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.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Grandmama's Pride

Title: Grandmama's Pride
Author: Becky Birtha
Illustrator: Colin Bootman
Grades: 2-5
Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice

To learn more about the author and her books click here

Summary: The book, Grandmama's Pride, took place in the 1950's during the time of segregation between African Americans and Whites. During the summer, six-year-old Sarah, her mother, and her sister travelled by bus to visit Grandmama, who lived down south. The book began with the family sitting in the back of the bus because Mama thought it was more "comfortable." In the south, the law stated that only white people could ride in the front of the bus, however, the little girls did not know this information. When they reached the destination, the girls noticed two different waiting rooms: only one had benches to sit. One morning Grandmama took the girls to buy material for new dresses. When Sarah's sister asked if they were taking a bus, Grandmama answered, "God gave us each two good strong legs for walking." Grandmama had too much pride to take the bus because colored people had to ride in the rear. While on their walk, Grandmama demonstrated more of her pride by not allowing the girls to drink from public water fountains. When Sarah's aunt began teaching her how to read, she began reading street signs and product names. When her little sister needed to use the bathroom, she noticed her walking towards the "White Women Only" restroom. Their mother grabbed her and brought her towards the "Colored Women Only," which had no paper or soap. This was when Sarah read the signs around her: there were four different bathrooms, two for each gender, and two different types of water fountains. Her Grandmama explained that in the south there was still segregation, meaning colored and white people utilize two separate places. When summer ended, it was time to go back home to the north. While waiting for the bus, Sarah's little sister wanted to wait in the sitting section of the waiting room, aka the "White's Only" section. However, Sarah said, "You don't want to sit on those public benches, you don't know who's been sitting there." Grandmama was surprised but proud. Back home, Sarah began reading the newspaper about colored people in the south refusing to rides buses, even in the winter, to boycott for civil rights. The next summer, Mama wanted to try something different: they sat at the front of the bus when they travelled back to the south. When they saw Grandmama, she was no longer in the standing-up waiting room but sat down. When the girls needed the bathroom, Grandmama took them to the Women's bathroom. Sarah stopped and mumbled, "But isn't this the wrong one?” Grandmama explained that the sign just said "Women,” and that those days were gone forever.

Element #3 (Exploring Issues of Social Injustice): Grandmama’s Pride is an inspiring story that opened up awareness of the inequality and racism during the 1950s. It was a symbol of oppression and class rule in the South. It also displayed the foundation for the civil rights movement. The book encourages children not to be ashamed of their skin color even if society says otherwise. The story was significant because it showed the evilness of racism, and how it should not be tolerated. Grandmama challenged racism directly, which shows children the importance of fairness. By utilizing this book, children can be taught to develop empathy by opposing discrimination, and include those who may feel excluded.

Activity: I would use this book to show that eliminating racism is possible, but it begins with their actions. After reading the story, I would have a discussion with the class about their ideas on how to change discrimination in the school. They will then each make a poster to hang around the school, which can include statistics, pictures, famous activists, ideas, movements, or anything that addresses racism or discrimination. I would then bring the students together to make a “Code of Conduct List” to hang in our classroom. As a group, we would figure out how to tackle unfairness within the classroom.

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