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.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Remember: The Journey to School Integration

Title: Remember: The Journey to School

Author: Toni Morrison

Recommended for ages 8-10, grades 3-5.

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For lesson plans. (click "View Printable")

Summary: In this book, Toni Morrison puts words into pictures and depicts conversations, thoughts, and actions that would have occurred during the period of school integration. The book thoroughly explores the ideas of white children and adults whether they were for or against integration, as well as what black students and parents went through amidst fears of how integration would be handled. Throughout every few pages and as stated in the beginning of the book, the story of school integration and integration in general impacts students and people today because had it not been for the past, we would not be where we are today. Morrison categorizes it as "the Narrow Path, the Open Gate, and the Wide Road". The book allows children from every ethnicity to open their minds and put themselves in another's shoes to explore what integration, segregation, and racism would have been like for that other person.

Representation of Social Injustice: Social injustice is represented in this book through the pictures of blacks and whites fighting with each other, white children influenced by their friends to stand for segregation, and the white people who chose to sit with the black people and profess integration, to just name a few. Blacks wanted to be treated as an equal, not as though they were an equal. The biggest injustice and humiliating thing for blacks was that they were not given the same education as white children. Blacks were seen as inferior; hence, there is no such thing as "separate but equal".

To Use This Book: I would use this book in my classroom when teaching about Brown v. Board of Education. I might also try to really give students of a feeling of what segregation was like by separating the classroom where one ethnicity of children sat in the front and others sat in the back and at the end of the day ask students how it felt to be treated unfairly. Social injustice of ethnicity or races goes beyond just that category and extends to religious intolerance and social classes, as is illustrated in F. Scott Fitzgerald's book The Great Gatsby and the history of the Holocaust. Social injustice would be an interesting way to transition into bullying. I would ask a student "why won't you let "Jane" go down the slide? Would you want "Jane" to not let you go down the slide?" To make another transition, into Social Element 4: Social Movements and Social Change, I would encourage students to find something that they believe is worth fighting for justice and work to make a difference. Some examples may include animal rights, nuclear weapons/war, the education system. Students can right letters and petitions to fight for the causes they deem important to them.

Click here for another great review of the book!

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