person that made them feel something  "was not fair" explaining how they felt, and what they would do in order to change the situation. They will also write what social action they will take.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Kid's Guide to Social Action

Title: The Kid's Guide to Social Action
Author: Barbara A. Lewis
Ages: 10 to 13

Purchase The Kid's Guide to Social Action here!

Learn about Barbara A. Lewis!

  The Kid's Guide to Social Action by Barbara A. Lewis is a how-to book for kids interested in creating social change.  This book outlines the steps needed to create social action; from defining the problem to evaluating whether a solution is working.  KGSA also lists "power skills" useful to social activists, such as giving speeches, protesting and fundraising.  Kids are even given the tools and steps on how to interact with local, state and federal governments.  Throughout KGSA are inspiring true stories of kids who successfully created positive change, whether it was getting the state government to cleanup a toxic waste dump by their school or fundraising for a teen with leukemia in their town.   It also contains a list of tools and resources that both teachers and students can use during their social projects.

Element 6: Taking Social Action:
  The Kid's Guide to Social Action is a great book for kids who are interested and ready to take social action.  The book is full of tips, examples and resources that children would find helpful while creating social change.  Students learn how to identify and research a problem, brainstorm solutions, spread awareness and find support and eventually carry out a solution. This book is also applicable to Element 5: Raising Awareness because it contains true stories of kids who fought for social justice.

How To Use This Book: 
  What makes KGSA an exceptionally useful book for the classroom is the fact that it doesn't tell kids what social issues they should change, but instead gives students the skills to identify social problems and come up with appropriate solutions on their own.  This way, students can take action against what issues mean the most to them.  Because of this, KGSA can be used in two ways; as an independent resource as students identify social issues throughout the year or in conjunction with a social justice unit - the book includes a list of social problems students can choose for an activism project.  Although this book is most appropriate for children 10-13 as an independent text, it can still be used as a classroom resource for teachers of younger children.  As mentioned before, the book is filled with printable tools such as a petition form and brainstorming worksheet.

Want more?  Check out this author's other books!


Title: Recycling!
Author: Unknown
Illustrator: Jess Stockholm
Grade Level: Preschool-Kindergarten

Buy it here!


About this book:

This book is geared towards teaching young children (3-5 year olds) how to reduce, reuse, and recycle (the three R's).  The book is heavily focused on using illustrations to teach visually how to reduce, reuse, and recycle different items/materials.  The words in the book explain in simple terms what the pictures are showing.  The main characters are two children that are learning how to take action in protecting the Earth by helping their mother use less of some products, reuse some items (such as clothes and toys), and  recycle household items into specific bins.  The children also learn how to use left over food to create a compost pile.  Because the body of this book is so picture based, the author provides information for the reader about what happens to the products that we recycle (glass, plastics, food and drink cartons, etc) on the final page.  The author also explains the meanings of the words “reduce,” “re-use,” and “recycle” so that the read can gain a more concrete understanding of the concept.

Element 6: Taking Social Action
This book is teaching children how they can help protect the environment by reducing, re-using, and recycling.  The way the book is written allows for a lot of outside discussion during and after reading it.  For example, on one page the children are riding a bus with their mother and point out--“there’s a roof garden! And solar panels!”  The book never goes on to explain further what solar panels are, but instead allows for the children reading the book to wonder and perhaps ask questions and start a conversation at home or at school.  This technique of writing, not only teaches the readers how to help out the environment, but encourages them to start conversations and get others involved in protecting the Earth as well.

Using this book in the classroom:
This book would be a great introduction to teaching students how to take responsibility in protecting the environment on their own.  I would start the lesson by having a discussion about the three R’s and ask the students how they are already involved in this social action.  I would then introduce and read this book to the class as a way to teach more about the topic and to teach other ways that the students might help out with protecting the Earth.  This book could be read once as a whole to get an overview of the ideas behind the book, and then each page could be used as a topic of discussion or potential project for the classroom.  I would do an activity in which the class would save some food scraps for a school compost pile.  I’d ask the students to save left over food from their lunch and perhaps even bring in some leftover food from home to create a compost.  We could also designate some bins in the classroom and/or to divide up materials to be recycled (plastics bin, paper bin, glass bin, etc.). 

Additional Information:
This book is published by Child’s Play.  They publish a wide variety of books that are all geared toward child learning.  Their website ( is listed on the bottom of the last back of the book (as well as in the "resources" link above) and can be used as a resources for finding other books or activities to incorporate in the classroom.  They have a section of the website geared especially for teachers.  The teachers section provides lesson plan ideas and information on other potentially helpful books for the classroom (they have a section dedicated to books on diversity and equality).    

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions

What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions by John Berstein (also known as Slim Goodbody)

+ Grade Level: 3 and up
+ 32 pages

+ Purchase Here
+ More info On Author/TV Personality/Health Crusader Slim Goodbody

Summary: What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions is a guide to brainstorming and deciding on the best possible path to follow in any given situation. The steps this book discusses are: Stop and Breathe; Collect the Facts; Now or Later?; Know Your Goal; Explore Your Options; Consider the Consequences; Take Action; and Review the Results. These steps together form a cohesive advisement about tackling an issue with a thought-out plan, including ways to decide on the most realistic methods of achieving what you want, and weighing the pros and cons of a potential idea.

Other very interesting side-topics include an introduction passage called "Brain Divide," which discusses some basic psychology in how logic and feelings don't always line up perfectly in the cerebrum; and an ending passage titled "Follow Your Own Path," which discusses how everyone is different and how the most important thing is to be true to your own values.

Element 6 (Social Action): What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions is a very practical guide to taking action, from plan to execution to reviewing the results. It is laid out in such a way that an elementary school student can understand and follow along with it all easily enough; and at the same time, its ideas are ones that even an adult would find great benefit from following.

How to Use It: What's great about What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions is its versatility. It can be applied to any scenario in which a decision is to be made. And it can also be used for a wide age range. However, I would say it would be best used for students in fourth - sixth grade.

One specific example of this book can be used: During a unit on the Industrial Revolution, and child labor in the past and present, students can read each chapter of this book one at a time, stopping at the end of each chapter to apply it to the child labor issue. In the end, students would be able to come up with their own ideas on if and how to stop child labor in today's world, carefully deciding along the way which methods (if any) might be most effective. If the students want to do something but are not sure what to do, the teacher could present some options the students can weigh and decide on for themselves, such as a letter-writing campaign to policy-makers, linking with local organizations, or a boycott of companies which still use child labor.