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 25, 2013

The Kid's Guide to Social Action

Author: Barbara A. Lewis

Edited by: Pamela Espeland and Caryn Pernu

Grade Level: 5 and up

          The Kid’s Guide to Social Action is a book that provides elementary/middle school students with the tools they need to become social activists about issues they care about. If children want to make a difference and change the world around them for the better, it is important for them to know that they can. This book encourages children to never give up on what they believe in, no matter how difficult the challenge. Not only does this book provide how-to tips, information about the government, and who they could contact to create a change, it also offers inspiration to children by giving real life examples of kids successfully taking action.
         The Kid’s Guide to Social Action is divided into five parts. Part 1, “Life Beyond the Classroom,” introduces ten tips for taking social action, including steps such as choosing a problem, doing research, brainstorming possible solutions, and never giving up, just to name a few. Part 2, “Power Skills,” kids are given tips on how to carry out certain tasks in order to be social activists, such as giving speeches, successfully petitioning, fundraising, protesting/picketing, and letter writing. Part 3, “Working with the Government,” proves children with information about the government. Kids can learn how to lobby, change a local/state law, amend constitutions, and write resolutions used to change policies on a local, state, or federal level. There are also examples of “kids in action,” where kids raise awareness about social issues and try to change it for the better, such as Kids Against Pollution (KAP). Part 4, “Resources,” provides the names and addresses of different activism groups/organizations and government officials, giving students the opportunity to reach out to those who can help support their cause. Finally, Part 5, “Tools,” provides kids with a variety of formats/ templates for brainstorming, taking surveys, writing letters, and many, many more.  

Element 6: Taking Social Action:
The Kid’s Guide to Social Action certainly represents the sixth element of social justice education, taking social action. It gives students the opportunity and inspiration to search within themselves, find the issues they care deepest about, and then act upon them. This book not only helps children believe they can make a difference by taking social action, but it also gives them actual resources, tools, and opportunities to take social action towards something they are truly passionate about. For instance, if a student cares deeply about the treatment of animals, wants to help and work towards reaching the goal of fair treatment for animals, he/she can simply go to the “Resources” section and find the address to one of the many animal welfare groups. They can write a letter, make a phone call, conduct a survey or interview, thanks to the guidance of this book. Students can actually do something to fight for what they believe in. With accurate use of this book, students can turn their passion into actions and create a change in the world firsthand.

Follow-Up Activity:

There are several activities for which this book could be used in a classroom. After teaching a unit on a social issue, teachers can use The Kid’s Guide to Social Action to guide students in creating a change for that issue. For instance, if the issue is about the environment, students can use one of the many methods given in the book to elicit a change, such as creating a petition as a class or writing a letter to a government official. Personally, I would use this book to help children find what personally intrigues them. I would use the brainstorming techniques provided by the book to help students search within and find which issue they would feel most passionate about. It is my belief that students learn best when they are dealing with a topic they are truly engaged/interested in, and what better way to ensure a student is interested than to give them the freedom to create a change for an issue they chose themselves and are truly passionate about? By using the methods given within the book, students can take issues learned at school or from their own personal desires, and create a social change. Then, after recognizing that they action really can make a difference in the world, hopefully students will be confident in their power and be encouraged to take social action in the future towards other important social issues. 

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