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.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

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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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.

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