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, February 13, 2011


Title: Yoko
Author: Rosemary Wells
Grade Level: K-3
Ages: 4-8

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In this picture book for children, a little cat named Yoko was going to start her first day of school. Yoko's mother packed her favorite food in her lunchbox which was sushi! Yoko was having a great day at school until her peers began to tease her about the sushi she was eating during lunchtime. Yoko was so embarrassed that she did not want to play outside during recess. In an attempt to unite the students, the teacher sent a note home explaining to the parents that they will have an "International Food Day" in class. Each student was asked to bring in food from a foreign country and to sample a little of everything. The next day the students tried all of the different foods brought in except for Yoko's sushi. Yoko was devastated that no one in her class would even taste it. However, to her surprise, a boy named Timothy picked up the chopsticks to try some of it. Yoko was thrilled that Timothy liked the sushi. From that day on, Yoko and Timothy shared their lunch together!

Element 2- Respect for Others:
This book is a great portrayal of this social justice element because it teaches young children to respect each other and their cultural differences. Yoko loved to eat sushi for lunch since it was a big part of her cultural background. She was upset when she saw the other students in her class react negatively to her favorite food. By having an International Food Day in class, the students were able to respect the variety of foods that other students brought in. When Timothy tried the sushi, it showed young readers that other cultural foods might actually taste good once you give it a try!

Classroom Activity:
Teachers can begin by reading this book to their class to teach them the value of respecting foods from other cultures. After reading the book, the teacher can have students raise their hand to share the different types of food that they eat at home from their own culture. As a follow-up activity to this story, the class can have their very own "International Food Day." The parents can help by bringing in a small dish unique to their own culture (with the ingredients written on a note card for anyone who may be allergic to something in the food). The students can celebrate the diversity in their classroom by tasting the foods brought in by their peers!

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