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 5, 2012

Let's Talk About Race

Author: Julius Lester
Illustrator: Karen Barbour
Grade Level: 1st + (Age Level: 6+)

For more information about Julius Lester and other stories he wrote, please click here

Summary: Julius Lester's narrative opens with, “I am a story. So are you,” the beginning of a short book about racial identity and how it affects the way we view one another. He begins by writing about his hobbies and what he likes amongst other things. Then, Julius leads into the topic of race; he explains the different races and how people tend to dislike others simply because of their race. The book explains that despite our race, we are all the same under our skin and have no reason to judge another based on their skin color. He discusses how we all are much more than our race and have many elements in our stories such as family name, family places, likes and dislikes. Lester writes about what makes each individual special. The book ends with Julius Lester asking the reader, “I’ll take off my skin. Will you take off yours?” pertaining to not to judge others.

Element 1 (Self-Love and Knowledge): This book is a great choice to use for Element 1 as it is intended for young children and its concentration is about race. The author, Julius discusses many different things about himself and what makes him unique. He discusses his race of which has great importance and meaning to him, although it does not define who he is. The book is centered on racial identity and characteristics that make individuals who they are, different, yet alike. Most importantly, the book emphasizes how we are all the same under our skin, we share similar life stories, events, and characteristics, which teaches acceptance of oneself and of one another. In addition, the book emphasizes how we all are much more than just our race and are made up of many elements, race just being one and minor detail. Nonetheless, it is also centered around what makes each individual special.

Activity: One of many possible follow-up activities may be engaging students in a classroom discussion not only about race, but about things that represent themselves and their "story" as individuals, their families, religion, culture, community, etc. Following, the teacher will explain to the class that they will have a “Show and Tell” multi-cultural lesson where each student will be required to bring in one item that represents themselves, their family, religion, culture, etc. This “Show and Tell” lesson will help inform and motivate the students to be open and share with one another about their backgrounds and to understand, learn, and accept others. “Students learn about different aspects of their identity and history associated with it” (Picower). This lesson will also allow the students to learn about who they are and where they came from. 

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