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, February 12, 2011

The Jacket

Title: The Jacket
Author: Andrew Clements
Illustrator: McDavid Henderson
Reading Level: Ages 8 to 12

Summary: The Jacket is a five part (chapter) book about Phil, a white boy, who immediately jumps to conclusions when he sees David, an African American boy, wearing his brother's jacket. Through mediated discussion, it is discovered that David did in fact receive the jacket as a gift from his grandmother, but also that David's grandmother is Phil's family's cleaning lady. David is embarassed by what seems to be a "charity gift" and no longer wants the jacket. This confrontation makes Phil begin to analyze his thoughts and the words / actions of the people around him, including his own family. After visiting David's home, he realizes the large amount of similarities between the two boys regardless of ethnicity, and David accepts his jacket back.

Element 2 Representation: I felt this book to represent Element 2: Respect for Others well because the main character learns to respect others as he earns the respect of others as well. Andrew Clements does a great job at providing examples of reasons why Phil's prejudiced thoughts would exist (origins of the prejudice), while incorporating Phil's analysis of the neighborhood and situation in general. Many students experience these prejudiced thoughts and may not know how to analyze this type of a situation. Therefore, this book provides positive actions towards breaking down prejudiced thoughts and building new, fairer thoughts.

Use in the Classroom: Teachers may use this book to introduce the topic of different neighborhoods as well as our own prejudiced thoughts. The main character is so easily relateable, so it shouldn't be difficult to relate it to the class' own thoughts of different ethnicities. At the same time, as a class you may examine your own neighborhoods and the ethnicities most prevalent around you. The class may then draw out their neighborhood, labelling areas of these ethnicities. This may be used to discuss reasons for prejudiced thoughts, and through critical thinking the class may discuss ways of breaking down these thoughts for other people as well.

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