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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

10,000 Dresses

Author: Marcus Ewert
Illustrator: Rex Ray
Grade Level: K-4

Element 2: Respect For Others

Summary: 10,000 Dresses is about a transgender boy, Bailey, who dreams up 10,000 different dresses and hopes that one day she could wear them all. The only problem is that when she tells her mom and dad about her dreams, they both reply with “uh-huh” and “you’re a boy and boy’s don’t wear dresses.” Bailey also tells her brother who calls her gross for wanting dress. By the end of the book, Bailey meets Laurel who with the help of Bailey sews and creates a dress made of mirrors.

How does it represent SJE2? 10,000 dresses promotes acceptance of both self and others in the community. Introducing transgender in a classroom could be confusing, but I think that by using this book it will make it a lot easier for most students. It shows how there are some people who will judge you because they don’t agree with something you believe in, but if you push through that, you will always find someone who agrees with what you believe in, and if that’s a boy wanting to dress up in beautiful dresses, it’s okay.

How would I use it? An interesting approach to this book would be to ask the classroom why it’s okay for girls to wear t-shirts and pants, but why society says it’s not okay for girls to wear dresses or skirts for example. I would have the classroom split up into small groups of 2-4 students and I would have the girls draw a boy wearing what they believe girls should wear and boys draw a girl with what boys should wear. Once they’re done with that, I would have them reflect on their picture and ask them how would they react if this was a friend or family member.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Charlie's Book


Author: Rachel Green                      
Illustrator: Irene Makapugay         
Grade Level: K-1

Summary: In Charlie’s Book, Green clearly describes what it is like for Charlie to be the new boy in school. During show-and-tell, each student is asked to share their individual talents or interests. Sadly, when Charlie demonstrates his ability to read without using his eyes, his classmates do not believe him and treat him unkindly. Charlie’s teacher turns the situation into a teachable moment by reminding the class of all their unique differences and how they are able to learn from each another.

Element 2 -Respect for Others: Once the other children hear that Charlie cannot see, they realize that this difference is what makes him special. Thankfully, the students also recognize that even though Charlie is unable to read all the books in their classroom, there are still many things he can do. Charlie’s classmates were all looking forward to having him teach them how to read with their hands too. --“We only see truly when using our hearts, then we all join together and not feel apart" (Green, 2010, p. 23).
Activity: I really like the idea from the book about using show-and-tell to allow students to share who they are and what they can do as a way to teach about differences and diversity. I do believe that it is important to follow that activity up with guided questions to remind the children of their similarities as well, in order to help promote respect for others.

Everybody Cooks Rice

Author: Norah Dooley
Illustrator: Peter J. Thornton
Grade Level: K-2

Buy it here!

Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley is a creative story about what happens when a young girl in search of her brother discovers the commonalities that are shared among her neighbors. While her mother is busy cooking dinner, Carrie is tasked with finding her little brother, Anthony, who she suspects is eating dinner at the neighbor's house. Instead, Carrie finds herself bouncing from house to house in search of her brother, and along the way finds that although her neighbors come from different cultural backgrounds, there is something that unites them all: rice! This heartwarming tale of food and friendliness teaches children of all ages that although we may all be different, we are connected in many ways.

Element 2 - Respect For Others:
Everybody Cooks Rice shares the story of a young girl and her multicultural neighborhood. While mooching off of her neighbors' meals, something Carrie would quickly accuse her brother Anthony of doing, she learns that despite their different cultural and religious backgrounds, each family eats rice! Told through the lens of a young girl on a mission to find her brother, this tale of adventure and surprise embodies what means to love thy neighbor. 
Each family that Carrie encounters has their own unique background, something the readers are made aware of. The author makes it possible for the audience to not only learn about these other cultures, but to appreciate their differences. Norah Dooley does a fantastic job of capitalizing on these differences while simultaneously bringing them together with the one language we all speak: food. Both Carrie and the readers learn to appreciate these differences and to welcome the diversity in those around them. 

I would first read this book to my class. Then, having chosen pairings of two students prior to the activity, separate students into their groups. I would ask each student to talk with their partner about their cultural background, or for those who have trouble with this, simply what types of activities they do at home. Once both partners have shared their stories with each other, they would be tasked with finding something they both have in common. Whether it be that they are both read to at night, or that like the book they both usually eat soup for dinner, the partners would then be asked to draw what this activity looks like.
(i.e. Both partners realize they pray at night. On separate sheets of paper, they would have to draw what that activity looks like. /or/ Both partners realize that they eat chicken noodle soup for dinner. They would each have to draw themselves eating soup on the couch, at the table, or wherever they eat.) After having drawn the activity, the students would all be asked to hang their drawings up on the wall. Doing this would show that although they are all different, they share certain things; and although they share these things, they may not look the same in each household.

The Name Jar

The Name Jar

Title: The Name Jar 
Author and Illustrator: Yangsook Choi
Grade level: K-3 
Element #2: Respect for Others

Summary: Unhei and her family recently moved from Korea to America. On the way to the first day of school, Unhei was uncomfortable with the kids on the bus pronouncing her name. When she arrived at school she decided to hold off on telling the other kids her real name because it was hard to pronounce. The next day she finds a jar on her desk filled with little pieces of paper with names on them from her classmates. She soon becomes comfortable to the point where she can show her name stamp her grandmother gave her to a classmate, Joey. The respect and friendship from this classmate gave Unhei the courage to respect her own name and share it with the rest of the class. The class enjoyed learning how to say her name and respected it while sharing some meanings of their own names.

Element 2 teaches respect for others. Unhei is connected to her culture even while in America. Being able to respect herself and her name, she is also able to teach the rest of her classmates the meaning of her name. Her classmates show respect to Unhei when she does not want to share her name on the first day and they continue to respect her and her culture when they learn her real name and the meaning behind it. Also, Joey didn’t share her name until she was comfortable saying it herself. All her classmates practiced saying her name and are glad she shared it. The teacher points out that American names have meanings too, just like Korean names. This shows that the students can relate and practice empathy and respect within the classroom.

Activity: This book can be read to a second grade classroom. You could read the book to the class and have the students go home to ask their parents the meaning of their name or how they got their name. Then, in class they can write the meaning or reason behind their name on a paper and place it in a jar. The teacher could pull random papers out and read them out loud while the class tries to guess the student. When the student is identified, they can explain what they wrote. Later, the students can write a short description of their name and/or reason and draw pictures. These can then be displayed around the room.

Giraffes Can't Dance

 Giraffes Can't Dance
Title: Giraffes Can't Dance
Author: Giles Andrede
Illustrator: Guy Parker- Rees
Grade Level: First
Purchase Online
Element #2: Respect For Others 

Summary: In the book Giraffes Can't Dance, Giles Andrede tells a story about Gerald the giraffe and how he loves to dance except he isn't very good at it. His legs were too crooked and his legs were mighty thin. At the Jungle dance all the animals were dancing a variety of different dances and they could really move. When Gerald decided to try it out all the jungle animals made fun of him saying "Giraffes can't dance!" But there was one little cricket who had all the confidence in Gerald if he just tried a different song. Gerald finally found his footing at the Jungle dance and all the animals were amazed and asked for lessons of their own.

Element #2 Respect for others: The jungle animals showed a great deal of respect for Gerald when they saw him dance on his own even though they were convinced Giraffes couldn't dance at all. When Gerald first tried to dance he simply could not do it and walk away from the dance floor feeling very sad. Once the cricket talked him into trying a different song Gerald got up and tried again. To his surprise the animals did not laugh, this time they were amazed by Gerald's dance moves and asked him how he learned to dance like that. The animals gave Gerald a second chance and they really came to respect Gerald and his bravery.

Activity: For the activity I would put together a class talent show and encourage everyone to participate. Students will learn how to show respect for others and their talents when they see that everyone is different. Not all talents will be the same and for that reason every performer will receive a round of applause after the act feeling well respected by their peers. Respect is something everyone deserves, especially your friends in class.

Element 2: Respect for Others

My Mouth Is A Volcano 

Written by Julia Cook 
Illustrated by Carrie Hartman 

My Mouth Is A Volcano, by Julia Cook, is there perfect story to hi light the importance of respect for others. Louis, a young and eager boy, has a problem. His problem is very simple; Louis has so much to say that he cannot control when he says it! We follow Louis through a plethora of incidents where he 'erupts' like a volcano and the words just 'explode' out of him. Moreover, Louis fails to raise his hand in class, suddenly interrupts at story hour, blurts out his thoughts during dinner with his parents, and much more. Louis receives a taste of his own medicine when he is given the opportunity to share some things about himself to his classmates. To put it lightly, Louis does not like to be at the receiving end of these not-the-right-time outbursts. Subsequently, we learn, with Louis, the importance of waiting for the right time to speak. Hence, respecting what others have to say around us by managing the many thoughts and feelings we all have.  

My Mouth Is A Volcano, certainly represents Element 2 of the Six Elements of Social Justice. In other words, we can introduce a very simple concept using this witty and very realistic text. In no time, your students will be able to easily relate to Louis. First and foremost, it is great when our students can connect to the characters we are reading about. Moreover, they can move forward with the concepts presented to them. Therefore, they can be more aware of others feelings, opinions, and ideas. In doing so, such students will emanate this trait in their everyday lives. This is great starting point for introducing the concept of respect. Moving forward, this concept can be implemented into various other content areas in direct relation to historical events, word problems, and much more. 

This text can be used at the preschool level, but I also feel it would be beneficial all the way up until about the second grade level. To revisit my statement from the previous paragraph, My Mouth Is A Volcano would be the perfect introduction to the concept of respect for others. Subsequently, this concept can be revisited when doing a lesson on Thanksgiving with a first grade class, for example. When recounting the events of the Indians and Pilgrims sharing food and coming together for a beautiful feast, the idea of respect can once again be implemented. Thanksgiving is often presented to children through this clouded version, but that is a whole other topic. For the purpose of this example, I see it fitting well. Finally, one more content area respect can be incorporated into is writing. I could implement specific writing tasks that get my students thinking about times they have disrespected someone, been disrespected, etc. In doing so, I intend for them to use their background knowledge; like what they learned through Louis's actions in My Mouth Is A Volcano, as well as draw from personal experience

The following are two great resources for teachers to use along with this story. They can enhance a read aloud or take this concept further, into other content areas. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's Okay to Be Different

“It’s Okay to Be Different”
Written and Illustrated by Todd Parr
Grade level: K-2
Element 2: Respect for Others
Buy it here
Additional resources here

Summary: “It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr shows children there are many types of differences that are “okay.”  Each page begins with the words, “It’s okay to…” and follows with a difference that people may have along with a colorful illustration.  Parr uses examples such as being a different color, coming from a different place, having “wheels”, and being adopted. He also includes other differences relatable to children ages 5-8 such as missing teeth, having big ears, wearing glasses, and having an imaginary friend.  This story teaches children that all of these differences are okay!

Element 2- Respect for Others: “It’s Okay to Be Different” represents the element of respect for others by providing the reader with many examples of differences and showing them that it is normal to be different.  Parr is sending a message to his readers that being different is common and perfectly okay!  By including examples such as needing help, having two moms or two dads, and having different kinds of friends, Parr is showing children to accept all kinds of people as well as respect them. This book does a fantastic job promoting respect for others by learning to accept others differences, as well as your own, in a fun way for young readers!

Class Activity: I would use this book in my classroom at the very beginning of the school year to establish a climate of respect in the classroom.  As an introduction to the book, I would have my students get out of their seats to do a fun activity where they group themselves into categories according to hair color, then by what kind of shoes they are wearing, and eye color.  This way, no child will be singled out because everyone has a different eye and hair color! In doing this activity, the students will realize there are differences across the classroom. After beginning to discuss these basic differences among the students, I would read the book “It’s Okay to Be Different” as a class.  In a closing discussion, we could each take turns to talk about what we think makes us different as a way to accept all of our differences and respect one another. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Everyone Matters: A First Look at Respect for Others

Author: Pat Thomas
Illustrator: Lesley Harker
Grade Level: K-2

Everyone Matters by Pat Thomas is a story that introduces children to the concept of respect and how important it is to treat everyone with respect. In the very beginning of the story respect is defined and explained as valuing and understanding other people just as you would value your own self. This creates a focus on the positive traits that people have more so than the negative. There is a distinction made between the respect that everyone deserves and the respect that is earned. This story does an excellent job in describing how respect is earned because it is not something that can be forced. Overall, this book focuses on the equality of every person and provides excellent examples of how to achieve that equality.

Element 2:
Element Two: Respect for Others discusses the importance of creating an atmosphere that respects the diversity of students and listening to others with kindness and respect when a classmate is explaining their own experiences or ideas. I feel that this book does an excellent job in supporting this element. The author explains how everyone is different and the various ways that respect is deserved as well as earned. Respect is deserved among all people and the author explains this as treating someone as your equal. By believing someone is just as good as you are, you are more likely to form better relationships, seeing your similarities rather than your differences. The author also explains how respected is earned. Respect is earned by keeping promises, treating others the way you want to be treated, and being honest with others. The author does an excellent job in explaining that being afraid of someone does not show respect. When this happens you feel intimidated or scared to confront that person and feel as if they are better than you. Respect is the exact opposite, making you feel as if you are just as important as that person. This story displays excellent illustrations where someone may look upset or scared and how those facial expressions change from fear into happiness. The gestures also change from pointing at someone into hugging, or giving them a pat on the shoulder.

An activity that I would do would focus on the part of the book that discusses how it is okay to disagree with someone as long as you are able to respect them in the process. For children at a young age this may be a difficult concept. It may be hard for a student to gain the confidence to disagree with someone, or they may not know how to go about it in a respectful way so instead they shy away from voicing their opinions. To help students with this I would have children bring in a picture of themselves from home. I would then have the children glue this picture of them onto a piece of construction paper and around the picture would be five to ten statements or pictures of how they view respect. The finished product would be displayed on the classroom wall as a point of reference to see how their peers view respect. This can be referred back to when students are forming opinions and need a reminder on how to respectfully disagree without hurting someone’s feelings.