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, October 10, 2011

The Colors of Us

The Colors of Us

Author: Karen Katz
Illustrator: Karen Katz
Grade Level: 1st or 2nd 

Summary: Seven year old Lena is learning about mixing colors relating to different skin colors.  To her, cinnamon resembles her skin.  Lena’s mom informs her that there actually is not a “right” brown color but instead there are many different shades.  They decide to go for a walk.  Along the way, Lena runs into some of her friends, like Sonia, Isabella and Jo-Jin.  She realizes that their skin is different shades, which leads her to compare the colors to food and various objects.  Lena and her mom also pass by store owners and other family members, which include Aunt Kathy.  By passing all of these people of different shades, Lena realizes everyone is a different color.  Back at home while hanging out with her friends, Lena thinks about all the people she saw.  She realizes that each color is just as beautiful as the next.  Lena is now finally able to complete her painting.  Lena recalls all of the different colors she saw on her walk and paints each person.  In the end, Lena shows her mom the completed painting and titles it “The Colors of Us”.  She now has an appreciation for each color.

Element 2:  This book represents “Respect for Others” on a very simple and basic level.  The Colors of Us familiarizes the reader that each person is not the same color, but instead different shades.  Lena learns this concept hands-on.  I think this book does a great way of exposing different races by comparing the colors to things relevant in a child’s life, especially food.  The readers will enjoy exploring different skin tones when they are described as “the cupcakes we had for her birthday” or “the color of pizza crust, a golden brown”.  This book concentrates on the appreciation people should have for other individuals of different skin tones.  Lena does not discriminate against certain people because they are either darker or lighter than her.  She has formed friendships with everyone, which I think is an important lesson for any person to incorporate into their own life.

Activity:  For the activity, I will begin a discussion with my students about the thoughts and opinions of The Colors of Us.  I will allow my students to ask any questions or share any experiences relating to different skin tones.  After the discussion, I will pass out pieces of paper and drawing materials, such as markers, crayons and colors pencils.  Like in our actual class, the students will draw pictures that focus mainly on their own skin tone.  Once everyone is done, the students will share their drawings.

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