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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Title: A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. 


Title: A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr.

Author: David A. Adler

Illustrated By: Robert Casilla

Grade Level: 3rd 

Additional: Resources

Element Four: Social Movements and Social Change

A picture book of Martin Luther King Jr. is a book for children that show the many struggles in the past history due to segregation laws and injustice. It provides student with important dates and events. This book also teaches children about Dr. King's many accomplishments and the goals he achieved throughout his life before he was assassinated. It provides student with detailed pictures and it teaches them about why there was a date declared in January as the annual federal holiday by the United States Congress to honor the life and ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. This book is a part of other picture book biographies by David A. Adler. What I like most about this book is that it shows children how a social move made a social change; a social change that is a part of our society today.

Representation of Element Four: Social Movement and Social Change
This picture book of Martin Luther King, Jr. introduces student to social movement and social justice. its relates to social movement because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of America's greatest leaders who led the biggest march of all time in Washington to make a social change. Dr. King had dream that one day the nation we live in would not be judge by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character and because of his persistence and protests of social movement, a social change took place. This book also introduces students to the struggles that had to be overcome in order for social change to take place. This book is a great book to implement for Element Four; Social Movement and Social Change because it does not only teach student about the many struggles of the past and history, it also teaches them that today’s society is functional and desegregated because of the social movement by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that took place to create a social change for justice within our society. This is a great way to introduce history of social injustice and social change from the past, into today’s present and future.  

Classroom Activity
An activity that would be great for this book is a match the important date’s activity. For this activity you will need the following dates written on index cards; (1929, 1947, 1953, 1955-1956, 1963, 1964, 1968, and 1983; and a plastic baggie to hold the index cards. You will also need the events that happened on each year occurrence written on a white board. These events are listed on the last page of this book along with the dates. You will also need a whiteboard with markers.

Read and review the book with the students, making sure that they understand the dates and the events that go with the date (year). On the white board make two columns. Write only the events on one side of the column leaving the other side for the dates blank. After doing this, have the students select one index card from the plastic baggie. Ask the students to match the date that they picked to the event on the white board. Once this is completed, have the student write the date they selected next to the correct event with a marker on the white board. After the student does this, have them give a brief explanation of that date and event that took place. You can also ask questions such as, do you think this is an important event?; If so why, or why not?.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Let Them Play

Author: Margot Theis Raven

Illustrator: Chris Ellison

Grade Level:2-4

Let Them Play is based off a a true story that takes place in segregated Charleston, South Carolina in 1955. Margot Theis Raven shares the story of the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars, an all-black baseball team and their journey to play in the State’s annual Little League Tournament. The Cannon Street All-Stars were the only team in the league that was not composed of all-white players. They were met with hate and prejudice by other teams who refused to play against them in the tournament.  Because no teams would play against them, the Cannon Street All-Stars were the winners in their state by default and earned themselves a spot in the LIttle League World Series. The team ends up not being allowed to play in the games because they had not officially played any games in their states tournament. When the crowd discovers the injustices the team has faced, they begin to chant “Let Them Play.” Unfortunately the crowds efforts are not successful and the team is unable to play. Although the team was unable to play they still left a lasting mark on our history. 

Representation of Element Three: Issues of Social Injustice
This book reveals the discrimination a group of young southern boys had to endure simply because they wanted to play baseball. Students are able to see how not the boys were not only affected by racism locally in segregated South Carolina, but even once they get to the Little League World Series game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  This book is also a good introduction into Element four: Social Movements and Social Change because the novel ends with a large crowd of people chanting “Let them play.” The crowd is standing together together in an attempt to address the injustices this baseball team had to endure. 

Acitivies in the Classroom
I believe this book would be best used as a read aloud. The teacher could ask students to recall a time that they may have not been able to participate in an activity and ask them to discuss why they think that was. The students should discuss how this made them feel as well as how they think the boys on the Cannon Street All-Stars were feeling as they faced discrimination based off of their skin color. One activity students could do after reading and discussing this book is write letters to the boys of the Cannon Street All-Stars expressing their feelings towards the boys being unable to play in the Little League World Series game. The students could pretend they were one of the boys on the team and create a journal of their emotional ups and downs during their journey towards the Little League World Series Game. Students could share their letters and journals with one another to create further discussion on the injustices displayed in this book. 

Freedom's School

Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator: James E. Ransome
Grade Level: 1-2


            Freedom's School takes place the day after slaves were freed. Although slaves were free, it may not be "real freedom," if one was not educated. We are introduced to Lizzie, her brother Paul, and her family in efforts of going to school for the very first time. When arriving to  school, Lizzie's impression of it was pretty despite the school building being raw and not decorated.  Soon, children started to fill up the building and Mizz Howard, the teacher, introduced herself. However, at this time, school was not always routine. There were times when Mizz Howard would send students right back home after arriving to school, stating there was nearby danger. Other times, many other students would have to miss school because of the weather or work. School was not always a safe place, and eventually  the school was put on fire. Although the school was burned down, wanting to learn did not, and school was rebuilt with hopes. The new school was named Freedom's School.

Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice
            Freedom's School demonstrates Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice of the 6 Elements of Social Justice by illustrating racism and oppression during the emancipation. Throughout history, slaves were not treated as people, and even after slavery ends, these people were still not treated as whole human beings. We are introduced to Lizzie, her family, and her community in wanting to educate and expand their current knowledge. However, as stated in the story, going to and being in school was not safe. Other times, financial and basic needs would get in the way of education, such as needing to work and helping family at home. There seemed to be a lot of hate as evidenced by the burning of the school building. Despite this tragedy, the whole community is seen rebuilding the school, and this is where we see the strength in this community and its value regarding the importance of education.
            This book introduces injustices that are mentioned in textbooks, but lacks a connection regarding circumstance and feelings during that time. Students of first and second grade may be the best candidates in using this book especially when discussing the topic of emancipation, however this book may be used for all ages. First and second graders may better understand that people from history are real people instead of just events.  By better understanding the circumstances of people at the time, a better connection to the present school system, for example, may occur. By better understanding the circumstances of the past, one can better point out injustices and why. Students can then think of means of how things got better and what injustices still exist.

Activity in Class
            An activity may include comparing and contrasting injustices found in the past, first to themselves and then sharing it with the whole class. Students will be asked if this injustice has been solved. If so, in what way? How has it affected the present? If the problem has not been resolved, how has it affected the present? Will this further affect the future? Students will then be put in small group to further expand their research and experiences. The teacher will determine the level of rigor regarding this activity. If extensive research is done, small groups may be asked to present  and "teach the class" regarding their findings and ideas in a number of ways including the use of paper and pen, arts and crafts, media, etc.

Element 2: A Different Princess. Knight

Title: A Different Princess. Knight Princess
Author: Amy Potter
Illustrated by: Lisa Sheppad
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Reading level: 3-8

Amy loves being a princess but at times she gets bored just being a princess. So when she goes to sleep she becomes more than just a princess, with the help of her magical unicorn, Huggy. Tonight she becomes a Knight Princess, equipped with  sword, cape, shield, and helmet. She lives in a beautiful palace but she doesn't live "snug as a bug", in her castle, she goes across the land helping her subjects and having adventures. After saving the prince and helping the farmers Amy leaves her palace and the Kingdom to go off to her next adventure. What kind of princess will she be tomorrow?

Element 2:
A Different Princess: Knight Princess is a great story about a young girl who dreams of being anything she wants to be. Tonight Amy wanted to be a Knight, and give back to her Kingdom. Amy's story challenges the stereo-type that girls can't do the jobs that boys can. In the story Amy wins Knightly competitions, saves the Prince from the fierce dragon, and helps the farmers from being poor so their children can go to school. This book is written in a way where it will make students question gender roles and hopefully encourage a change in the way we view girls in our society.

Follow Up Activity:
The teacher can do many things to reinforce the issue of gender roles in our community. The students can research the many great women in history and create posters to illustrate their importance in history. The students could also create a marketing campaign to promote the strength of women, either by creating a marketing poster or a commercial that will bring about awareness to this issue. A great example is from this Always commercial, take a look:
Hopefully then the students will get encouraged to spread the word about how important it is to treat everyone equally.

If you think you'd like to read A Different Princess. Knight Princess click the link below:

If you want to read more of Amy Potter and the Different Princess. series check it out here:

Thanks for Reading.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Author: Drew Daywalt

Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers 

Grade Level: K-3


This book presents a familiar object with unfamiliar feelings. In the book "The Day the Crayons Quit", each crayon in Duncan's box writes their owner a letter confronting him about their issues. Some crayons complain about over use, under use, lack of attention to the lines, and even a fight between yellow and orange that is effecting the mood of the whole box. More than just an adorable concept, "The Day the Crayons Quit" is hysterical. Any child can relate to the predicament the crayons are in, and learn from the manner in which they address their concerns. Jeffer's illustrations bring the letters to life and add to the hilarity of the book.

Element Three: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice 

Each crayon in this book is expressing their thoughts and feelings of how they've been misused or mistreated by their unknowing owner, Duncan. While realizing that they have special talents and skills they can bring to the table, many crayons feel as though they are being exploited or undervalued and speak up against this injustice. "The Day the Crayons Quit" is a wholesome, innocent vehicle to teach children how injustice occurs all around us, often unintentionally. This book promotes students to be more aware of their actions and how they are treating those around them. It discourages readers from making assumptions or thinking of objects or people in only one light.

Classroom Activity 

The most obvious element of the book is persuasive letter writing. Student can be encouraged to simply write a persuasive letter and learn different elements of the structure of writing a letter. This activity can be taken a step further by allowing children to juxtapose themselves and relate with a person or object around them and write a persuasive letter from a different perspective. For younger children, the activity can encourage students to look at objects around them and come up for different uses other than what is conventional. This teaches children to look at objects with a multimodal approach encouraging creative thinking and resourcefulness.

Even if this book is not connected to a learning activity it is a phenomenal book that would enhance any classroom library. It is a very entertaining book that would capture the interest and attention of any young reader.

The Story of Ruby Bridges

Title: "The Story of Ruby Bridges"

Author: Robert Coles
Illustrations By: George Ford
Purchase: Click to buy!

Teaching Resources:
Teaching Segregation in 3rd Grade

Ruby Bridges Lesson plan:
Scholastic Lesson plans for Ruby Bridges


It's 1960, our nation is in a time of great social change and political upheaval. After a landmark decision by the courts of New Orleans, to much protest by the exclusively white school district, six year old Ruby Bridges, is allowed to attend William Frantz Elementary School, an "all white school", becoming the the first African American child to do so there. The young girl must now enter an environment violently unwelcoming of her, and one that is deeply intrenched with the ideologies that aim to maintain segregation. Despite prejudice, young Ruby faces, along with great resistance, she never backs down from going to school. The story of Ruby Bridges is one of trial and tribulation, protests and a mass exodus from the school by white students, at the hands of their parents. While Ruby attends her first year as the only student in the school, learning to write and read in empty classrooms, after two boys return to school, the rest soon follow. With their return, the beginning of the end for separate schooling at William Frantz Elementary, but not inequality in education.

Element Three: "Issues of Social Injustice"

This is not only an actual account of what many children faced during the desegregation of schools in our nation, it's a story about a shared experience, of preserving, hope and overcoming oppression. This story serves as a great cornerstone to any lesson about racism, embracing diversity and the covering of issues of Social Injustice as it gives the students a story with a character they can connect with, especially those of African American heritage. Looking specifically at Element Three, the critical need for teachers to actively scaffold children in their development of "connections between the historical roots of oppression" so that they gain understanding of "lived experiences and material conditions of not only people through out history". As children learn the history of oppression associated with the specific injustice, they are then able to make connections to "the current state of being and living for people of all oppressed groups today". Here, these goals can rightfully be covered by means of comparing the environment Ruby learned in with that of those children in minorities are in today. Through use of this book, children are exposed to the concept that while legislation can invoke equality, social change and beliefs are much more difficult to change. This can open the class up to a multitude of different discussions and activities depending on the discretion of the teacher. Social injustice has many faces and this book serves well as a means to expose students ages 5-8 years old, to the experience of a child in their age group to which they can directly relate to, thus making the story even more meaningful and relatable. 

Classroom Activity: 

To include this book into a lesson would not serve the students whole-fully. To not only cover the experience of ruby but the history of oppression, the teacher should make it a point to make the lesson inclusive of group work and class discussion. The following is a short lesson plan/activity to engage the students in post reading the book.

  • Read Aloud "The Story of Ruby Bridges"
  • During the reading, pause at teachable moments, prompting the children to connect and reflect on not only what is happening and why it is wrong, but how they believe ruby feels.
  • After the Read Aloud, children will break up into groups and write down times they have felt how ruby felt in school
  • The class will regroup and engage in discussion facilitated by the teacher where they will share what they wrote down.
  • After this activity, the teacher will present either on the board, projector or smart board, a two column part. In the first column's header there should be "1960" and in the second "Today". The teacher will call on the class to give examples from the book of what it was like in school for ruby during the 1960s and for them today. Students will compare both columns with help from the teacher and discuss how things have changed.
  • It is important for the teacher to inform the students that these changes are still happening and how they can be part of the change.