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.

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.



Helpful Resource:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Do Something in Your City

By: Amanda Rondeau

Buy it here!

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)

Get your copy here!


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.

Buy this book here


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.

Buy it:

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

Buy it at Barnes & Noble

  • 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

Purchase Here:


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:

Grace for President

Grace for President
By: Kelly DiPucchio
This book can be purchased at Borders:
Grace for President is aimed for readers ages 5-9 years old.
  • In Grace for President, Grace's class is learning about the Presidents of the United States. Grace is very bothered when she discovers that there has never been a female President. Grace feels that this is unfair and questions her teacher as she searches for a reason why. Grace's teacher decides to hold a school election where any students can be elected, male or female, in order to make it a little more fair and interest the students. Grace is up against a male classmate who is favored by many, but ends up winning in the end. The last line in the book is Grace saying that she will run for President of the United States some day, and change the tradition of only men serving as U.S. Presidents.
  • This book represents element 5: Raising Awareness, because Grace raises awareness to her teacher and fellow classmates about the fact that there has never been a female president in our country. The other students didn't pay much attention to this idea until Grace pointed it out to them. Grace also raises awareness to her teacher as her questioning promotes her teacher to create an "out of the blue" election at school.
  • I would use this book when teaching students about presidency. The book really applies to all aspects of politics and elections. I would also use the book to emphasize that men and women are equal and should be treated equally. I would show my students that if they feel passionate about a topic, they can make a difference and I will aid in any way that I can in the classroom.
  • Lesson Plans for this book can be accessed here:


Title: Darby
Author: Jonathan Scott Fuqua
Recommended for grades: 4-5
Buy it Here!
Find Activities/lesson plans for after reading the story here, under Darby.

Darby is a nine year-old girl that grew up in Marlboro County, SC. She lived on a farm and played with Evette, who was a little girl that lived in a house on her farm. Darby was white and Evette was African American. Evette loved writing and she convinced Darby to write articles with her for the local paper. Darby wrote the articles and Evette edited them. At first they wrote articles about little things that interested them. Later on in the story Darby is inspired to write about racial equality due to hearing about an African American boy get beat to death by a white man in her town. The story causes conflict in her town. Many of Darby's friends were banned from seeing her, and her family received horrible angry phone calls. The Ku Klux Klan started to cause trouble in town again, especially with Darby's family. Darby stuck with her beliefs in her article and her father supported her. After the Ku Klux Klan threw a brick through Darby's family's store window, Darby made a speech in front of the crowd that gathered. After hearing Darby speak, the town decided from that point on the Ku Klux Klan would not be tolerated. Little by little the towns people changed the town to make it more equal from both blacks and whites.

This book represents the sixth element of Social Justice Education, which is taking social action. The book shows how nine-year-old Darby believed that treating someone unfairly due to their race was not the right thing to do and she wanted to do something to change it. Darby was warned that her article would cause an uproar but she took on the challenge and published it because she wanted to make a difference. The book shows how children can take social action and help make changes. It may take time, like Darby's situation did, but in the end Darby did have an impact on the town and the uproar was well worth it.

One activity I would do would be to have the students choose one controversial issue they would like to change. I would have the whole class agree on an issue and an outcome. We would then plan in class how they as students could promote this change and make a difference. I would have the students write their own speeches on the issue, make posters for a class protest, and even an article they would want published in their town newspaper. We could then present the speeches, article, and posters to the rest of classes in their grade and get their opinion. If it was possible we could even pick a class article and see if the town newspaper would publish it.

The Kid's Guide to Social Action

Name: The Kid's Guide to Social Action
Author: Barbara A. Lewis
Grade/Age: 8 and above (3rd grade and older)
(Can preview a few pages of the book too, just click on the picture where it says "Look Inside")
This website can help give teachers ideas about the type of social action students can take part in using the tools learned from The Kid's Guide to Social Action.

Summary: The Kid's Guide to Social Action is a great book that gives children the motivation to go out and make a difference, while providing them with the information to do so. Lewis provides true stories of children of all ages who have made a difference, showing that no one is too young to begin change. The best thing about this is that it not only motivates children to make a difference, but it gives them the tools to be able to do this successfully. Reproducable forms are given to start petitions, write speeches, and announce ideas. The Kid's Guide to Social Action also provides the steps to approach lawmakers at all levels of the government.

Social Justice Element 6: In element 6, teachers are supposed to provide their students with the skills to create change. The Kid's Guide to Social Action specifically focuses on giving children the tools to make a difference in this world. No person is too young or to old to make a difference and this book makes a point of that. Steps are provided to give students the confidence and motivation to change a problem they do not agree with. One of the reasons I chose this book is because it can be used for any problem students want changed, not just one specific problem.

How I would use this book: This 6 elements should always be in the back of a teacher's mind when doing any lesson, however, I think that element 6 is the hardest to plan for. Students can become passionate about any topic and if that opportunity presents itself, I think the teacher should jump on board! This book can be used for an opportunity like that. In my classroom, though, I plan to have this book where all students can see/use it so taking social action can always be on their mind. The forms provided in the book can be great for teachers to use when this opportunity does present itself! Students should be encouraged to make a difference and this book does just that!

Click here for another great review of the book!

The Kid's Guide to Social Action

Element #6: “The Kid’s Guide to Social Action”

Title: The Kid’s Guide to Social Action

Author: Barbara A. Lewis

Ages: Reading level ages 9-12 but can be used with children of any age.

Synopsis: “The Kid’s Guide to Social Action”, by Barbara A. Lewis is a guide that inspires students to choose events that they feel very strongly about and to take social action themselves. The book was published in 1991 and won award from Parenting Magazine and American Library Association. The book gives children a way to feel like they are making a difference in something they believe in. The guide, by Barbara A. Lewis, gives step-by-step instructions that explain how to start social action (gives direction on letters, surveys’, raisings funds, etc). The book also gives real stories from children who create social change in their community. Lewis also included petitions and reproducible forms for the children to use. The book includes many outside resources for the children to use such as government organizations, private organizations, websites, and more books.

Relates to element 6: This book directly relates to element 6, which is taking social action. After reading this book, I immediately thought this was the perfect book to use in a classroom for giving kids the opportunity to take actions on issues that affect them or their community. This book gives the students the skills and information to create change themselves.

Using it in the classroom: Using this book in your classroom is a great way to integrate element 6! Although, I believe you cannot really plan when exactly you are going to have your student take social action. I think it really comes when you can tell that your students are really passionate about something and when they cannot get it out of their minds. That is when you could use the opportunity to introduce this book and show them how they can create change. As I briefly state before, the book gives many templates that a teacher can easily copy for the students and have them fill it out. It even gives and explains the petition process and how to effectively use a petition in certain situations. It is a very teacher friendly book!

Purchase this book here!

Teacher Resources:

Click here for another great review of the book!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Don't Call Me Special

Title: Don't Call Me Special- A First Look at Disability

Author: Pat Thomas
Illustrator: Lesley Harker

Age Range: 4-7

Purchase this book here:
Barnes and Noble

Don't Call Me Special explores the concerns and questions children have with regards to physical disabilities in a clear manner. The book allows readers to realize that everybody is a little different from everyone else. We each have things that we can do easily and things we might need help in. Children with disabilities need helpful equipment like you may need glasses to see or special scissors to cut. Don't Call Me Special identifies the equipment children with disabilities often use and discusses the different reasons a child may have a disability. Through this book, children are able to understand that the term "special" makes many people with disabilities feel different from everyone else. Children with disabilities may look different on the outside, but they are just like everyone else. Together, children and adults with disabilities and without disabilities can help each other grow and live happy lives.

Social Justice Element:
Don't Call Me Special is an excellent book for teachers to raise the awareness of children with disabilities. This book is a great resource to introduce physical disabilities to children in early elementary grades. Children with physical disabilities may often feel different from other students in the class. One way teachers can make children with disabilities feel like everyone else is by reading books such as Don't Call Me Special. It allows children to realize that by assuming that an individual, who may not look the same as them on the outside, is different can hurt that person's feelings. Students can become advocators for children with disabilities by raising awareness to other students, teachers, and family members. Everybody needs help doing something, therefore children and adults with disabilities should not be labeled as being "special". People of all ages should understand that people with disabilities are capable of doing everything we can and maybe even more. Through this book, children are able to discuss the importance of inclusion and how they can learn from each other.

As a future teacher, I would use this book as way to introduce physical disabilities to my students. After reading this book to my students, I could introduce people with disabilities that have made important contributions in our society such as Helen Keller and Franklin Roosevelt. In groups, students can do research on people with physical disabilities and how they have overcome their disability. Groups can discuss their findings to the class and learn about how people with disabilities can make important contributions as well. An activity that can be used following this book is through role playing. Students can take turns understanding what it may be like to be blind or deaf by being blindfolded and wearing headsets. This activity can help enhance the compassion and understanding to children with physical disabilities. This book can lead to many discussions on acceptance and tolerance of people who may be disabled. I would also have my students discuss the things they find easy to do and things they need help doing. Through this discussion, students will realize that everyone is a little different and we all need help doing certain things.

Below are websites that provide activities and ways to teach students about disabilities:
Classroom Activities
Teaching Diversity
Teaching Second Grade Students about Disabilities

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Other Side

Title: The Other Side
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by: E.B. Lewis
Ages: 6-8
Grade Level: K-3

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About the book:
The Other Side is a wonderful and motivational book that portrays the "dividing line" that separated the blacks and whites in our country. Clover, a young black girl, spent her days wondering why there was a fence that divided the black side of town from the white side. She was unaware why it was there, all she knew was "that's the way things are." However, over the summer a white girl named Annie who lived on the white side, began coming closer to the fence. The two girls would study eachother from far away, until one day Annie, sat on the fence. Although neither of them were allowed to climb the fence, they begin to form a wonderful relationship from sitting on top of the fence together, as their two "worlds" join. The fence is a very subtle way to show children that friendship is able to overcome any barriers.

Element 5: Raising Awareness:
After reading this book, it became apparent that this book is a perfect book to read to children when discussing Element 5. This book very clearly raises awareness to the children about all of the struggles the blacks and whites used to be faced with. It shows the passion that these two girls had, and how they did not want to let a fence stand in the way of their friendship. It teaches children that they need to stand up for what is right and what they believe in. By sitting on the fence, the two girls share hopes that someday soon the fence will be knocked down, and the two "worlds" of people will be able to freely come together and enjoy eachother. It shows the beautiful innocence of children, and how they are able to look right past the color of one another, and try to make a difference for something that they believe so strongly in. They are raising awareness of the whole neighborhood, which is very motivational.
After reading this book, the class will be able to raise awareness to others about something they feel strongly about. Whether it be their religion, race, or something currently going on in the world, and they will discuss it with the class. Hopefully at this point, the book will have encouraged them to stand up for what they believe in, and try to raise awareness to others, like the young girls did, to make a change in our world. The class will also be able to pick a topic that they want to raise awareness in as a whole, and they will be able to come up with ways to try and help raise awareness, or even raise money to donate to a community or foundation to raise awareness.

Some Resources for the teacher:

Click here for another great review of the book!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Three R's

Title: The Three R's: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
Author: Nuria Roca
Illustrated by Rosa M. Curto
Ages: 6-8
Grade Level: K-3

About the Book:
This wonderful book talks about Paul a young boy who raises the awareness about reuse, reduce, and recycle to his family, friends, school, and community. The book starts by Paul explaining to his friends what the three R’s stand for and what they mean. He explains that when we reduce we help keep the earth clean and the water we drink fresh.
Paul shows his friends and family of the different things that they can do to reduce pollution. The book also mentions all the things that Paul’s town is doing to help the environment stay clean. This book also has different activities that students can do in their school, home, and community to help make our planet clean and a good place to live in.

Element 5: Raising Awarness
This book is adequate and great way to introduce element five of raising awareness. From this book kids will learn about all the things that they can do to help keep the planet a safe place to live in. This book will help students understand that they too can make a difference in the world. Moreover, since the book talks about a young boy who is raising awareness the students can relate and understand the issue better, and this will help them become advocates by raising awareness to others students, teacher, family, and community members.
This book would be great introduction to environment during Earth Day. It will help students understand the different ways to help keep the planet clean from pollution. As future teacher, one of the activities that I will enjoy doing with my students is a notebook from defective sheets from the printer or photocopier, this activity will help students understand that if we use recycle papers we can save trees.

Teacher Lesson Resource

To find a copy of this book, please use link below: $6.99 $6.29

Monday, November 8, 2010

Riding to Washington

"Riding to Washington"
Written by Gwenyth Swain
Illustrated by David Geister

Suggested Grade Level: 2nd-6th grade

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This is a wonderful story about a troublemaker named Janie. She is constantly being told to do what is right, but it always seems to come after she does something wrong. Her father is about to leave on a bus trip to Washington, D.C. to see Martin Luther King, Jr. speak. Janie’s mother asks him to bring her along for the trip because she cannot handle her alone. On the bus, Janie and her father are some of the few white people among the large groups of black people. They attempt to stop at restaurants along the way, but none of them will serve mixed crowds so they continue on. When they come to a gas station, Mrs. Taylor, Janie’s dad’s friend, wants to use the bathroom, but there is a “no coloreds” sign above the door. Janie accompanies her to the gas station attendant and ask for the bathroom key. When their request is denied, Janie tells the young white attendant what her parents always tell her: do what you know is the right thing. She proceeds to confront him about the situation and he ends up giving them the bathroom key. When they finally arrive in Washington, D.C. and see Martin Luther King, Jr. speak. During his “I have a dream” speech, Janie wonders what he is really talking about. She feels Mrs. Taylor’s hand on her shoulder and realizes that his dream for equality is everyone’s dream.
This book represents element 4 because it shows how one child can change someone’s mind about a huge topic like racism. Janie stood up for something that she believed in and fought for Mrs. Taylor’s right to use a bathroom. This shows children that if they stand up for what they believe in and prove their point, they can change the way things work. They can make a difference in their world. It can be something small or large, but they’ll have a part in it as long as they know that they can start a social movement. At young ages, they may not do something like Janie did, but they can do something small like getting their grade rights to a part of the playground that is specifically for a different grade.

Lesson Plan! (The book listed in this lesson plan can be replaced with the one above.)

Another idea would be to have students come up with their own "Classroom Rights." This could be completed by the class as a whole and hung in the room on a large poster, or completed individually and have everyone's separate signs hung on a bulletin board.