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 19, 2013

Oliver Button Is a Sissy

Title: Oliver Button Is a Sissy
Author & Illustrator: Tomie DePaola
Reading Level: Ages 4-8

Summary: Oliver Button is a young boy who doesn't like to do the activities that "normal" boys do. He likes to play outside, draw pictures, read, play with paper dolls, and dress up in costumes at home. His father expects Oliver to do things other boys his age do, like play sports. Oliver's classmates also tease him because his hobbies are different than theirs, they call him a sissy. Oliver begins dance classes and loves it. He enters the talent show at school to show his tap dance skills. Once his father and classmates see how confident and great he is at tap dancing they are proud of him and accept him for who he is. He becomes a "star".

Element 2- Respect for Others: Tomie DePaola deconstructs the image of what boys should be like and what activities they are expected to be interested in. Oliver Button faces challenges at home and at school with those who misunderstand him. He stays true to himself and in time, those around him accept and respect him. He is not the one to conform. This books helps children to see the value of people different from them on a personal level. The story models the right way to treat those  different from us in contrast with the wrong way. Also, the ethnic representation in the illustrations are subtle but distinct, and shows an implicit respect for others as well.

Activity: Frame the reading and get the children thinking about social relationships. Prior to reading the book,  have a discussion about what types of things they like to do and what they expect when we see certain people. The children can share their different hobbies. This can lead into a role play about bullying and what it looks like to treat someone nicely, and how we shouldn't treat others.   Then  read the book as a class and talk about how Oliver Button was treated and what they felt about his hobbies and what is "normal". This will give children an opportunity to recognize how to treat others with respect and get them thinking about it for their lives.

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