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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Are You a Boy or Girl?

Are You a Boy or a Girl

Title: Are You a Boy or a Girl?

Author: Karleen Pendleton Jiminez

Summary: Told through photographs, drawings and a very approachable storyline, this story is about a girl who doesn't like to do many of the things that are stereotypically considered "girl things" to do, such as playing with make-up and dolls. She didn't think anything was wrong with that, because she was who she was and she liked what she liked, but many of her peers teased her and asked her if she was a boy or a girl, based on her haircut, her toys, and her athletic abilities. As she grew up, she constantly found herself defending her gender and having to answer to other people for her choices. She went home to her mom, very upset, and her mom explained to her that there are all types of people, with all types of interests, and essentially that's what makes her special, and eventually other people will understand her more.
From the title page of the book:
"Kids spend a lot of time debating with each other over what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl. It's a time of choices. It's a time of creating themselves. It could be a time for blending and embracing the many ways they express themselves, but it is too often a time of narrowing the possibilities of who they can be. 
Are You a Boy or a Girl? enters into this conversation and opens it up. It is the story of a child thinking through who she is, a child learning through her mother's love how to be both strong and soft."

Reflections: This story is simple and a quick read that will make a great read-aloud in the morning on any day of school followed by a powerful conversation. I think that the story brings an important issue to light in a way that is appropriate for students of young ages, and gets them thinking about the way they look at people and judge them, and how much assumptions and mean-spirited questions can hurt others.

How would I use the book/curricular units: I would use this book with any class from Pre-School aged students through third or fourth grade, depending on the strength of the community within the classroom. It opens up the conversation about gender roles and gender-based stereotypes in a gentle, familiar way for students to explore and discuss. Some questions I would use to motivate the conversation include "Why are certain activities and choices considered "girl things" and "boy things"? Do they have to be?" I would have students sort out activities and objects such as a baseball and a hat into categories of "boy things" "girl things" and "anybody things" before reading the book, and then begin the discussion by asking them to defend some of their choices to place things in gender specific categories. After reading the book, we could look back to our sorted objects and activities and acknowledge that all of them could fit into the "anybody" category. TC wise, we could also explore character speech and analyze the way the other people in the story spoke to the main character, and see what we know about them based on what they said. We could look at the different between an inference in literature and an assumption about another person in older grades (2nd, 3rd, 4th).

Domains of Social Justice:
1. Domain of self love and acceptance:
Students will feel more confident making choices based on their own feelings and not based on what they think they need to do based on their gender. Students will accept their own feelings and choices.
2. Respect for Others:
Students will respect the choices and interests of others, even when they are different from their own.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice:
Students will understand that words can be hurtful and stereotypes can lead to hateful speech and unfounded assumptions and judgements about others.

Internet Links:
Book for sale on Teachingforgchange.org

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