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.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Martin's Big World: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Author: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Grade Level: 1st - 4th 

Buy it here!

Learn more about the author!
Learn more about the illustrator!

Watch Dr. King's "I Have A Dream Speech" here!

Summary: I have to begin by sharing that I highly suggest this book for any and all classroom libraries! This Caldacott Honor and Scholastic book examine how Dr. King used his voice and his words to fight for equal rights for African Americans. The beautifully illustrated pages give young readers the chance to see what life was like for Dr. King growing up in the segregated south and fighting to change the world. By the end of the book, those students who may not be familiar with his life are taught about his passing and the true impact he made. Rappaport sums it up brilliantly by writing that "his big words are alive for all of us today."

Element 3: The element of Exploring Issues of Social Injustice is definitely present in this book. Dr. King's story will help our students learn about the history of racism, in a time where most of us were not alive to witness. We are introduced to Dr. King as a child growing up in the south; he was exposed to segregation at such a young and he wanted to make a difference. This book also encompasses element 4 because Dr. King had the courage to stand up with fellow heroes in order to make a change. Although Dr. King's life was cut short, he made great strides in not only working with this element, but also by changing the world.  

Activity: I believe that this book would be best to read around MLK's birthday (January 15th) and I was thinking that the activity could be classroom wide. Dr. King's big words, such as love and peace, are a huge part of exploring social injustice and I believe that the children would want to work with these in a context that they understand. I would hand them a worksheet that would have them write down "big" / meaningful words to them. Depending on the grade level, they can draw pictures and/or sentences to explain how those words can help make a difference, just as Dr. King's words did. I would then take all of the completed sheets and turn it into a classroom book to honor Dr. King.  

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