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, September 30, 2010

Bright Eyes, Brown Skin

Bright Eyes, Brown Skin

Author: Cheryl Willis Hudson

Illustrated by: George Ford

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Additional Lesson Plan


Bright Eyes, Brown Skin is a picture book written for children between the ages of four and six. The author does a marvelous job in using rhymes to exalt different physical characteristics in positive ways. For example, she writes “A playful grin, a perfect nose…very special hair and clothes”. The characters in the book are all African American children and in the illustrations we see the joy and pride with which they carry themselves. The story ends with the four children all taking a nap after their long day

Bright Eyes, Brown Skin clearly represents element one in its use of wording. Often time things such as heart shaped faces or dimple chins are things which can cause children to feel shy. However, the author makes positive mentions about having characteristics which are different from others. The four children seem to feel good about who they are and look rather proud of themselves.

Activity: Since Bright Eyes, Brown Skin is so poetic I could easily do a small poetry lesson with my students. Assuming they were six years old we could try to make short poems in where every sentence begins with the color of their eyes and the color of their skin and would be followed by a special characteristic. For example:

Green eyes, tan skin, freckles in my nose

Green eyes, tan skin, small chubby fingers

I believe this activity could really help my young students take pride in things they may have otherwise thought made them inferior.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Momma, Where Are You From?

Element # 1 : Momma, Where Are You From?
Author: Marie Bradby
Illustrated by: Chris K. Soentpiet
Best For: Pre-k -2nd

Momma, Where Are You From by Marie Bradby is an outstanding story about a mother’s unforgettable reply to her child’s question about her childhood. Momma, Where Are You From teaches children about self-love and knowledge through a heartwarming story. Momma, Where Are You From tells a unique story of a little girl’s heritage through the eyes of her mother. Throughout the book momma tells the story of her childhood. She talks about her laundry, foods she ate, her neighborhood, schooling, responsibilities and games she use to play. I have thought about ways I would use this book in my classroom and the following came to mind. I would first read this book out loud to my class. I would then encourage my students parents to tell their children (my students) their own stories of where their from. I would have my students create their own books sharing where there from. I believe by parents sharing with their children stories about their past, children learn about their heritage and culture. If children learn and understand their heritage as well as culture they will appreciate where there from much more.

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About the Author.....

Family Pictures

Title: Family Pictures
Pictures and Stories: Carmen Lomas Garza
Introduction: Sandra Cisneros

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Lesson Plan

Summary: Family Pictures is a story told by pictures through the eyes of a young girl, about a Latin American family that lived in Texas. This book is intended for children in first through fourth grade. The story is written in both Spanish and English. The little girl narrating the story tells about her dream of becoming an artist and how her mother inspired her to do all that she could. The pictures on each page depict different Latin inspired foods that the family prepared, and different traditions that the family took part in, showing the importance of family togetherness in Latin culture. The story tells about a religious tradition that the whole community participated in, which takes place on the nine nights before Christmas. The cake walk was a tradition that only those of Latin heritage took part in to raise money for students. The book ends talking about how the little girl and her sister used to go sit on their roof at night and dream of their future, and how their mother made their bed of dreams, and pushed them to be all they can be while showing them the importance of their heritage.

SJE: This represents the first element of SJE because although the little girl knew she wanted to be an artist and her mother inspired her to do so, she also learned the importance of herself and her culture and how her family truly embraced it. This book can help children realize they can be anything they set out to be and still incorporate their traditions in their life journey. The use of both Spanish and English in this book shows that the use of another language at home is very common and accepted in America. The book unfolds as the narrator comes to love herself, her culture and her ambition to be an artist.

Activity: I would use the book to have students do an activity where they think of all the traditions they take part in, in their community. They can then discuss in a group if other students share these traditions and if they are something of all cultural backgrounds, or of one cultural background. If no other student in the group shares the same traditions, they can then explain the traditions to one another and have a small imitation of the tradition in class.

Black is Brown is Tan

Title: Black is Brown is Tan
Author: Arnold Adoff
Pictures by: Emily Arnold McCully

The childrens book, "Black is Brown is Tan" written by Arnold Adoff and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully is a story about a family that has 'all the colors of the race". The mother is African American and the father is Caucasian making the two children- boy and girl, mixed. The story is written in a first person perspective from one of the children or both viewpoint. They describe life in their family and how they are extremely proud of their unique tan color and their unique family. They describe a day in their life: going to school, doing chores, spending time with their grandparents, having BBQ dinners, doing chores, and not trying to go to bed. They describe themselves in great detail within a song/poem version as they state that they are brown like chocolate milk and pumpkin pie and white, not like milk & snow but light with pinks and tiny tans. This is a perfect book for an elementary level from 1st grade to 4th grade.

This newer edition of the book was published in 2002 but the older edition was published back in 1973. This was the first book that featured an interracial family. Shortly before this time, marriage that was interracial was a violation in twenty-eight states in America, a huge part of the country. This book is a true dedication to diversity and the melting pot of America. Teachers can use this book as a tool to teach students about self-respect and self-uniqueness. The children in this book have dignity and respect for their colors and the story didn't contain a negative stereotype of any kind. The children are proud of who they are and what their skin color represents, which is strength, uniqueness, and hope.

I would use this book in an "All About Me" unit where the children can use different skin color tones of paint to draw themselves and paint their particular color. It will allow the students to really find out what color they are and veer away from the stereotypes of children being just "black or white".

Follow this link to purchase this book: (copy & paste to browser if link is disabled)

Lesson Plan for All About Me (use this to resource & story book) to engage kids in All ABout Me Activity):

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Name is Yoon

Title: My Name is Yoon
Author: Helen Recorvits
My Name is Yoon focuses on a little girl from Korea who is new to America. In Korean, Yoon's name means "Shining Wisdom." Her father urges her to learn how to write her name in English; however, Yoon feels that her name looks happier when written in Korean. The symbols seem to mesh well and "dance together." In English, Yoon feels like her name is full of solitary lines and circles. Its appearance seems forlorn and lonely, similar to how Yoon feels within her new environment. As the story continues, Yoon tries to identify herself as a cat, a bird and a cupcake. She does not feel comfortable identifying herself as "Yoon." Eventually, Yoon is able to find happiness and accept herself for who she truly is as an individual.
Self-Love and Knowledge:
After reading this book, one may be able to realize the lesson of self-acceptance that Helen Recorvits is trying to portray. Yoon symbolizes each and every student within a classroom. Students varry from eachother ethnically, racially, religiously, culturally and so on. These differences make each individual unique in their own way. Students may face challenges regarding their identity; however, their journey through life will allow them to realize they are special and wonderfully made. This outlook allows them to become more positive and accepting of themselves.
Classroom Activity:
As a follow up activity to this piece of social justice literature, students can create name acronym poems. Within a name acronym poem, each letter represents a specific word or phrase. Each letter of a student's name will be followed by a positive word or statement that may describe them as an individual. Once all poems are complete, they can share them with their fellow classmates. Not only is this a great writing assignment, but it also allows the students to learn about their fellow peers.

I Like Myself!

TITLE: "I Like Myself"
AUTHOR: Karen Beaumont

I Like Myself, by Karen Beaumont, is a book for children ages 3-7. The book encourages children to accept who they are and builds self-esteem. Its rhyming text makes the book fun and easy to read. The illustrations by David Catrow are bright, colorful, and imaginative. This book teaches children to appreciate everything about themselves, inside and out. Through its silly phrases and wild pictures, I Like Myself, would be an enjoyable read for any child. On the final page, Beaumont writes, "I like myself because I'm ME!" This is an important message to teach young children.

This book is an excellent example to teach the first element of Social Justice Education. It represents the theme self-love and awareness. I Like Myself teaches children that it is okay to like yourself, no matter what their differences might be. The book encourages children to like themselves on the inside and out, and at their best and worst. It teaches the importance of self-esteem.

As a future teacher, I would use this book to teach young children to love themselves for who they are. It could be a useful tool in the beginning of the school year to make the students feel comfortable in my classroom. It could be used as a read-aloud story followed by an individual activity. After listening to I Like Myself, the children could each draw a picture and share with their peers the qualities that they like about themselves. The pictures would be hung around the classroom to boost self-esteem and encourage acceptance.

By Amanda Merkle

Halmoni's Day

Element #1: "Halmoni's Day"

Title: Halmoni’s Day
Author: Edna Coe Bercaw

“Halmoni’s Day”, by Edna Coe Bercaw, is a book for children ages 5-9 that teach children self-love and knowledge through a very interesting story. “Halmoni’s Day” is about a little girl, Jennifer, who is very excited to see her grandmother that is visiting her from Korea. Halmoni, her grandmother, traveled a long way to attend Jennifer’s Grandparents’ Day at school. Although she cannot speak English, on Grandparent’s Day Jennifer’s mother translates a story to the class. The class is very impressed and interested in Halmoni’s story. This is when Jennifer starts to truly feel proud and lucky to be who she is. The element that I focused on was element one, self-love and knowledge. This book tells the story of Jennifer, who learned about her culture and heritage from her grandmother and then learned to appreciate who she is. “Halmoni’s Day” promotes a positive learning experience by integrating traditions along with a story. This book also helps eliminate negative stereotypes by encouraging the children to listen to others’ stories and be open-minded.

This book's story line along with the illustrations help the children learn about different cultures and traditions. I could use this book in many ways in my classroom. My first idea is read it aloud to my class and let my students talk about their own traditions within small groups. This will help the students appreciate where they have come from and also learn about where their fellow students have come from. I would encourage all the students to feel comfortable talking to each other and be respectful of what each person says. This book could also be used as an “ice breaker” possibly the first week of school. The book and activities combined can be a great way to have the students introduce their families to the class. I truly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to parents and teachers that want to encourage self-love and knowledge.

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More information for classroom activities here!

-Jessica Dorick

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Oliver Button Is a Sissy

Oliver Button Is a Sissy, by: Tomie dePaola

“Oliver Button Is a Sissy” is the story of a young boy who is not interested in sports or “things that boys are supposed to do”. This story by Tomie dePaola describes how Oliver likes to dance, paint, walk through the woods and read instead of play sports, and how he continued to do what he likes despite being teased by his school mates.

I was drawn to this book because it revisits gender roles. This book shows that boys don’t always have to play sports; they can also participate in dance and other activities. The media almost always covers girls’ gender roles and how they are expected to participate in certain activities and put other things aside, but seldom do we hear about the pressure put on boys.

As a future teacher I would read this book to an audience of Kindergarten to first graders. I believe it would help children realize there is no such thing as a boy activity or a girl activity; anyone can do anything no matter what their gender is. Even though this book is about a boy, girls can still relate to the story because it has a universal theme that speaks about self acceptance, even when no one else accepts you. This book would also teach children to pursue any activity they enjoy, even if they are going to be teased about it, because the joy a person gets from doing something s/he loves overpowers anything else.

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September 25th, 2010.

Mona Siyam

Family, Familia

Family, Familia by Diane Gonzales Bertrand is a book written in English and Spanish geared towards ages 7-11. Family values, culture, history and tradition are a few concepts learned through the story of the Gonzales Family Reunion. Pauline Rodriguez Howard illustrated Family, Familia allowing readers to spark their imagination. We have all heard stories and memories of our ancestors. Each student comes from a different background with many stories to share. Exploring diversity within the classroom allows students to learn about their own heritage, and other students and their cultures. I focused on element 1, self love and knowledge, in the Six Elements of Social Justice. Culture, heritage, and ethnicity were demonstrated in Family, Familia. I feel this book is a useful tool in the classroom because students can share their different traditions and learn about other cultures. Daniel was board with his father’s stories but, after the Gonzales family reunion Daniel showed great appreciation and pride in his culture and family. “We lived in different places, and some had different names, but we were all connected.” A classroom is also like a family; we share stories, experience challenges, make memories, and grow together. We are all connected through learning and the want to move forward.

Interested in purchasing Family, Familia?

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