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, February 6, 2012

Something Beautiful

Author: Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Illustrator: Chris K. Soentpiet

Grade Level: 1-2 grade

Buy it here!


Summary: Everyday, a little girl walks through her neighborhood and notices the trash strewn about, the graffiti on her front door and the homeless lady who sleeps in a box. After studying the word "Beautiful"in school,  she walks around her neighborhood again asking several people in her community what they have that's beautiful. The responses are as varied as the people she asks: fried fish sandwich, jump rope, an old stone of sentimental value, a baby's laugh, a beautiful store. The girl goes back to sit on the stoop of her building and contemplate her surroundings, then decides to take action. She fetches soap, water and a broom and cleans up the courtyard in front of her building. She scrubs the graffiti on the door, in an uplifting change of tone she writes: "When Die disappears, I feel powerful".

Element 5: Raising awareness. I chose this book because it illustrates from the child's perspective the entire journey from a feeling of powerlessness, to coming to an awareness of what bothers her, to finally figuring out how she can become an agent of change, and exert some control over the situation.

How I plan to use this in the classroom: This book provides an opportunity to talk about different neighborhoods. Children can be encouraged to draw comparisons with their neighborhoods, and make lists of the public vs private spaces in their neighborhoods. An important lesson can be taught about private vs. public spaces, and our collective responsibility to keep them clean, safe and pleasant for everyone's enjoyment. More specifically, students can explore the many ways some neighborhood residents contribute to enhancing their neighborhoods: neighborhood patrols, organizing community cleanup crews, planting community gardens, etc...

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