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, November 11, 2013

Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman's Race for the Presidency

Author: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrator: Courtney A. Martin
Grade Level: 2-5th


This book is an excellent source for social movements and social change.  The story is based on a true story of Belva Lockwood who believed in equal rights for everyone.  She believed that with some faith anyone can accomplish anything.  Belva was born in New York in 1830 and decided when she was 39 that she wanted to be a lawyer.  Unfortunately, no law school would admit her.  This did not stop Belva, she found a newly opened law school, National University Law School, where she and 14 other women were accepted.  Out of the 14 women, Belva was one of two to finish the courses.  After she finished the program, the school did not give her her diploma.  Belva wrote a letter to the president Ulysses S. Grant, who was also the president of the law school, demanding her diploma for passing law school.  She later received her diploma signed by the president himself and was now a lawyer.  She was the first woman to graduate from National University Law School and the first woman to practice law in federal courts as well as the first to argue a case before the Supreme Court.  Belva never stopped fighting for what she believed in.  In 1884, Belva was the first woman to officially run for president and receive official votes.  Belva did not win presidency, but she did receive many votes from men, being that women were not allowed to vote at this time.  Belva is an inspiration for all people.  She never gave up on her dreams.  When people put her down and said she could not accomplish her goals, she kept fighting for equality and what she believed in. The book also has a glossary and a timeline of Women's Suffrage in the United States.

Element # 4 - Social Movement and Social Change:

Ballots for Belva relates to element four since it is an example of an everyday person who stood up for herself in many situations she felt was unjust.  Belva had many people working with her and supporting her in her endeavors, which will show students how they themselves can create change.  Even though there were people who doubted her, she never gave up on creating change that she believed in.  Belva took a stand that paved the way for others to follow in her footsteps.

Follow-up Activity:

Have students write a journal entry stating what they personally would like to stand-up for to see something change that they feel is unjust.  It can be about anything: the food selection in the cafeteria, the grade level in which they have to be in to do a certain after school activity, or something within their community.  Have students create their own entry about something that is meaningful to them.  After they create their entry, the students can then read their entry out loud and vote for which journal entry they believe is most meaningful to the class as a whole, and would like to work on together to create change.  Once a topic from the journal entries is decided upon by the class, the class will work together to create a positive change.  They can either write letters, make posters to state their feelings, or create websites stating what social movement or social change they would like to address, while working together to create the change in a sophisticated manor.  This activity is perfect for beginning element five, it can also be broken down into sections and done while doing element four and five.

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