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.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Our Community Garden

“Our Community Garden” by Barbara Pollak

This book geared for grades K-3 includes graphic and colorful pictures of a child who started a community garden next to her home. This garden is a place for her and her neighbors to grow different fruits and vegetables. Different characters grow different vegetables for food from their different cultures. The book includes characters from different ethnicities. This book encourages students to learn about their own culture and those of other cultures. This book exemplifies element 5 because this community garden gives the neighbors an opportunity to raise awareness about their culture and teach each other something new. For children this might be hard for them to understand. When they have an illustrated book teaching them about different cultures and foods it will get them more involved to learn about each other. The main character Audrey tries to raise awareness in her community about her neighbors and how they can come together.

Can be purchased online at Amazon

In a lesson you can teach students about a community garden and how beneficial it can be. If you go to this website it will have a lot of information about community gardens and how to implement one in school.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Love Your World

Title: Love Your World

Author: Dawn Sirett

Illustrator: Rachael Parfitt

Ages: 4-6

Summary: This book demonstrates eco-awareness and going “green” in words that children will understand. The author introduces the terms recycle, reduce, and reuse by showing different ideas for each one. It informs children to take care of the earth in variety of ways such as turning off the lights when it is not in use to growing their own garden with recycled containers. Furthermore, this book teaches children that we are not only taking care of the world but the animals and people that live in it. Children will enjoy the vivid and vibrant photographs in this book.

Social Injustice:
This book represents element six of social justice by providing several of ways to take action on an issue such as going “green.” It is important to introduce children in an early age to be aware that they can make a difference in the world. This book is a great way to demonstrate different ideas of taking care of the world by making a small difference in their community. Also, young children will learn that everyone in this world is worthy of making small changes no matter if they are big or small.

Here are some activities that can be done with this book:
In order to demonstrate eco-awareness to children you should begin recycling in the classroom. You could bring in bins and label it such as: paper, cans, plastic, and donate old clothes. You can, also, make copies of I promise to: from the back of the book. It has a list of several of ideas of what can be done to help take care of their environment and if they keep their promise they receive an award (that can be also found on the back of the book). Lastly, students can take action on this issue at their school. They can place recycling bin around the school and post up pictures of the importance of going “green.”

Here are some additional activities.
You can purchase this book here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand

Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand

Liz and Jay Scott with the help of Alex Scott
Age: All ages

This book is a great example of the power of one person with strong spirits and an enormous heart. Alex, just four years old is diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer. She knew she was very sick and told her parents she wished to create a lemonade stand in order to raise money to find a cure for "her illness". Her plan was to donate the money she raised to "her hospital" to help the doctors find a cure for all children with cancer. Through persistence, hard work and the strongest will imaginable, her idea eventually takes an entire nation by storm. The book itself is enjoyable to read with great illustrations and rhyming prose. This book serves as a sense of inspiration for children of all ages to make a difference. Though Alex passed away at the age of 8, her lemonade stands, now nationwide, have raised over $1 million dollars. To adults, the message is profound: how can we complain about our trivial problems when this child, who has such a difficult road to walk, has managed to turn her hardship into a desire to produce good for the world. We all have something to learn from Alex's book.

Social Action: Many schools have taken on the challenge Alex's Lemondae Stand, and creating their own stand to raise money for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation in the efforts to find a cure for childhood cancers.

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Listen to the Wind

Author: Gren Mortenson and Susan L. Roth

Illustrated/"Collages" By: Susan L. Roth

Grade: K-4

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This book tells a story of the children of Korphe, a little village in Baltistan in Pakistan. The children of Korphe live in the mountains. They did not have a school, so they had lessons outside and wrote with sticks on the ground. One day, a stranger by the name of Greg Mortenson stumbled into the Korphe's village while being lost. The children of Korphe fed Dr. Greg and gave him a bed. When Dr. Greg was well enough to go home, he asked the wisest man to help him think of something special he could for the the Korphe. He promised the children he would come back to the village and help build a school for them. One year later, Dr. Greg came back to the village with lumber, cement and tools that would be needed to build a school. They built a bridge to deliver the materials and after a few months, the children of Korphe had their very own school!

SJE: This book is the 6th social justice element. The children in the book were dedicated to finding a way to build their own school. Before their school was built, the children of Korphe had lessons outside and wrote with sticks on the ground. In Korphe, the teacher came just three times a week, and the students were expected to study independently every day. When Dr. Greg stumbled upon their village, he wanted to do something about their unfortunate predicament. The Korphe treated Dr. Greg so kindly, he was determined to think of something special he could do for them in return. He made the children a promise and put his desire to build them a school into action. Dr. Greg collected tools, lumber and cement to help build their school. Afterwards, he helped them build a bridge to help get the supplies to the mountain on the other side of the river. Over all, this book helps children understand how they can make a difference in their community (village) development and in the quality of their education. Dr. Greg and the children of Korphe felt passionate about education. He could see their interest in learning and wanted to make a change firsthand! He was able to provide a wonderful opportunity for the Korphe children and their village. The school was a success and the students and community were extremely pleased!

How I would use the book: I would use this book to help teach students that we shouldn't let anything stop us from helping others, especially those who have helped us. In the process of Dr. Greg getting better, he developed a strong love for the Korphe community. He had a passionate desire to repay them for everything they had done for him. In many realistic situations, we develop desires to take social action with issues that affect our communities. As a future teacher, I may consider using this book to brainstorm things we can do to improve our own community.

Teacher Lessons:

Ariella Luberto

77 Creative Ways Kids Can Serve

Title: 77 Creative Ways Kids Can Serve

Author: Sondra Clark

Ages: 9-12
Teacher resource: Volunteer Opportunities
Summary: 77 Creative Ways Kids Can Serve is an excellent resource for kids to learn different ways they can help in their communities. There are literally 77 suggestions, each with steps for implementation, that are divided into different categories depending on the child's interest and/or talents. Websites are also provided so that kids can find additional information on each project.
Social Justice Element Six: This book is intended to give kids the neccessary tools that they need inorder to partcipate in or even start their own community service projects. It is a great tool that teachers can use to help inspire their students to take social action in their communities.
How I Would Use It: One way that I might use this book would be to have groups of four or five students choose a project from the book to complete together. I would provide the necessary resources for students to successfully complete their projects. Another way I might use this book would be to let students pick a project from the book individually, which would allow students to take ownership of their choice. for both cases i would have students give a presentation on how the project went, what obstacles they found during the process, and how they might do the project differently if given a second chance.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Kid's Guide to Service Projects

Title: The Kid's Guide to Service Projects

Author: Barbra A. Lewis

Ages: 9-12

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Summary: The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects is filled with ideas and service projects for subjects ranging from politics and government to the environment. The pages are filled with in-depth procedures and organizational tips for anything from a small class project to a large-scale community event. The Kids Guide to Service Projects is separated into sections based on the topic, and under each topic, contains multiple different ideas to make a change ranging from awareness campaigns to fundraising. The book empowers readers to become active in their communities and emphasizes that young children have a voice too, and can make a difference in the world.

Social Justice Element 6: The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects is an excellent source for students to gather ideas of how to make a change in the world. With Taking Social Action being the final stage of the Six Elements of Social Justice, students have already learned of current issues and this book is a perfect finisher to connect social issues and solutions together for students. The book holds 15 different topics including senior citizens, hunger, homeless people, the environment, and many more with helpful hints and great ideas to make a difference with these issues. Though the ideas provided are very useful and well thought out, students and teachers can alter them to better fit certain circumstances or situations.

How I’d Use It: This book can be used for so many different projects and lesson plans. With its 15 different topics, it is sure to cover some aspect of what students wish to make a change in, but if indeed it does not have a specific topic students are interested in, the book gives so many ideas that can easily be altered or mixed to integrate a different topic of interest. In closure, I would introduce a new issue to my students and have them research and learn more about this topic, and use this book as a wrap up to take their knowledge to the streets and make change.


Tree Hugger

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Molly's Family

Title: Molly’s Family

Author: Nancy Garden

Grade Level: K-2; Ages: 5-9

Summary: “Molly’s family” written by Nancy Garden is about a little girl Molly who is in kindergarten and she is 5 years old. Her school is having an open school night where everyone’s family is invited. Molly gets teased by her classmates for drawing a picture of a mom and mama Lu. She doesn’t know how to explain to her classmates about her family. At first she is angry and hurt, but with the support of her teacher and her loving parents--Mommy (her birth mother) and Mama Lu (her adoptive mother)--she comes to accept her family. Next day when she returns to school with her drawing she shows that she is not embarrassed to have a different family and in fact everyone’s family is unique and different than others.

SJE: This book relates to our Social Justice Element #1, “Self-love awareness” because it talks about accepting one’s family even though it is different from others. I was drawn to this book because it relates to our modern society of having two same sex partners living together raising a child. Molly’s family was unique because she had two moms and no dad. The book can lead to class discussion by recognizing the character's changes and how she deals with her problems with the help of her parents and teacher. There are many questions that can be raised during reading this book. Some of them will include, “how did Molly feel when she couldn’t explain to her friends about her family? This book also represents the way of a child’s mind work and how she thinks and questions her family about being different than others. She accepts her family as they are and makes her classmates realizes that it is “OK” to have a different family because we are not alike.

Activity: As a future mentor I would read this book to my kindergarten to second grade students. I believe that the mystery of “who am I” question begins in kindergarten and that’s when they should start learning about accepting their backgrounds, culture and most important families. Basically it relates to our first element of Social Justice Education and that is self-love awareness. This book will introduce them of having different families in same classroom students. Even though it is about accepting your family, this book will also teach them about having different kinds of families, such as parents (mom and dad), single parent (either mom or dad), no parent and rising by grandparents or aunts or uncles. So in a way students will not be embarrassed of having different families and they will learn to accept each other with love. This book will be a resource to the classroom and used as an introduction to themselves in a classroom setting. The students will be able to share their families and also draw pictures. We will post the pictures outside of the classroom, so that everyone else can see how families are different from each other and it is wonderful to know about someone else’s family.



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Monday, November 29, 2010

Do Something in Your City

By: Amanda Rondeau

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Ages: 5 - 8

This book helps children understand how they can make a difference in their community development and in quality of life. They can be volunteers making their city a better place to live. They can do something for others and make a difference. This book demonstrates a number of examples of how this is possible. The text is short and to the point. Some vocabulary that may be difficult is explained in the glossary. This book, like others in the Sand Castle "Do Something About It" series, attempts to fill the need for beginning social studies material.

Social Justice Element 6: This book is a great example, among others in its series. It teaches young children that they too can make a difference. What I like about this series (Do Something About It) is that it highlight the areas that the children are directly effective by.
"Do Something in Your City, Do Something in Your Family, Do Something in Your Community, Do Something in Your State, Do Something in Your Country".

How to Make the World a Better Place

Title: How to Make the World a Better Place: A Guide to Doing Good

Author: Jeffrey Hollender

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Grade/ Reading Level: Grade 5

Summary: How to make the world a better place is a specific guide that provides over 120 social actions that can make the world a better place. Each action is introduced by background and explanatory material followed by a “What You can Do” section that contains one or a series of specific actions. The books provide not only the actions but facts, figures, and good information which teaches readers about the issues at hand, before giving them a guide on how to take action. A few actions discussed in this guide include: Environmental Actions, actions on how to heat more water with less energy for fewer dollars, and “Bread for the world” passing legislation to end world hunger. This book will provide students with different ways in which they can take action on issues that affect their communities. It is a perfect guide for helping students create change.

How does it represent Element 6-Taking Social Action: This book provides specific social actions that students can use as a guide to help in making the world a better place. It not only gives the students examples of social actions they can take but also gives facts on the issues at hand and provides students with a concise guide to some of the most essential resources they can use to start making positive changes. Students can find the social actions that appeal to them or that they are passionate about and learn more about them in order to take action. The purpose of this book is for students to start taking action in order to help make a difference.

How I’d use the book: I would have students choose at least three of the actions in this book and then have them come up with how they would go about creating social change. I’d then have the students in groups facilitate their own march with creative signs they will make that are promoting some type of positive change. I’d want students to feel good about taking action to promote change.

Lesson Plan and follow up activity:

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Teasing

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Teasing
By: Stan and Jan Berenstain
In The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Teasing, Brother and Sister Bear teach children about teasing. It shows how when people are being teased it can be very hurtful and people may not realize until they are teased themselves. Brother Bear was always the one who was teasing others, but, one day when he was asked to do a special job for the principle at school he was then the person who was teased all the time. Not only was he teased at school, but also on the bus. It became so bad that he no longer wanted to go to school. However, that same day when he arrived at school there was a new student at the school. All of the people who used to tease Brother Bear began to tease the new student. Instead of joining in on teasing the new student he stood up for him and they became friends.
This book really helps show element 5, which is, raising awareness because it really shows students how hurtful it is to tease others. This is something that needs to be shown in schools today because it is such a terrible occurrence that is happening in schools all the time. This book really shows how no matter who the person is they can become the target of teasing. I would use this book in my classroom all the time in the beginning of each year to help students see how hurtful it is to be teased. It will also show those students who think it is okay to tease others, that it is not and they may one day be the one who is being teased. I feel this is a great book that really raises awareness on the issue of teasing.

Be the Change: People Who Have Made a Difference

Be The Change : People Who Have Made a Difference

By: Erin Ash Sullivan

Grade Level: 4th Grade

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Things to Know About Going On Strike


Be The Change is a children’s book which speaks of people who have made a difference in the world and the tactics they used to cause a change. The book speaks of five historical figures; Iqbal Masih, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Julia Hill. For each of these persons the book introduces a short biography. It then goes off and speaks of the situation for which they fought. Lastly it describes the tactics the person used to ensure something was done to solve the social issue.

Social Justice:

This children’s book clearly enforces element 6, “Taking Action”. Be The Change explains every step the person took in order to bring change about. For example, when speaking of Igbal Masih, the author also makes mention of a 12-year old from Canada named Craig who heard about Masih and was then inspired to put child labor to a stop. Craig began an organization. This organization called “Free the Children” had a clear goal, and even speakers. It also had rules such as “a person (has) to be younger than 18 years of age”. This children’s book will inspire young children as well as provide them with the skills necessary to take action in a world filled with social injustice.


Following the reading of this book, children are prepared to go out into the real world and take action! A follow up activity can include writing persuasive letters to Governor Chris Christie. These letters should state opposition to his budget cuts for education. They should also attempt to persuade him to change his decision and change the fate of teachers in the state of New Jersey.

How Full is Your Bucket?

Name: How full is your bucket?

Author: Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer

Grade/Age: Grade 1-3 (5-8 years old)

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Stop bullying!

Summary: After Felix refuses to let his little sister play with him she angrily kicks over his blocks and that’s when his grandfather explains that Felix had just dipped from her bucket. Using the metaphor of a bucket and dipper, Felix’ grandfather explains why happy people make him feel good while the others make him feel bad – and how he himself is affecting others. He begins to see how every interaction in a day either fills or empties his bucket and how easy it can be to fill the buckets of his classmates, teachers and family members and in the process discovers that filling someone else’s buck also fills his own.

Raising Awareness Element 5: This can naturally lead to children becoming aware of the consequences of their actions and involve them in wanting to do acts of kindness toward others.

Using it in the classroom: Using this book in your classroom is a great way to integrate element 5. This book would be a good introduction to discuss many things such as self-esteem, positive and negative feelings, bullying, etc. This story is a great way to teach children that their actions towards others affects other’s feelings as well as their own. Positive actions and feelings can fill each person’s bucket, while negative actions and feelings can empty the bucket. Isn’t it better to have a full bucket than an empty one?

A Kids' Guide to Hunger & Homelessness

Hunger and Homelessness: How to Take Action

By Cathryn Berger Kaye

Grades 4-5

Summary: “Hunger and Homelessness: How to Take Action is a book that explains to children what homelessness and hunger is. This book includes a girl who describes her day living in a shelter. This story gives children an insight on what it is really like to be homeless. Stories of how children around the world have helped their community with this common issue is also incorporated in this book. These are excellent examples for students. This book is that it is also a workbook. This book includes questions about what they can do to help their own community with hunger and homelessness. The children are given a space to brainstorm and answer these questions about helping the homeless.

Social Action: This book is great when it comes to teaching children how to teach social action. There are many examples of how to help the homeless and hungry in this story. This book is a guide with steps that students can take to help people in their community.

Activity: There are many activities that can be done with this book in taking social action. Students can read this book and follow the steps and then as a class devise a plan where they help the homeless in the community. Students can raise money or give out food to the hungry. They will also be able to raise awareness about this issue and get others in the community involved.

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Title: Chrysanthemum

Author: Kevin Henkes

Grade Level: K-3; Ages: 5-9

Summary: The story of Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes, is about a small girl mouse that has a beautiful name and is absolutely perfect in her parents’ eyes. She grows up loving her name until she starts school when children laugh at how long her name is and how she is named after a flower. Her parents try to convince her that her name is still wonderful. But she cannot be convinced. Then she goes to music class where she meets Mrs. Twinkle who all the children love. Mrs. Twinkle lets her students in on a secret about her own real name. She also tells them that when she has a little girl, she will name her Chrysanthemum. From that point forward, Chrysanthemum learns to love the name she was given.

SJE: “Chrysanthemum” addresses the element "Raising Awareness" by identifying children who are bullying and being bullied. The children in the class can see the picture of the character’s face and how her emotions are shown through her face. The book can lead to class discussion by recognizing the character's changes and how she deals with her problems with the help of her teacher. There are many questions that can be raised during reading this book. Some of them will include, “how did Chrysanthemum’s feelings about her name change throughout our story? Why did she not like school after her first day? What do you think of Chrysanthemums name? How do you think you would react if one of your classmates had a name that sounded strange or different to you?” The children should have compassion with the characters in the book and be able to make connections about these real life situations.

Activity: Students will conduct research at home about their own names. They will ask their parents or guardians to tell them the story of why they were given their own name. At home, they will write and decorate their names with a parent, and then include a sentence or two about their name’s origin (the parents may write this for the child, and read it with them.) The homework assignment will include an example for parents to see as a model, based on the teacher’s name. Children will share their name stories with classmates during share time.

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Lesson Plan:

Kids Making a Difference for Animals

Title: (ASPCA Kids) Kids Making a Difference for Animals
Author: Nancy Furstinger

This book is a great asset and valuable resource for educating and inspiring young children. Kids’ Making a Difference for Animals was created with the ASPCA in mind. The book is composed of four different sections, each section is designed to analyze issues of animal cruelty. The first chapter is comprised of interviews. The children in these interviews have created positive ways to help animals in their community. Near the end of the book, students are advised in ways to foster positive behavior towards animals.

The book epitomizes social action in numerous ways. Students are inspired to raise money through organizations and fundraisers in their community. Students are also encouraged to adopt pets from the ASPCA. Students will also gain knowledge about endangered species. Overall, the theme of the book is to create positive animal activism in the community. I would use this book to inspire volunteerism and raise money for organizations that prevent animal cruelty.

I Have a Dream

Author: Margaret Davidson
Grade: K-3

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Discussion Guide!

Summary: "I have a Dream" is a children's book written for children who are in kindergarten through third grade. The book is a biography about the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and gives children a better understanding of segregation and what it was like to grow up in the south back then as an African American.

Throughout, the book the author highlights the many non violent ways in which King fought to end segregation. For example, she explores the many speeches he gave and marches he led. In this book it is evident that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a true leader and wanted to change the world for the better.

Taking Social Action
: "I have a Dream" is a great book that can be used in the classroom to talk about taking social action. This book provides children with an example of a great man who at a young age successfully took social action to change the world for the better. Element six is really represented in this book because it shows children that no matter what their circumstances may be if they take action it is possible that the situation can be changed.

Activitiy: This book would be appropriate to use for an activity on "Taking Social Action." After reading this book with my children I would ask my students to explain what the story was about. Next I would allow time for questions and discuss with them Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a social activist and the non violent ways he acted to end segregation. Then I would split my students into pairs and have them each research a positive social activist and the actions they took. Next I would have them make small collages about the social activists they researched and their actions. After I would have them do a museum walk. After we would come together as a class and pick a current issue we would like to help change. Then as a class we wold brainstorm actions we could take and to conclude we would take action.

Michael Recycle

Title: Michael Recycle
Author: Ellie Bethel
Illustrated by: Alexandra Colombo
Reading level: Ages 5-8
Publisher: Jonas Publishing, Howard Jonas

If you really enjoyed this book, click here to view another story about Michael Recycle!

Click here to learn more about the author & illustrator of Michael Recycle

Michael Recycle is a children’s picture book about a young superhero named Michael Recycle who has come to spread the word about recycling and keeping our planet green! This book has an important message about environmental awareness. It encourages readers of all ages to recycle often, to not waste energy or other products, to throw trash in the proper bins, and to encourage others to practice these habits as well. In addition to the rhyming language and colorful illustrations, Michael Recycle includes some “go green tips” at the end of the story to persuade others to take action and keep our environment clean.

Element #5- Raising Awareness:
Michael Recycle tells a wonderful story of a young boy who feels passionately about the environment and shares his enthusiasm with others to promote a green planet. The character Michael Recycle realizes that the air and water in his town has become polluted over time. He believes it is his job to raise the awareness of others and teach them how to keep the planet clean before it is too late. Michael Recycle encourages young readers to be advocates of change for their own environments. This book provides children with a number of small ways they can help to create a cleaner environment for everyone. Michael Recycle gets the attention of its readers and will potentially spark an interest in other ways they can help their community promote healthy habits.

Follow-Up Activity:
In order to reinforce the lesson of environmental awareness from the story of Michael Recycle, teachers can assist students in promoting go-green awareness for their own classrooms, their school, or even their entire local community. The students can create posters and other advertisements to encourage others to participate in environmental friendly activities. Additionally students could create websites or send in a write up to their local newspaper to grab the attention of others to be advocates for a clean planet! Students will spread the word of how important it is to recycle, reduce waste and reuse products, just like Michael Recycle did in the story.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Your World - If You Don't Like It, Change It

Activism for Teenagers

Title: It's Your World- If You Don't Like It, Change It
Author: Mikki Halpin
Ages: Reading level is for young adults. Grades 7-12 but the activities and ideas can be used with children of any age.
Click Here to purchase

Summary: “It's Your World- If You Don't Like It, Change It ”, by Mikki Halpin is a book that promotes activism for teenagers by providing information and ideas to start change. Some of the topics and themes included in this book are: helping animals, fighting racism, saving the environment, ending war, fighting the HIV/AIDS Spread, stopping bullying, defending women's rights, protecting civil rights, and promoting tolerance for LGBTQ. This book provides students with the encouragement and guidance on how to change to the world. The book emphasizes taking stands on issues that are important and that you care about. This book has examples and stories of other students who have made a difference. Halpin provides numerous websites and books for each topic included in the book along with websites and books for other social justice organizations.

Social Action: This book is a primary example of ways to promote and take social action in schools, at home, or in the community. This book gives students ideas and examples that they can use to create and make a difference. I thought this book was perfect for element 6 because it touches upon numerous issues that are important. The reading level is more advanced, but general ideas and action can be taken at any age.

Put to use: In a classroom setting this book can be great by providing your students with new ideas and ways to take social action. I would love to use many of the examples provided in the book for my own classroom. For example, Starting a Gay/Straight Alliance at your own school could be so beneficial and impacting. This really teaches students to accept each other and can help eliminate school violence and bullying. Another great idea is the Bullying Box. Students can report bullying here anonymously, but still make sure these instances are being noted. I feel that these simple tactics can make such an impact.

Teachers Ideas for Social Action

Ellen Chapin

City Green

Title: City Green

Author: Dyanne Di Salvo-Ryan

Grade Level/Reading Level: K-3 ages 6-10

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  • Summary: City Green is a story about a little girl named Marcy. In the city where Marcy lives there is an old abandoned building. One day Marcy and her friends witnesses a bulldozer knocking down the building. The empty lot is just sitting there collecting garbage and Marcy wants to do something about it. With help from her neighbor Miss Rosa, Marcy goes to the town and asks for permission to lease the lot. For one dollar she is able to rent the vacant lot. She uses the lot to plant a garden with help from some neighbors. One neighbor Mr. Hammer is very against building the garden, but although he doesn't help when people are looking, the reader knows that he sneaks in at night to plant sunflower seeds.

  • Element 5: Raising Awareness: This book is a great example of Social Justice Element 5: Raising Awareness because the main character in the story Marcy raises awareness about making the garbage filled lot into a beautiful garden. This book shows children that they can create change and make a difference if they try hard enough. This book also shows that working together with your community can have great ending results.

  • Activity: After reading this book with students, a teacher can have the children plant seeds in a cup and watch them grow. If they have the space needed, they also can plant in the school yard to make it more beautiful. Instead of taking the garden or planting side of the story a teacher can have the students pick something that they want to change or improve for the community. As a class the students can vote on one student's idea and use it as a service learning project. Together the children can collaboratively improve an area of their community.

Great Lesson Plan Ideas!

This blogg was created by Alyse Riggitano & Jenna Feminello

A Castle on Viola Street

Title: A Castle On Viola Street
Author: Evelyn Colman and Tyrone Geter
Ages: 5 - 9
Grade Level: K-3

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Text Book X


Andy lives in a small apartment with his two little sisters, and mother and father. The apartment is cramped and dirty, but it was all the family can afford. One day while doing laundry at the local launder mat, Andy noticed construction on three vacant houses. He later learned that the homes were being fixed up for volunteers and would be given to those in need of a new house, which gave him hope to move out of his current apartment into one of these new-to-be homes. Andy discussed the situation with his parents and soon enough was at the vacant houses every weekend rebuilding with his parents and other volunteers. After weeks of work, Andy and his family found out their close friends, the Tran Family, had gotten the house. Andy and his family were excited to have helped another family, and looked forward to rebuilding the next of the three vacant homes that following Spring.

Social Justice Education:

The 5th Element of Social Justice involves raising the awareness of the students. DyAnne DiSalvo’s A Castle on Viola Street raises awareness for children about poor living conditions and how some children are not fortunate to live in gated communities or on private estates. It portrays the emotions, hopes, and dreams of those living in poverty. At the same time, the book depicts people of all races and shows that there is a constant struggle no matter what race or ethnicity one belongs to. It also demonstrates how a community can come together and help each other.

Lesson Plan:

This book could be used in many different ways. For the most obvious choice, this book would be a great introduction to discuss poverty with children and review that everyone does not have the same possessions. A Castle on Viola Street could also be used to start a lesson on diversity and community, seeing that everyone in the book was from different races and ethnicities, and they all came together to help each other out.

Great Lesson Plan Resource: