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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Planting the Trees of Kenya

Title: Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai

Author: Claire A. Nivola

Ages: 4-10

Grade Level: Pre-K-3rd

Synopsis: Planting the Trees of Kenya tells the true story of Wangari Maathai who grew up in the hills of Kenya. Trees and plants filled the lands of Kenya. Wangari leaves to attend a school in America and when she returns she realizes that life in Kenya has changed. The farms were now growing crops to sell and families were buying food from stores. Together Wangari and the women of the town plant seeds and grow new trees. Eventually the men see how hard the women are working and join in. Wangari went around to schools, prisons, and soldiers giving them seedlings to continue the planting movement.

How this book represents element #4: This book represents element 4 of social justice because it discusses Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement to re-plant trees in Kenya. Wangari shows how one person can start a movement for change and see a difference in his or her community. This book takes a true story and makes it kid friendly. There was an effort toward a social change. In the author's notes at the end of the book, it explains the life of Wangari and her efforts to make changes. Along with others, she protested the government's plans and landed herself in the hospital with injuries. This represents element 4 because she did not care what could happen. All that mattered to her was fighting for what she believed in and making a change for everyone.

Activities: I would use this book to teach children about environmental issues in the world and also to teach about social change and how one person can make a difference. An activity I would have my class complete is to pick their favorite scene from the book and recreate it. The book is decorated with beautiful water colors and having them recreate a scene would tie in an art lesson as well. Something else I would have them do is to put themselves in the place of Wangari and retell the story. I would want to see what they would do differently and it would be a good way for me to assess their writing skills.

Click here for another great review of the book!

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