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, April 1, 2013
Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan
Grade Level: 4th-5th
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Summary: Esperanza had a carefree early childhood, growing up the only child of prosperous Mexican ranchers. However, after the death of her father, she and her mother must move from their native land of Mexico to California, in order to escape a family member's tyranny. Esperanza's struggle to adjust to her difficult new life as a migrant worker is compounded by her mother's illness. Esperanza must decide if she will join her peer Marta and become involved in a strike for better working conditions.
This novel effectively shows the complexity of labor strikes; students will better understand the reasons for choosing or not choosing to take this type of social action.
Element 4: The fourth element of social justice addresses the idea that students can make social change. Esperanza and her peer Marta are young women who have to decide whether or not to participate in an important social movement (a strike among migrant workers). Marta chooses to join, while Esperanza does not. Marta provides an example of a young person who is determined to make a social change. Through her character, students will see that it is possible for a young person to actively participate in and help organize a social movement.
Activity: After reading the chapter entitled "Los Aguacates," (pg 179-198) discuss whether or not Esperanza will join the strike. Organize the class into two groups: One is for Esperanza joining the strike, the other against it. Have the students discuss the pros and cons of striking. The group that is for striking should write an ending for the story, pretending Esperanza does decide to strike. The group that is opposed to Esperanza striking should write an ending for the story, pretending Esperanza does not decide to strike.
The book provides a segue into topics like immigration, migrant workers' rights, labor strikes, and working conditions. Students can research migrant worker life, discuss changes that can be made to improve working conditions, and contact government officials about proposed changes.