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 13, 2013

Special People, Special Ways

Special People, Special Ways
Author: Arlene Maguire
Illustrator: Sheila Bailey

Grade Level: PreK-3rd 

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Social Justice Element Two: Respect for Others

Summary: Special People, Special Ways wonderfully represents people’s differences. It explains that we are all unique and diverse in many aspects, also stating that ultimately we are all humans and have commonalities as well. Maguire says that we are born different, look different, and learn differently as well. It is a very interesting and phenomenal way to introduce or reinforce diversity, acceptance, and respect to elementary school children, as the book includes various skin colors, ages, learning and medical disabilities, children who need assistance in particular areas and animals who accompany the children. The book includes amazing illustrations that strongly represent the themes and ideas.

Element Two (Respect for Others): This book portrays respect for other people as it emphasizes acceptance and celebration of our unique differences. It is a strong portrayal of diversity as it includes, the racial aspect, children with visual impairments, eye glasses, wheelchairs and crutches, animals who assist with disabilities, and sign language in the classroom. It greatly represents element two because not only does it touch upon race, it includes personal characteristics as well. In the images, all the children are playing and interacting together even though they physically appear different and have things such as canes. It tells us that people struggle with pain and we should give them a hand if we are capable. In one picture, a little girl is using the keyboard to communicate since she is mute. It deconstructs stereotypes, as there is positive interaction between the children and there is a sense of empathy. I think this book is an excellent representation of respecting others, noticing how people have various disabilities, and accepting and celebrating diversity. It shows that the meaning of diversity is very broad.

Activity: Prior to reading the book during circle time, the teacher could ask students to share personal experiences with things such as disabilities and differences. Students will connect the discussion to their families and homes, and share stories that probably will be similar to the ones portrayed in Special People, Special Ways. After reading the book, the children can draw a picture and write a passage about something that personally represents them. Other activities can include creating poems around the subject, and using the internet to show students other examples of different backgrounds.

Other: Special People, Special Ways was displayed in “Creative Child Magazine” and received “Preferred CHOICE Award” for 2009. The author uses rhymes which could be a good approach for children. A powerful quote from the author, “All people shine as jewels in a chest. Born with our gifts each person is blessed.”

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