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.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Brother Charlie

Author: Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Illustrator: Shane W. Evans
Grade Level: 2-5
Age Range: 7-10 Years

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   My Brother Charlie is a great book to introduce autism to young children. The two co-authors; mother and daughter, Holly and Ryan Peete work together to share their real life perspective on having a family member (Charlie) diagnosed with autism.
   In this book Charlie's twin sister (Callie) expresses to the readers that even though they are twins, Charlie's brain works in a different way; Charlie is diagnosed with autism. After Charlie's doctor explained to Callie and to the family that Charlie may never say "I love you", Callie learned from Charlie that love doesn't always come from what you say, but from what you do. Callie explains to the readers that at times it is hard to be Charlie's sister, such as at times when he won't look her in the eyes or speak or play and when he has trouble making friends. Yet, there are also good time with Charlie. Charlie and Callie play games together and there is times then when Charlie looks Callie in the eyes and he touches her face and they giggle; that's his way of saying "I love you". Charlie is great at many things, like playing the piano, and he could name all the American Presidents! Charlie is sweet and caring and when Charlie can find the words- that are locked inside him- he says "I love you". Callie is blessed to have the love they share; expressed in many ways. As mentioned by Holly and Ryan Peete, "Charlie has autism. But autism doesn't have Charlie."

Element 2; Respect for others:
This book is one of many that introduces the diverse backgrounds of families. Each student has a story to tell, and this book is a great way to open up a discussion; learn further on the element; and preform a project or assignment to show each student in the classroom that everyone is different and we all come from different families, and we should embrace the diversity and share our stories behind it. This book in particular expresses this element greatly. In this story Callie expresses what makes her family different and unique with having a twin brother diagnosed with autism. Callie tells the readers that despite his disability and some difficult days her brother shares, Charlie has many great qualities and they share happy memories together. Callie is blessed to call him her brother everyday despite him being "different" from her. This book helps young children to accept diversity and how your family story is your own and special and you should use your story to teach others.

After reading this book to my students a great activity to further promote element 2 would be to 'Design Your Own Custom Background T-Shirt" project/assignment. I would have a t-shirt shaped white colored paper already cut out for my students; Next I would ask my students to think of anything that they would want to teach myself and their classmates about their family or culture background; about their foods, holidays, or something similar to the story we read, "My Brother Charlie". My students would then draw a picture of their choice and write a few sentence on what this drawing is, what it means to them and what make this special and why they want to teach us what they chose to draw. After my students each share their own t-shirts to the class and myself, I would then hang up all my student's t-shirts on a clothesline with real clothes pins across my classroom ceiling to promote a gallery for all my students to be reminded of how diverse everyone is and how special it is to be taught about all the t-shirts' stories our classmates have to tell.


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