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 14, 2011

Who Belongs Here? An American Story

Author: Margy Burns Knight

Illustrator: Anne Sibley O'Brien

Grade Level: 2nd to 5th

Buy it Here!



This vibrant picture book tells the story of a young boy named Nary who comes to America as a refugee from Cambodia. He is nervous upon his arrival because he is unsure what to expect, but happy to get out of the horrible conditions his family had to live in. People at school make fun of him for being “different” and often tell his to leave America because he does not belong. This made him very upset; he went home tried to talk to his grandmother because he does not want to be afraid of going to school. The young boy just wants his classmates that tease him to leave him alone. He has dreams of becoming a mechanic and likes to play soccer in his spare time. Along with the help of his teacher Nary helps to plan a lesson in his social studies class that helped teach his classmates that no one should be a refugee.

Representation of Element One:

This story showed a young boy who had come to America as a refugee with no place to go and was bullied in school. In the end, it showed that the young boy was able to help his classmates understand that no one should have to be a refugee. It shows that children are able to self-love and be accepting of themselves for who they are, even if other people don't agree. This book also shows how self-confidence is built through taking a stand and reaching out to one’s peers (the ones doing the bullying) and teaches them a valuable lesson. Many young children as well as adults in today’s society still do not fully realize why people immigrate to America. These people become prejudiced against due to their different background and place of upbringing. Therefore, self-love and pride in their culture and where they come from are all important aspects that need to be fostered at a young age, which can be accomplished through reading this book.


A Read Aloud lesson plan could be used for this book because it incorporates new ideas and personal connections for the students. Present the question- "why did the author write this book?" before reading. It will set up the discussion about self-acceptance. As a post-reading activity, children can create a picture that represents who they are and where they come from. This lesson could be expanded upon at home with the parent’s involvement. By sending the children home with a list of questions for them to answer with the help of their parents about their ethnic and cultural background. Ask questions such as: “Where does your family come from?” and “When did your family come?” This lesson can be part of a broader topic of understanding how we have come to live in the U.S and how diverse our country truly is.

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