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, September 8, 2008

Looking After Louis

Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely and Polly Dunbar

Summary: Looking after Louis by Lesly Ely and Polly Dunbar is about a Louis, a boy with autism. The story is told from the perspective of a girl in his class. The girl talks about the stereotypical autistic behaviors that Louis exhibits throughout the school day. One day at recess, Louis began interacting with the boys who were playing soccer. Although Louis wasn't passing or kicking the ball much, when his feet make contact with the ball one of his classmates, Sam, congratulate him. After Louis and the rest of the children come inside from recess, the teacher allows Louis, Sam, and Mrs. Kumar (Louis's paraprofessional/teacher's assistant/aide) to go back outside with the soccer ball. This prompts the girl whose narrating the story to become upset with her teacher. In the end, the teacher addresses the narrator's frustration by helping her to come to the understanding that rules can be broken for special people. This book is about inclusion and helping children to understand how they can be supportive of a student with special needs. Throughout the book Louis exhibits behaviors that are different from the rest of his classmates, but his classmates learn to accommodate, encourage, and understand Louis.
Opinion about the Book: I enjoyed reading this book because it is a good resource to introduce a discussion about inclusion to students. Often times students do not understand why certain children get special treatment or why certain children are allowed to behave a certain way without punishment. The book also does a good job of illustrating how students can work and help a student with special needs. I read a few reviews of the book and I would agree with some critics in saying that the book's overall message is excellent, but it should not be the only source of information for learning about children with autism.
How Would I Use This Book: I would read this book to my students especially if I was a teaching in a inclusion classroom. Even if I wasn't teaching in a inclusion classroom I would still use this book because of the overall message. If you decide to have a discussion with your students about a child in the class who has special needs like Louis, this book is a great way to begin the discussion.
Domains of Social Justice: 1) Self-Love and Acceptance: This book teaches students to examine their own behaviors and assumptions and see how they can become more selfless and proactive in the classroom. 2) Respect for Others: This book teaches students to respect people who are different from themselves. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: This book illustrates the positive aspects of inclusion and how students can help a person with special needs. 5) Taking Social Action: This book shows how students can help and encourage a person with special needs.
Curriculum Units: This book could be used in a curriculum unit on disabilities. It could also be used in a curriculum unit where students learn about differences, where the end goal would be to have students learn acceptance of differences as well as appreciation of differences. In a unit such as this one, I would talk about not only disabilities as one form of differences but also race, gender, class, etc.

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