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, September 20, 2014

Coming To America

Title: Coming to America: The History of Immigration
Author: Betsy Maestro
Illustrator: Susannah Ryan
Grade Level: 2-4
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Purchase this book here.


This book describes an introductory history of immigration to the U.S. in a simple, straightforward style. The wonderful watercolor portraits of immigrants engage the reader. The reader learns how war, natural disasters, or persecution caused some people to move here; the hardship of travel in ships; and the language barrier and social isolation found in settling into America. Despite the difficulties, immigrants were successful in building a strong, independent nation to call home. Most notably, it describes the battles with Native Americans and the African slave trade as examples of mistreatment and how important it is to celebrate each other's differences.

Element #1: Self-Love and Knowledge

This book provides a great background for students to learn about their heritage. As the book describes, all Americans either are immigrants or are related to immigrants at some point in their family history. There are hundreds of characters in this book to which children can relate, that appear diverse and come from different places in the world. All of the characters are treated with dignity by the author, showing acceptance for diverse peoples.

Follow-Up Activity:

In order to support students in feeling good about their own family's background, students can interview parents and draw a portrait (real or imagined) of a relative that emigrated to the U.S. and describe the possible conditions of their transition to living here.

For more lesson plans on this book, click here.

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