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, October 8, 2013

The Rag Coat

Author: Lauren Mills
Illustrator: Lauren Mills
Grade Level: 3-5

Buy it here!


Summary: Minna is a young Appalachian girl who very badly wants to go to school. She cannot go to school because her family is poor and needs her at home. Her father dies suddenly, but before he dies tells her that it is time for her to go to school. The only problem is she needs a jacket and her family cannot afford one. A group of mothers who gather at Minna's house regularly to quilt learn about her dilemma and decide to help. They each bring rags to help make a coat for Minna. When they give the coat to Minna, she is thrilled. She thinks the coat is beautiful. But her excitement quickly turns to sadness when she gets to school and is teased by her classmates for wearing rags. Minna runs away from her classmates and cries, but remembers advice her father gave her and heads back to the schoolhouse to tell her classmates that her coat is full of stories...full of her classmates' stories. She explains that each one of the rags on her coat is from one of their homes and tells a story about each classmate's rags. Once the classmates realize that her coat contains pieces of their own history, they apologize for their mean words and respect Minna and her coat.

Element 2- Respect for Others:  Minna's classmates did not show Minna respect when they made fun of her coat, when really her coat was just parts of their own history. If the classmates took the time to look closely at the coat she was wearing instead of making fun of something they thought was "ugly," they would have seen how meaningful her coat was to them. This story goes to show that we are sometimes quick to judge the way people look on the outside (even just by what they're wearing) when really what is on the inside of that person is a little piece of us all.

Activity: Have students work in groups of 4-5 to make their own "coat." Have students pick out rags that they might use for a coat (old blankies they used when they were a baby etc.) and have them tell their group members the story behind their rag. Ask students if they saw any similarities in stories within their groups. Have them discuss what Minna must have felt when her classmates teased her about her coat. Make sure they explain why using the text.

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