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

Monday, February 8, 2016

Whoever You Are

Title: Whoever You Are
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Leslie Staub
Grade Level: Pre-K - Grade 2

Purchase here!


Whoever You Are
is a simple yet powerful narrative that addresses diversity while highlighting the vast similarities we share as human beings. Fox’s words urge young readers to reflect upon the human experience to realize that although we may be from different places or have different appearances, we have many more things in common than not. The book takes us on a journey around the globe to give us a small glimpse of other children’s lives and shows us that however far away or seemingly dissimilar they are to us, every human laughs, cries, feels pain, joy, smiles and bleeds. In my future classroom, I would use this book to support lessons pertaining to celebrating diversity. One activity I may do with my students to emphasize the theme of the story is show them different colored eggs and ask my class to note their exterior differences. Then, I would crack the eggs and spill out their contents side by side to show they are the same on the inside, just as humans are. This activity would help students understand the main idea of the story which is the important message that our similarities unite us and we should not let our “shells,” or exteriors, stand in the way of the connection we inherently share.

Element 2: Respect for Others

Whoever You Are
emulates Element 2 as it encourages young minds to look beyond the exterior to see that when it boils down to it, we all feel and experience the same things over the course of our lives regardless of the color of our skin or the language that we speak. This book shows children that although we may live in different places and lead different lives, we are still closely linked simply for the fact that we are human. Therefore, we should treat one another with dignity and respect solely because we are human beings, all other variables put aside. This idea fosters respect between students who may eat different types of food or come from different places from one another. Once this idea is ingrained in them, as they grow, they will remember to value and celebrate one another because ultimately, “hearts are just the same – wherever they are, wherever you are, wherever we are, all over the world.” 

We're Different, We're the Same

Title: We're Different, We're the Same
Author: Bobbi Jane Kates
Illustrator: Joe Mathieu
Publisher: Random House Books For Young Readers
Grade Level: P-2
Age Level: 3-7

Purchase We're Different, We're the Same Here!
Click here for more resources on how to 
incorporate this book into your classroom!

SummaryWe're Different, We're the Same is a book about different people, animals, and characters from Sesame Street who have physical differences, but are all the same in their own unique way. The characters in the book are all different shapes, sizes, some tall, some short, with different hair types, skin colors, and feelings however, through illustration we see that though they are different they are all the same in their own way. For example, the books shows that the characters have different noses that are all different shapes and sizes, but they are all the same, "they breathe and sniff and sneeze and whip." After showing the characters differences and similarities, the book goes on to show pictures of the characters in familiar places such the park and the beach utilizing their similarities in different ways. For instance, in the illustration for the noses, you see the characters sniffing flowers, sneezing, smelling different foods, and stinky things. The book is full of very fun and colorful pictures portraying the characters doing different things with their same body parts. The author also rhymes when writing making it really fun for the younger kids to follow along.

Element #2 - Respect for Others - We're Different, We're the Same introduces children to all kinds of diversity and teaches respect. This fits right in with Element Two: Respect for Others as it could be perfectly incorporated into the classroom that though we might look different, though we might come from different parts of the world, have different skin colors, we still use those differences in the same matter. Element two encourages respect, love, and acceptance and that's exactly what this book is doing. The illustrations perfectly show all the differences and shows a world were people use those differences to have fun, respect one another, and include anyone no matter how they look on the outside. Element Two goes beyond loving yourself, but also loving your neighbor for who they are and respecting them for that. The characters in the book can clearly be shown celebrating one another and being proud of not only themselves, but of each other looks, talents, and preferences.

Classroom Activity - We're Different, We're the Same can be used as an ice breaker in the beginning of the school year so that teachers can already establish a sense of respect for others in their classroom. The book can be read and followed by a class discussion of what makes everyone different but alike at the same time. It can also be a great tool to establish respect and understanding in an inclusive classrooms. The activity that could follow after the class discussion is that each child can take pictures of what makes them different yet the same from their classmates, create a book, and share it with their class. This can be done in several steps, and can also be worked so that eventually the class creates one big book just like Kates' book. The book that the classroom creates can be used year round to be read to any new students that come in the classroom in the middle of the year, to show any visitors, and to be read to on sporadic basis to keep reinstating the fact that it's so important to respect each others differences.

Little Humans

Title: Little Humans
Author: Brandon Stanton 
Grade Level: P-1 (ages 2-6)
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Related Lesson Plans

Summary: Little Humans is a picture book containing captivating images of a diverse range of children.  The pictures are taken by the book's author, Brandon Stanton, creator of the best-selling blog and book, Humans of New York.  Each page simply has a few words and a picture of a child or children.  The children in the pictures come from a range of diverse backgrounds.  The text underneath each picture provides a quick glance into the lives of the children in the photo, and what makes them different.  Stanton notes that some children are tall, short, tough, and some children can bend and twirl.  Although his words are simple, Stanton conveys the critical message that diversity should be valued.

Element 2: Respect for Others
Little Humans highlights the differences in every child and how they make them who they are.  However, it successfully gives children readers a chance to relate to the children in the photos as they are doing everyday things.  Stanton is subtle in his book, never outwardly mentioning the word "different".  This omission allows readers to view diversity as a natural construct with which they can empathize.  This book has the power to generate thoughts where students see similarities in their differences.

Classroom Use: Teachers can use Little Humans as an introductory read-aloud before delving into an "All About Me" exercise  where students share and discover each other's unique characters.  After (or during) the story, students can describe how they relate to the children in the book.  Teachers can also ask the students to explain ways in which they were different from the children in the book.  The value of this book lies in the fact that there are no "loaded words" suggesting readers to think one thing or another.  It is an organic display of diversity that allows students to formulate their own opinions.


Author: Dan Manalang 
Illustrator: Nichole Wong 
Grade Level:  P-3 
Publisher: Flip Publishing

Buy Ambrosia: here and here!
For reviews, click here!
Resource for advocating respect of cultures in the classroom!

Ambrosia is a children's picture book about a coconut that suddenly appears among other fruit in the fruit section of a grocery store. None of the other fruit know what the coconut is or where it came from and are uneasy in his presence. The coconut explains that he is a fruit just like them, and goes onto explain what makes him so sweet. Once the other fruits learn about the coconut they celebrate their diversity and they encompass the book's title of an "Ambrosia" salad, better known as a fruit salad. The book is full of colorful, vivid pictures as well as fun rhymes and references to the author's Filipino culture. Ambrosia navigates the importance of diversity, appreciating other cultures and nurturing positive self-esteem  

Element #2- Respect for Others:  
Ambrosia encompasses the criteria for an Element 2 book as it explores respect for diversity and other cultures. Even before the coconut arrives amongst the fruit, there are already different types of fruit but the lack of exposure to the coconut is what sparks the curiosity of the unknown. The coconut explains to his new friends that they are all fruits, including itself, despite how different he may appear on the outside. Coconut also talks about where it comes from, and takes pride in its home country, the Philippines. When coconut is challenged by the grape for its external appearance it shows its internal contents, revealing it to be similar to other fruits but still remaining unique to the kind of fruit that it is. After coconut's lesson on what makes him a fruit just like every other fruit, they are all able to celebrate how sweet, different and special each and every fruit is. Element 2 encourages a climate of respect as shown by the very distinct take-away lesson in Ambrosia: Never judge someone/something by the color of its skin, where it came from or where it has been because what truly matters always comes from what is within.  

Use in the Classroom: 
This book can be used to facilitate a conversation about what makes friends in the classroom similar and unique (physical, personal characteristics, hobbies etc.) by use of a picture drawing, or possibly introducing the use of a venn diagram for older grades. A fun way to follow the initial activity and facilitate the theme of Ambrosia would be to bring in different prepared fruits and allow each student to make their own bowl of ambrosia/fruit salad. Some bowls will be filled with different fruits, but each bowl will be a unique ambrosia salad.  

Every Little Thing

Title: Every Little Thing
Author: Cedella Marley
Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Publisher: Chronicle Books (September 12, 2012)
Age Range: 3 - 6
Grade Level: Preschool - 1
For a read aloud, click here!
For reviews, click here!
Click here for more about Cedella Marley!
For more Marley stories, click here!

Summary: Every Little Thing is a picture book for young children with the words from the book being based off of the popular Bob Marley song "Three Little Birds." The main character, who is unnamed, encounters some small struggles throughout his day, but with the help of three birds, he does not let these struggles storm over his happiness. Instead he focuses on spreading kindness to those around him. The main message of this wonderful story is if you share and promote kindness with those around you, even through hardships, we don't have to worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be all right.

Element#2: Respect for Others: Every Little Thing serves as a foundation for teaching respect for not only others but for one's self. This story both in words and pictures embodies kindness, empathy, and acceptance. Not only can you see this families culture psychically with the representations of colors and pictures, but also socially in the main character's actions towards others. Throughout the story we can see the main character face "little" difficulties but instead of letting this affect him, he shares his love and respect with others. Overall you can see through the beautiful illustrations that cultural diversity is embraced and celebrated by not only the main character but also his parents and friends; and to think, all of this was made possible with the help of three little birds. 

Classroom Use: There are a variety of valuable aspects to this book, making is a great resource for teachers. The way in which the book is written allows the teacher to utilize it either for an individual subject area or as an interdisciplinary lesson. Students love music, and teaching about kindness, respect, and empathy can, with use of this book, be taught in Language Arts or Social Studies in a fun and creative way. Reinforcing the ideology presented in this book, I would have students critically think about what these powerful words mean to them and have them create their own picture books similar to the organization of Marley's book. Another idea, that would truly benefit an early childhood teacher who is just beginning to introduce the notions of kindness and respect would be to first do a read aloud using this book and then creating a whole-class list of rules that focus on kindness and respect. The word usage, repetitiveness, and related pictures will make it a great first reading book for students.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My Friend Has Down Syndrome

Image result for my friend has down syndrome 
My Friend Has Down Syndrome
Author: Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
Illustrator: Marta Fabrega
Reading level: Age 6-9
Publisher: Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Purchase My Friend Has Down Syndrome here!
Click for more "Let's Talk About It!" titles, that help parents and teachers address life situations with their children and students.
Educational tools from NDSS (National Down Syndrome Society)

My Friend Has Down Syndrome is a children's picture book written in first person. The narrator is chosen at her summer camp to be the new girl, Tammy's, special buddy. At first, the narrator was excited to hold this special responsibility. When Ms. Theresa, her camp counselor, reveals that Tammy has Down syndrome, all the campers got scared because they did not what Down syndrome was. The book addresses the fear children may have by explaining the science and traits that are typical of those with Down syndrome. When the narrator meets Tammy, she realizes what a wonderful person and friend she is, and all the things she can do despite her differences.

Element #2: Respect for Others
My Friend Has Down Syndrome does not enforce the notion that "we are all the same despite our differences." Instead, it addresses that a child with Down syndrome is different. It explains the chromosomal difference for a child and the typical look of a child with Down syndrome. My Friend Has Down Syndrome promotes respect for others by giving children information about the disability, rather than ignoring it and only talking about the abilities or disabilities of a child with Down syndrome. In the end, the narrator realizes how even though Tammy may be slow at races, she is amazing at arts and crafts, playing guitar, and instilling confidence in others. This book promotes respect for others within children is by addressing and talking about differences, rather than pretending that the noticeable differences do not exist. The book gives children knowledge and understanding that are the building blocks towards respect for others. 

Use in the Classroom:
As inclusion is become common practice in education, students can use this book to learn about other students who are now in their general education classroom. This book can be used as a read aloud for not only learning about respecting others, but for an introduction to genetics. This book addresses chromosomes and how a difference in one causes Down syndrome. Multidisciplinary lessons are always a win for teachers trying to fulfill Common Core Standards! As a class, the teacher can make a chart and ask what things Tammy is good at, and what things Tammy finds difficult. Afterwards, students can make their own charts on what they are good at and what they find difficult. The lesson drives home that all people have things they are good at and things that need assistance with.