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, February 26, 2013

Grandmama's Pride

Author: Becky Birtha
Illustrator: Colin Bootman
Grade Level: 3-5

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Summary: Grandmama’s Pride takes place in the south in 1956.  Six year old Sarah Marie and her mother and sister take a bus from the north to the south to visit Grandmama for the summer.  Throughout the story, Sarah Marie and her sister are told to do things a certain way by their mother and grandmother.  Their mother tells them to sit in the back of the bus because there it is “big and wide and roomy.”  She also tells them not to sit at the lunch counter at the rest stop because they brought their own lunches.  The girls do not know that there are laws in the south preventing them from sitting in the front of the bus and eating at the lunch counter.  Once they get to Grandmama’s house for the summer, Grandmama also keeps the girls from knowing the truth.  When the three decide to go downtown, the girls believe they are going to take the bus.  But Grandmama says, “God gave us each two good strong legs for walking.”  The girls do not know that Grandmama refuses to take the bus since she would be forced to sit in the back.  They did not know that “Grandmama’s pride was too tall to fit in the back of the bus.”  Because Sarah Marie does not know how to read yet, she cannot read the signs across town that read “Whites only.”  However, during the summer, Sarah Marie slowly learns to read, and once she begins to understand these signs and what they mean, Sarah Marie is upset and wants to go home up north.  At the end of the summer, when the family is waiting in the bus station, Sarah Marie’s sister goes to sit on a bench that is for whites only, and Sarah Marie stops her, by saying “You don’t know who’s been sitting there.”  Sarah Marie learns to shield her sister from the injustices in their world.  The story ends with the segregation laws being overturned, and when Sarah Marie goes to visit her Grandmama the next summer, the signs are gone and they experience new freedoms.

Relationship to Element 3 The third element, exploring issues of social injustice, can be introduced into the curriculum through the use of this book.  Grandmama’s Pride gives students the opportunity to learn about ways African Americans were segregated and oppressed throughout the United States, and how those laws were eventually overturned.  It also could promote a discussion of the Civil Rights Movement.   The teacher and the students could discuss ways that people are still oppressed today, both in the African American community and others.  It will be important for the teacher to make connections between how African Americans were oppressed in the past and how this still affects society today, including affirmative action and segregated housing patterns.

Activity: A good way to incorporate this book into a lesson would be to use the discussion of the story as a jumping off point to talk about social injustice in our society today.  The teacher could provide news articles about different social issues happening today and have the students decide which issue they would like to explore further.  The students could write in their journals a response to the story and to issues happening today, making connections between the past and present.  One example of an issue that is closely connected with the story is de facto segregation which happens in poor school districts across our nation.  Making the connection between oppression in the past and social injustice today is crucial as students move from learning about issues to taking action in the subsequent elements. 

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