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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great Kapok Tree

The Great Kapok Tree

A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest

Written and Illustrated by Lynne Cherry

Grades: 4-5

Summary: One day a young man goes into the Amazon Rain Forest and begins to chop down a Kapok tree. After working for a while he rests and soon falls asleep. While he is sleeping the animals of the forest come up to him and ask him him to stop chopping down the tree. The animals, including a boa constrictor, monkeys, many bugs, birds, a jaguar, and even a young boy of the Yanomaono tribe, all have their reasons to ask the sleeping man to stop chopping down the tree. The man wakes suddenly to find himself surrounded by all the creatures who had spoken to him. He notices their beauty and the beauty and wonderment of the forest around him. As he gets up to begin working he looks around again, dropping the axe he leaves the forest.

Element 5: This book demonstrates raising awareness through the actions of the animals. All the animals love and care about the tree and do not want the man to cut it down. Every animals gets their chance to tell the man why the tree should stay. The whole point of raising awareness is to spread the word about issues. When the man came into the forest and began to cut down the tree this presented a troubling issue for the animals who live in and depend on the tree. To raise awareness is to ask others to "look upon us all with new eyes," like the little boy asks of the man. It also shows that if you present your issue something might get done about it.

Activity: After introducing students to the idea of deforestation I would use this book to introduce the students to a way they can help save the rain forest. I would have the students explore the websites of prominent organizations that help save rain forests. such as AIRR or STARO. The students could then come up with a fundraiser to be able to make a donation or to adopt an animal who is endangered because of deforestation. ( WWF )

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