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, February 25, 2013

Element 3: Issues of Social Injustice

And Tango Makes Three
Written by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
Illustrated by Henry Cole


A Tango Makes Three is a remarkable children's book based off a true story regarding two male penguins home to the Central Park Zoo in New York City. The book begins by stating that the Central Park Zoo is a place where all different types of families come to see the animals. However, different types of families can be found among the animals that live in the zoo as well. The book touches upon several different types of animals and their family dynamic, for example, how the red panda bear cubs are raised by their mothers and fathers, as well as the monkeys, toads and penguins whom all of which seem to have the same family make-up. Consequently, there is one penguin couple unlike all the rest in the Central Park Zoo and their names are Roy and Silo. Roy and Silo did everything together and truly loved one another so much that they wanted to hatch an egg just like all the other penguin couples did. The two of them worked together to create the perfect nest and waited with high hopes that there strong efforts would bring them a baby penguin to love and care for. With a little outside help, Roy and Silo were able to get their wish, baby Tango had arrived. People in the Central Park Zoo adored Tango and her two fathers as they were able to do all things that the other penguin families did too. 

Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice 
Grade level: Pre K - 3rd 

This book represents element three as it celebrates the abundance of diversity among family dynamics that are present in the world today. Introducing ideas of different family dynamics to young children is extremely important especially during these years when children are most egocentric, yet eager to learn and absorb new information. Children born into a heterosexual family will may not be familiar with ideas of, or perhaps even the possibility of there being children raised by homosexual parents and vice versa. 
In order to avoid confusion, fear and stereotyping at a young age, it is important to expose children to all the diverse characteristics of families in today's society. Homosexuality and homophobia are viewed as two somewhat more advanced issues of social injustice, however this does not make them eligible for ignorance. For younger children, introducing these topics of diversity in a positive and celebrated light can be as easy as including a memorable book such as And Tango Makes Three. The book is excellent for allowing students to feel acclimated in the classroom and with their peers, especially at the beginning of the school year. After reading the book, students can even create their own poster with pictures of who makes up their own family to present to the class. By looking around the room at all the different family posters, students will be able to see the overflowing diversity just from one single classroom. 
As teachers, the students and their families are the most important aspect of your job. Therefore differences must be respected and furthermore, understood in order to create a more comforting and connected bond between teacher, student, and parents. 

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