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, October 9, 2011

You Are Special

Title: You Are Special

Author: Max Lucado

Illustrator: Sergio Martinez

Grade level: 1st and up


Summary: Punchinello is a Wemmick, or a small wooden puppet. He lives with other Wemmicks and all they do is put stickers on each other every day. The nice, pretty, talented Wemmicks would get the gold star stickers and those with chipped paint, scratches, or those who don’t have any special talents got the ugly, gray dot stickers. Punchinello would always get the gray dots. He meets another Wemmick just like him and finds out that she always got the ugly stickers, too. She told him to go sit with Eli, the puppet maker. Eli tells Punchinello that he doesn’t care if he has gray dots all over him; he loves him just the same and respects him for who he is, flaws and all. He also learns that flaws should not depict who someone is, but it’s what on the inside that counts, and makes you special.

Element 2-Respect for Others: The title for this book is perfect because just from hearing it, children will learn that they are special in their own way.  This story focuses on people’s differences and how they are often pointed out, sometimes in a negative light. It is important to understand that everyone has differences that make them unique, such as skin color, hair color, and religious or ethnic background, and these distinctions should not be seen as faults. Although the book does not exactly touch on racial and cultural differences, the idea portrayed in the story can definitely be connected to that.  It teaches children that everyone is unique, but that is what makes them special.

Activity: I would have the students create marionette puppets to mirror those in the story, but make the puppets look like them. I would provide the model for the marionette as well as the supplies, but I would allow the students to create everything else to make the puppet resemble them. I would have them bring in a picture of their faces to put on the head of the puppet. In addition, I would give them paper stars to put on their puppet and allow them to write when they like about themselves in the star. This could be an activity or an attribute they like (honest, kind, blue eyes, curly hair, etc).  The beauty of the activity is that there is no wrong way to do it because you’re simply creating yourself.  When the puppets are completed, I would hang up all of the creations around the classroom so everyone can see how their differences make them special.

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