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, February 15, 2013


Author: Bernard Ashley
Illustrator: Derek Brazell
Grade Level: K-2

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Summary: The story “Cleversticks” is about a young boy named Ling Sung who is searching for his special talent. He would watch his fellow students show the class their abilities and when he tried them, he couldn’t do it. One of his classmates could tie his shoes. Another could write her name but Ling couldn’t do any of this. He was tired of praising other people for their abilities and no one praising him. However, he finally got a great idea; he grabbed two paintbrushes and began fiddling with them. Cookies were coming around the room and when he got one, he began eating it with the edges of his paintbrushes. He pretended that they were the chopsticks he would use at home to eat with. Everyone became so fascinated with what he was doing. His classmates kept telling him to do it again and his teacher kept saying how clever he was. He finally found something that he was great at. He showed his classmates how he did it and they showed him how to do their talents. Everyone had fun sharing their skills and Ling didn’t feel like an outcast anymore.   

Relationship to Element 2: Element 2 is about respect for others. “Cleversticks” relates to element 2 because it involves sharing a child’s talents with his peers. By sharing skills with one another, students are creating a climate of respect because they are learning about each other’s experiences and that it is common for every child to be skilled in something different; that shows character and uniqueness. They are taking the time to listen and pay attention to what each student has to offer. This story highlights a child’s strengths instead of having a standard manner for all. It avoids having students feel degraded and unimportant because everyone is given a chance to express themselves and learn from their classmates.     

Activity: A good activity to go with the story “Cleversticks” would be to offer a talent show in the class. The teacher will have the students start brainstorming about what they will do for this event by listing all the things they’re great at and have them choose which one would be best to show their classmates. Once every child has selected their lesson, they will each have a chance to be in front of the class and share their abilities just like Ling Sung and his classmates did. They can talk about how they learned this awesome skill and why it was their favorite choice from their list. They can also share the struggles they went through in order to master their skill. This activity forms a comfortable and open environment for the students because they are getting to know who their peers are and are being praised for their talents instead of being put down for what they can offer. The teacher will also learn a lot from her students by following this activity!                    

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