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, February 28, 2011

If A Bus Could Talk

Author & illustrator: Faith Ringgold
Grade level: 2nd & up 

Summary: If A Bus Could Talk is a children's book that tells the story of Rosa Parks. The bold illustrations have the ability to draw children into the story along with the creative way of telling Rosa Parks' story (through a talking bus). The story starts from the day Rosa was born, so the book informs us of the racism that she endured and and how it affected her. If A Bus Could Talk teaches us of segregation, discrimination, and just in general, the way blacks were treated in the South. While the book tells us of the cruelty of her time, we learn how her courage and persistence had an impact on this country. Rosa's story continues, and we learn that she married a man that was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and she, too became involved in making an equal life for blacks. The climax of the story is when she refuses to give up her seat for a white person and in turn, is arrested. The book is detailed and truly allows the readers to grasp who Rosa Parks was and what she stood for. Rosa Parks lived a long life and never stopped trying to make a difference. She was awarded many times for her efforts and accomplishments to achieve justice for all races.

Element 3; Exploring Issues of Social Injustice: I chose this book for this element because of the great achievements of Rosa Parks. She truly made a difference in the privileges minorities now have and she has brought segregation and racial inequality a long way. For just one person, Rosa's actions had a tremendous impact on the experiences of many people today. I think this book is great for students to begin to understand the way things used to be, and also to be inspired by Rosa Parks' determination and bravery. 

Activity: This activity would be for after the class has read the book. Similar to Jane Elliott's experiment with her students (blue eyes/brown eyes), I would give half my students a star sticker to wear for the day. The students with the star stickers would be given privileges for one whole day (line leader, paper monitor, extra time to do their favorite activity, etc.). The students without the star sticker would not have the privilege to help with any of these favorite classroom tasks. When in lines, the students without stickers would have to stand behind all the people who had them, they would not get chosen to be the paper monitor, and must arrive back at their seat while the people with stickers enjoyed their free time. On the second day, I would switch the stickers to the other half of the class. At the end of both days, I would ask that the students record in a journal words or pictures of how their particular role made them feel. After the second day, I would discuss with students the feelings they had in both situations. When the students confess how terrible they felt without any privileges for an entire day, I will invite them to continue speaking about how they notice the way people are treated because of their differences. We will discuss Rosa Parks' impact and the importance of her accomplishments. Their assignment for homework would be to write a paragraph about our in-class discussion and what impact the book had on them, if any.

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