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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!

Author: Diana Cohn
Illustrator: Francisco Delgado
Grade Level: K & Up

Buy it Here!
Resources 1!
Resources 2!

Summary: This book is about a boy named Carlos and his mother. Carlos is the narrator and tells the story of how his mother's struggle to provide for her family after she moves to the United States from Mexico. Mama, Carlos' mother, is a janitor in Los Angeles, CA and decides to fight for her rights by holding a strike with her fellow union workers. With the help of the other union workers from around the state and country and other various people, Mama and Carlos are able to stand for what they believe in and accomplish a common goal of getting higher pay and respect for the union workers. The illustrations are vivid and capture exactly what the author is saying in the story. This book is a wonderful depiction of how organization and social movements can create social change when people work together and believe that yes, they can!

Element 4 (Social movement and Social Change): This book really represents element four because it shows children that no matter what age you are, you do matter and you can make a difference. Carlos' mother needed his help by understanding that she would be out of work and doing something for the community by participating in the strike and needed his understanding which he gave her. Carlos represents all children that would like to help out and create change as well. He started a movement in his classroom to help out their parents in the strike, and decided to help her again stand for other people that needed their help at the end of the story. His show of courage would inspire any child that reads this book because no matter the age, all you need is the desire and you can create social change.

Activity: This book can be read with any class as young as kindergarten but the grade level in which I found a really good activity would be 3-5. One of the resources above is for grades 6-8 but I believe we can make it appropriate for fourth or fifth graders by having them read the book and then create questions that they would ask janitors or people in service about their daily work lives. We could then make home connections by asking if anyone has any relatives that are in the service industry that would be willing to come to class and meet with the students to answer their questions. The teacher could also go about bringing in a janitor from the school if the school would permit it which could be a bit easier than having the students go off and find janitors in the school themselves as the activity above suggests. We could then see how they feel about what they have learned and if there was something they would like to change about it, they would be able to write letters to the appropriate offices to try and create change for that specific group of workers.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One MIllion Men And Me

Author: Kelly Starling Lyons

Illustrator: Peter Ambush

Grade Level: K-8

Buy it here!

About the Author

Fun Activities for Kids

One Million Men and Me is a picture book that vividly recounts the historic Million Man March.  The movement took place at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1995. The author retells the events of this day from the perspective of a young girl who accompanies her father.  The epic story, that the young girl shares, is filled with heroic and inspiring black men.  The book portrays colorful and lifelike illustrations of black men from all walks of life (different ages, religious beliefs, cultural and economic backgrounds) who marched, stood shoulder to shoulder, and joined hands for peace and unity.  The author’s purpose is twofold.  First, the book celebrates the special relationship between an African American father and his daughter. Secondly, book commemorates an important and historic day for Black America.

Element 4: Social Movements and Social Change
One Million Men and Me, as well as this element, teaches students about a movement of iconic and everyday people who unite to address issues of social injustice.  The Million Man March brought together Black men who were committed to empower themselves and each other to make positive and lasting changes within their families and communities.  The activists were inspired by speakers such as Min. Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mrs. Rosa Parks, and Dr. Maya Angelou who gave powerful voices to this movement.  People around the nation and world supported this widely televised movement.  According to Lyons, after the movement, black men registered to vote in record numbers, there was a spike in applications to adopt black children, some men started new businesses and organizations, and others volunteered.  The black men worked to make their communities safer and economically sound, to be better fathers, husbands, role models, community leaders, and activists.  

  • According to Lyons, there are many young people that have never heard of the Million Man March.  The author hopes that this picture book will help to change that.  Teachers can use this book as an example of another historic movement since the Civil Rights Movement. 
  • On Million Men and Me can also be used to address current issues of injustice and racism towards of black men and boys like in the case of Trayvon Martin.  This book highlights the power everyday people have to mobilize and collectively impact and change the image and quality of life for black men and boys in America.  
  • After reading this book, have your students create and share artistic responses to the Million Man March.   Example:  (Teacher explains) You have seen pictures of people holding a protest for the Civil Rights Movement.  Now, I want you to create a sign with your own words in favor of the Million Man March. Have your students create a sign with bight and bold letters and/or catchy slogan. 
  • Students will use their signs to participate in a mock student-led public march in the classroom or during lunch to demand equity and justice for black men and boys.
  • As a larger activity, have your students plan a new march (either as a class or in small groups) that would appeal to correct an existing injustice in society. Questions to guide the planning may include:
    • What is the specific nature of the injustice? (Cultural racism, institutional sexism or racism, governmental policies aimed at minors, environmental destruction, etc.)
    • To whom would you be appealing for change? (Congress, the White House, the general population, etc.)
    • What are your specific demands, and how should they be addressed? (Reform of existing laws, monetary compensation, acknowledgment of the problem, etc.)
    • Who would speak at your march and why? (Certain entertainers, politicians, activists, etc.)
    • How would you communicate the message of your march? (Internet, social media & networks, news, mailings, grassroots campaigns, radio, etc.)
    • What groups do you think might counter-protest your march?
    • What other obstacles do you foresee in both the process of planning as well as the march itself?
    • Source: Social Studies Lesson Plans from PBS TeacherSource

Other Resources:

Million Man March Pledge