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, December 12, 2011

Miss. Rumphius Element five

Miss. Rumphius

Written and Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Grades 1-5

Summary: Miss. Rumphius, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney is an American Book Award winning book that should be a staple in every classroom. Alice Rumphius is a young girl living in America with her grandfather who is an artist. He tells her that he must do something to make the world more beautiful. Although Alice does not understand it at the time, she accepts the challenge. Once Alice is grown up, she moves away and decides to plant flowers around her beach house she is living in. By the time the next spring comes around, Miss. Rumphius is very ill. However, her flowers still bloom and she longs to plant more the next year, unfortunately she is still unable to. When she finally felt better she went for a walk and upon the hill that she had not been on in almost a year, her favorite flower that she planted around her house, lupins, were blooming all over! Miss. Rumphius discovered how she was going to make the world a more beautiful place in honor of her promise to her grandfather; she would plant lupines all over town! Years later her granddaughter listens to the stories she tells of the lupines. Miss. Rumphius carries on the tradition and tells her granddaughter that she too must do something beautiful to make the world more beautiful.

Element Five: Miss. Rumphius very easily relates to element six, taking social action. Miss. Rumphius is told from when she was a little girl that she needed to do something to make the world more beautiful. Although it took her years to figure it out, she discovered that planting flowers and helping the environment is how she was going to do this task. She not only helped the environment but did something that she loved and something that her neighborhood loved. She also passed the tradition on to her granddaughter to do something different to make the world beautiful when she becomes an adult. Helping the environment is something very important in today's world. Having our students help out and understand the concept is even more important. Miss. Rumphius did not have to do this environmentally friendly action, she chose to; and that is what we need to instill in our students heads. That doing something nice whether it be for the environment or not, should not be something you are told to do, but something you want to do.

Activity: There are numerous activities that can be created as a post lesson to reading Miss. Rumphius. to give one example, we can have the students begin with a class discussion if they or their families have ever engaged in any type of social action or movement to help the environment and what they do at home to help the environment. Once we have this discussion the teacher will distribute seeds of flowers that the students will take outside and plant in the school yard. The will be responsible for the life of this flower. When the flower is planted they will write or discuss why they think planting flowers is important for our Earth and what they plan to do in the future to continue helping our environment.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Lorax

Author: Dr. Seuss

Grade Level: 1-6

Summary: The Lorax is one of the many classic stories written by Dr. Seuss. The story begins when a young child asks the Once-Ler to tell him the story of the Lorax. The Lorax is a tree-loving creature who lives very happily surrounded by Truffula trees and various creatures such as Brown Bar-ba-loots and Humming-Fish. One day the Once-Ler moves into town and cuts down a Truffula tree and makes a Thneed. A thneed is a fine-something-that-all-people need! The Lorax confronts the Once-ler and says that he speaks for the trees and asks him to please not chop them down. The Once-ler ignores the Lorax and continues to chop down the Truffula trees and make thneeds and build a thneed factory. As the Once-ler's business expands all the creatures that once lived happily are forced to leave and the Lorax continues to explain to the Once-ler the damage he is doing. The Once-ler ignores his warning again. Eventually, all the Truffula trees are chopped down and everyone leaves except the Lorax and the Once-ler. Finally, the Lorax decides to leave and when he does he leaves behind a pile of rocks with the word "UNLESS" written on it. The Once-ler never realized what it meant until he looked at the young child that he was telling the story to. The Once-ler leaves the fate of the land in the hands of that child, giving him the last Truffula seed and encouraging him to plant it so that one day the Lorax and all the other creatures will return.

Element Five: The Lorax is a great story for element 6, raising awareness, because it focuses on the important issue of sustainability and saving the environment. While the Lorax tried very hard to make a change himself, he was unable to succeed in doing so. The ending of the story calls on a child to take the matter into his own hands and make the world they live in a better place. This story allows a teacher to show students that they are capable of making changes and taking social action, even if it is by doing something as small as planting a tree.

Activity: The Lorax is a great book to read around Earth day and there are numerous activities that can be done with the book. One simple activity is to have students, as a class, compose a list of Earth-friendly actions that they can take part in. For example, turning the water off while brushing their teeth or switching to energy-efficient light bulbs. Another activity that can be done, with permission from the school, is that students can plant a tree on the school's campus and observe its growth as the year goes on.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Social Justice How you can make a difference

Author: Lynn Bogen Sanders
Illustrator:Veronica Bianchini
Grade Level:4th and 5th Grade

Purchase the book here

Summary: In this book are motivating and inspiring stories from children engaged in social justice. They are engaged and are helping out in areas such as: human rights, people who suffered from earthquakes, and political activism. This book shows that it does not matter what age you are, if you want change you can make it happen. In the beginning of the book the author gives ways of how to get started on a project. Overall an informative book that encourages children that no matter what age you are, you can go out there and make a difference. In the book a child stated how activism isn't just a project, it's a way of life.

Element 6: This book pertains to element 6 because it shows real life examples of kids of different ages going out in the world and making a difference. In this book there are tips and strategies to help children get involved. It lays down the foundation of getting started and thinking of different areas that children can choose to get involved. For example, brainstorm problems. Also shows that any problem-doesn't matter the size-is important.

Activity: After students have finished reading the book, we will go over the steps presented in this book on how to get involved. Students may get different ideas in this book from reading other children's stories of social justice. Students will brainstorm ideas on the board of things that interest them and want to help out. When the list is done I will ask children to put their name to one that inspires them the most. If more than one student is interested in a topic, I will put those students in a group. As a class we will do the steps together. When all the steps are completed, I will ask the students to do a presentation of their topic and how they helped out. During this process I will ask students (if they can) take pictures of them during this process. At the end we will create a board that is called Social Justice-make it happen.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Unofficial Official Handbook of Good Deeds

Author: L.L. Buller and Boy Scouts of America
Illustrator: Lee 55
Grade levels: 3-5

Purchase it here
Find out more about the Boy Scouts of America

Summary: The Unofficial Official Handbook of Good Deeds is just what it claims to be, a book of more than 300 things you can do to make the world a better place. The book is not just a listing of good deeds but actually explains different things you can do to help your community. Some of the ones that stuck out to me the most were clean up your classroom, plant a tree, knit a hat or scarf for a homeless person, have a clean up party in the park, collect canned goods for a food back, meet with your principal and ask how you can help, adopt a highway, beach or park, recycle, and collect trash at school. The book explains how to go about these acts of kindness and why you should. For example, "Have a Clean-up Party in the Park" lists the different things you can do to help improve the park like planting flowers or picking up trash. The section explains how to first get permission by contact the parks department. It then explains what you will need to accomplish the various tasks such as rakes, seeds, or trash bags. Along with this, it explains why you should should clean up parks in your community by reminding students of their love for the play ground growing up.

Element six: This relates to element six because after a problem or social issue is identified, you can then use this book to help come up with ways of how to address it. Whether the issue is school involved or just something the students feel particularly passionate about this book can be used to help guide students to create change. Even if students are just looking for a way to create a positive change in their community book, this book will assist them in finding ways to go about that.

Activity: For the activity following this book, first see what the students wanted to take social action on. The issue addressed should either be prompted by the teacher for the students to come up with issues in their community or even an issue that came up during other class time that students were interested in. Once a issue is decided on, as a class go through this book observing the different options for addressing that issue. For example, if students are concerned with homelessness, knitting a hat or scarf for a homeless person or collecting mittens might be a good place to start. Theses lessons would probably be long and involved but the end result would certainly be a beneficial thing for students to get involved with. Another thing that might be a fun project with this book, would be just to have it the classroom and see how many of the deeds can be accomplished before the end of the school.