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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shades of People

Author:  Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
Illustrated by: Shelley Rotner

Grade Level:  Pre K - 2nd Grade


This book explores the physical differences of racial and ethnic backgrounds through vibrant pictures of happy, smiling children with many different skin tones. "Shades of People" is appropriate for pre-school to 2nd grade children with each page containing short explanations of between four and ten words. The opening excerpt, “Have you noticed that people come in many different shades?” provides an opportunity to spark discussions about differences in our peers and to encourage social acceptance. This wonderful children’s book carries a warm message of teaching that it’s okay to recognize our differences but to look beyond the obvious and to accept everyone for who they are.  This message is captured in the middle of the book with several pictures of two friends and captains that read, "Our skin is just our covering, like wrapping paper.  You can't tell what someone is like from the color of their skin."

Element II: 
"Shades of People" relates to Element Two because it provides children with an opportunity to learn about and become familiar with a variety of cultural backgrounds.  With an enriched knowledge of their peers' cultural background, children will better prepared to respect diversity and embrace their differences.  

This book would be a great introduction at the beginning of the school year to create a warm and inviting classroom atmosphere. The teacher would read “Shades of People” at circle time and have a whole class discussion encouraging the children to share their stories about who they are. This would be a lead-in to a year-long project where each student is assigned a week to be “Super Kid”. When a student is “Super Kid”, they are allowed to bring in something to class each day and to explain to their classmates why they chose this item and what makes it important to them. These personal items are displayed in the front of the class for the entire week, allowing classmates to get to know a little more about each other. The “Super Kid” also has the week to create a poster of their “home and family”. On Friday at a special time, the “Super Kid” shares their poster and unique story and can even invite family members to visit their classroom and meet their classmates.  This project allows the “Super Kid” to share his or her story while their classmates listen and learn from each other.  Learning from one another creates a respectful classroom environment full of empathy and compassion.

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