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, December 4, 2021


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, 2012).  It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. Teacher candidates have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings. If you have any questions or comments, please email

Sunday, November 28, 2021

A is for Activist

Author: Innosanto Nagara 
Genre: Children's Non-Fiction Literature 
Grade: Pre-K - 4th Grade 

The alphabet book A is for Activist is written for the next generation of Americans. It is intended to introduce students to a safe space of activism, social justice, civil rights, LGBT rights, and everything else activists believe in and fight for. The book discusses important issues such as community, equality, and justice. The book conveys an important message to both parents and children, encouraging them to take action and fight for what they believe in.  

Element 5: Raising Awareness 

This book encourages children to take action and fight for what they believe in. It helps students to be introduced to all movements that exist today starting from civil rights to equal rights and more. It helps children to become interested and ask more questions about what is happening today and why it is important to fight for them. It helps children question the meaning of justice and if they are activists. 


Using geometric shapes I would ask students to work on making a poster on a movement they want to fight for. I would assign students to include images and be creative using their shapes as well as write or prepare a statement why did they choose their movement and why is it important? What are some things they would like to know more and what are some steps they could take to make a change in our country?

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Same, Same but Different

Author: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Genre: Children's Literature, Fiction 
Grade Level: Pre-K - 2nd 

Same, Same but Different is about to two boy who are in two different parts of the world. Elliot is an American boy who lives is the City and Kailash lives in India. The two boys become pen pals, they write letters to one another and send each other pictures about interesting facts about themselves. They both share what their world looks like, they both like to climb trees, they have a family, they love animals and share many similarities. The boys also share characteristics about their worlds and realize they have many similarities but they are different. 

Element Two: Respect For Others
This book teaches children that everyone is different, but we are all the same and have a lot in common. The book teaches students that people all over the world belong to different races and cultures. It teaches children that we must accept others for who they are, and also teaches students that we must respect other cultures and welcome them into our world. Learning from another culture allows children to respect and learn from that culture and race. All races and cultures are ultimately different, but we are all the same and have a lot in common.

This book can be used in  social justice curriculum where we ask students to share where they are from and pair them with a partner that is from different race. The students would become pen pals where they share facts about their world. They must share where they are from and what are some of the things they love to do and find similarities in their letters. Having students share facts abut one another for a we can lead to group project where the students create a poster using images to share some of the similarities they found on their letters. This project will teach students that they come from different backgrounds and have a lot in common and will teach them to respect one another. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Port Chicago 50


Author: Steve Sheinkin

Genre: Historical Nonfiction

Grade level/ Age level: Grades 5-9 / Age: 10-14


Port Chicago 50 is a nonfiction book about 50 African American sailors, most of whom were teenagers, fighting against prejudice, discrimination and injustice in the United States armed forces. After a massive explosion killed more than 300 sailors on the segregated Port Chicago Navy base, these sailors stood up against injustice and refused to return to unsafe working conditions, unless they were addressed. With great detail, direct quotes and photographs, this book retells the story of how 50 young sailors fought for their basic civil rights with the help of organizations such as the N.A.A.C.P. and their lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.

Element 4, Social Movements and Social Change:

Serving in the U.S. military as an African American in the 1940s meant you were treated as a second class citizen being segregated and oppressed, even though you were risking your life for your country. The story of the Port Chicago 50 teaches readers how to use social capital to fight for their basic civil rights. The refusal of these 50 black sailors to return to unsafe working conditions after a massive explosion, with the consequence of being arrested or worse, shows resistance capital. Their actions and those who joined with them, in a legal battle against the U.S. military, shows how ordinary individuals can band together and begin a movement to create social change. The heroism of their actions eventually led to the ending of segregation in the Navy, the first branch of the U.S. military, in 1946. 


This book can be used in social studies curricula, to teach about the civil rights movement and how it has shaped the ways we fight for social change today. Students in grades 5 and 6 can do activities to compare and contrast different events of the civil rights movement to the events and actions in Port Chicago 50.  They can also write articles and/or social media posts, including the photos from the book , to address issues of injustice in the military, as if it were happening in the present. In these editorial articles or posts, they can take on the role of an N.A.A.C.P. lawyer/activist, a Navy officer, or an ordinary citizen. For ELA curriculum, students can develop persuasive arguments for another social issue of their choice, and apply what they have learned about social movements for change. 

Teacher Resources:

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Steamboat School

by Deborah Hopkinson and Illustrated by Ron Husband

Reading Level: K - 2, Age 5-8

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, 2016

ISBN: 9781423121961


In this inspiring picture book, based on the true story of Reverend John Berry  Meachum, a story of determination, courage and resourcefulness is told. James, the protagonist, and Rev. Meachums’s students are faced with a threat to their education, when the state of Missouri passes a law prohibiting the education of African Americans in the 1840s. Carefully and courageously, Meachum organizes a school in the basement of a home in the community to protect his students right to an education, until authorities find out.  To circumvent this unjust law, Meachum decides to build the innovative Steamboat School, which can float in the Mississippi River and operate outside of Missouri State boundaries.  

Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice

This book explores issues of social injustice from our country's past history that are relevant today. Although education is a basic human right, many federal and state laws affect our children’s access to an education. Resistance to this injustice is shown in the examples of the students and their teacher, who stood up to fight for their right to an education and thought of ways to undermine this racist law.  Students who read this book will learn that they should not allow oppression to prevent them from their right to an education or any other right. They will also learn about how they can use creativity, ingenuity and community capital to find solutions to social injustice.


Since this book is recommended for grades K-2, a possible activity would be to have them create their own school to help students gain access to education.  Each student will bring an empty shoe box to school where they will use their own creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity to design their own school. It could be a mobile school, a Steamboat school, or other type of school. Students will also create paper dolls to represent the main characters in the story and write on each character what they did to fight for their education. 

Additional Teacher Resources:

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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution! (Grades 3+)

Author: Joy Michael Ellison

Illustrator: Teshika Silver

Grade Level: 3 and up


This wonderful book tells the story of Sylvia and Marsha, two transgender girls of color who are not accepted by their families or the police. Both women shared a friendship so strong that they were like sisters and their goal was to help more transgender people like themselves! Sylvia saw how badly the transgender people in her community were treated and it reminded her of when she wore a dress as young kid and her grandmother frowned upon her and yelled, “You’re a boy!” Syliva remembered how wearing the dress made her feel free and she, along with Marsha decided that transgender people should not suffer for being themselves! “Here comes Alice in the blue dress” is the waring transgender girls had for each other and it was code for the arrival of the police who had the power to arrest transgender girls for wearing dresses. Syliva and Marsha wanted to bring positive change to their lives and the lives of their sisters so on June 28, 1969 the police were bothering them once again and a revolution broke out at Stonewall! That did not stop the police. Marsha and Syvlia decided that they were going to take things a step further by giving their transgender sisters their frienship and opened a home for those living on the streets. They all took care of each other and also fought for their rights together!

Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice:

This books explores issues of social injustice because as it moves away from celebrating diversity we delve into historical fiction to learn about Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson; two very important transgender icons whose involement on the Stonewall Rebellion made great contributions to the LGBTQ+ community. Students also learn about how shame and oppression affected girls like Marsha and Slyvia, so much that they had to come up with code phrases to help each other out.


Have students reflect on the importance of feeling free and comfortable in one’s own skin because no one has the right to tell individuals who they should and should not be. Then, students will create signs that support individuality and inspiring kindness towards one another.

Buy it here!

Sylvia and Marsha Start A Revolution! – Joy Michael Ellison

Teacher and Parent Resources: 

Gender Resources for Parents and Teachers – Joy Michael Ellison

No No Square Written by Jai'Colby'E Kirvin

Written by Jai'Colby'E Kirvin, Illustrated by Jai'Colby'E Kirvin



*“No No Square” is a children's book written by Jai'Colby'E Kirvin. This book was written by an African American author who brings awareness to rape in African American boys and girls. This book educates children to say “no” when people try to touch them inappropriately. This book teaches children what to say and do when strangers, family members, or other kids try to sexually assault them at an early age. This book allows children to set boundaries rather it be with other children or adults. The two characters in this book are Maya and Kobe, they both have encounters with monsters. They were taught how to properly set boundaries and not allow anyone to touch them inappropriately.


Element 5: Raising Awareness

*This book coincides with element five “raising awareness.” In the African American community, rape is one of the common social justice issues present. Rape not only affects girls, but it affects boys as well. Many boys never report rape or even tell their stories, therefore mental health issues / trauma can be seen in black men. This book raises awareness about these issues, educates young readers, and gives good steps to prevent bad things from happening. This book always brings awareness to the word “no.” It teaches children to say no when they’re feeling uncomfortable or when someone is trying to assault them.



*This activity can be taught for kids in Pre-K to twelfth grade. My goal for the activity is to teach students about consent. The word sex is removed when teaching consent to elementary students, the end goal is to help prevent sexual harassment and assault by teaching students about personal boundaries. When it comes to children, I know that rape is a sensitive topic. I would first go over what consent means, and the importance of asking permission. The students will be educated o. what consent sounds like. For example, :sure,”  “yes,” “okay.” What consent does not sound like. For example, “stop,” “no,” “move.” When consent is needed.  For example, kissing, touching, hugging. What to say when consent wasn’t given. For example, “no,” “I don’t feel comfortable,” “ask me again later.” Students can be non-extreme questions; the goal is for them to understand consent and use it in. different scenarios when they feel uncomfortable.


Links to purchase “No No Square book.”