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.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins

Freedom on the Menu
Title: Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-  Ins

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator: Jerome LaGarrigue

SJE: Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice

Grade Level: P and up

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This book talks about a little girl, Connie and her family. Connie and her mama go shopping together in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina almost every week. Whenever they were hot or tired they would go to the five-and-dime to get a Coke and would have to stand at the snack bar. They were not allowed to sit at the lunch counter because it was for "Whites Only". Connie would watch little white girls eating banana splits and other meals and would want to join them so badly and would always ask her mama if they could sit for a while. Her mama always told her no because "they were not allowed". Connie realized there were signs all over town telling them where they could and could not go; water fountains, swimming pools, movie theaters and bathrooms. Dr. Martin Luther King came to town one day to speak in front of the college chapel and Connie and her family went to see him speak. Connie didn't understand most of what he was saying but she did realize how positive the crowds response was to Dr. King. Soon after, her brother and sister joined the NAACP and went door-to-door petitioning to let black people vote. One afternoon, Connie and her mama were back downtown to do some shopping and noticed four black boys sitting at the lunch counter. They knew the boys because they were friends with her brother from A&T College. The boys tried to order lunch but the waitress refused to serve them. The owner left and soon came back with police officers. This situation was all over the news and in the newspaper. Because of this, hundreds of people joined the sit-ins including Connie's own brother and sister. Connie wanted to join too but she was too young so she helped her brother and sister make picket signs. The protest was broadcast all over the TV and Connie watched her brother and sister take an active role in the protest. Their family was so proud of them. It turned out Connie's  sister was arrested and sent to jail but refused to have her father bail her out.  She wanted to stay with the rest of the students. During the protests no one was allowed downtown because it was dangerous.Once the protest was over, Connie and her family finally went downtown and noticed the black women who worked in the restaurant's kitchen were sitting at the lunch counter eating egg salad! The next day, Connie, her brother and sister made a special trip downtown to sit at the lunch counter and eat lunch, and Connie ordered a banana split.

This is a representation of Element Three because it is a great example of racism. The Greensboro Sit-Ins were ones that sparked a revolution throughout the south. The four black boys sitting at the lunch counter, represented in the story, became known as the Greensboro Four. These student-led sit-ins took a stand against segregation. Segregation was a very large issue across the country. This book tells a story of how these sit-ins and the protest against segregation affected a traditional family from Greensboro. Being that it is told from a little girl's perspective shows how it affected everyone, not just those who were old enough to be aware of the details going on around them. This situation affected how and where the black people of the city could and could not go. It told them where and if they were welcome, which caused a large negative impact on their lives. Since then, sit-ins sparked other forms of civil disobedience, some of which we are still experiencing today such as Occupy Wall Street.

Use of this book:
In my fifth grade classroom, I would have the students do a role-play and stage their own sit-in. I would separate the students into whites and blacks, regardless of their actual skin color. I would have the "black" students pick a topic about something within the school they would like to change. It could be something like the elimination of homework or extra time at recess. They would then create their own picketing posters and banners with slogans and catch phrases.
The  "black" students would do the picketing and protesting for their cause around the classroom while the"white" students would try and stop them. We would only use words, violence would not be acceptable.
Afterwards, I would prompt a class discussion focusing on how each race felt as they were in their roles. Some key questions I would ask are:
Were you happy, sad, angry, frustrated?
What would it be like if our world was still segregated?
How would you feel about being in a classroom with only one race?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride: Element 3

Erica Blanco
Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride
Authors: Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
Grade Level: 2-5
More information:


This beautiful picture book tells the story of Sojourner Truth's life. The book starts out by describing Sojourner as, "big, black, so beautiful and meant for great things." The book goes on to tell the audidence about all the great things she does from stomping beetles, to running away from her master, to speaking at the Women's Rights Convention. The book gives a detail account of her life without overwhelming them with too much information. It also shows her overcoming challenges; she didn't know how to read or write so she spread the truth through word of mouth. This book describes her bravery, struggle and fight for freedom...and even when she attained freedom for herself she knew she had to fight for others' freedom as well. Using vivid language and stunning oil pastel/water color paintings, it really recreates powerful scenes drawing us into that time period and this incredible woman's life.

Element 3 - Exploring Issues of Social Justice:

Jojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride demonstrates elements of Social Justice Element 3. This book shows what life is like for a slave family and how families were ripped apart by slave trading. She explains what it is like to be owned in a way that children can understand. When she talks about having two names: one from her family and one from her master, it really shows that slaves were given an identity and did not make their own. When she chooses her own name it is a very powerful symbol. It gives them some background and history about the slave trade in America and what slave owners could be like. This book shows how this oppression (slavery) affected the African American and surrounding communities. It split families up and took all rights away from them. When she meets the Quakers; it shows another community that is affected by the opression, but in a different way. These people could have given her back or beat her for running away, but instead they fought against the oppression. I also think that this book could be used for Element 4. Sojourner Truth started out as a slave. She was not rich or special, but she fought freedom and the chance to be heard. The Quakers she met were ordinary people that did an extrodinary thing and changed one girls life who in turned changed other lives.
In the classroom: 
This book is a great way to start a discussion about slavery, freedom, intolerance or diversoity in the classroom. I think it would be great to use this book to introduce "unsung heros." People who have done amazing things, but get foreshadowed by Martin Luther King or George Washington. I would like to do this activity with my third graders. After reading this book, I would want then to choose a book about someone who made a change or fought for freedom that we don't hear about often. We would discuss the difference between a hero and a person who sticks up for what is right. Maybe we can make a list of modern heros and then analyze them to see if they are really are heros.
After reading a book, I would have my students dress up like that person and come ready to have a "Freedom Fighters Meet and Greet." They get to talk about their person while learning about the other charaters in the room. Maybe later that week, I would like them to create a profile page on their person by at their childhhood/basic informaton and also drawing a portrait of the person or print out a picture. We would gather all of the sheets and make a book out of it so that can be enjoyed in the library. As a writing extension, I might ask them to write a story about themselves fighting for freedom or truth (already happened or future incident) or they could respond to the ministers' comments about women being beneath men.  

Jacob's Rescue: A Holocaust Story

Authors: Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin

Age Level: 4-6

Click here to learn more about the authors: Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin

Jacob’s Rescue, written by Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin, is a Holocaust story set in Warsaw, Poland. Jacob, the novel’s protagonist, once lived in a beautiful house with his father, grandmother, aunt and brothers. He went to school and played outside much like children nowadays. But, everything changed in 1939 when the Nazi soldiers invaded Poland and began killing all of its Jewish citizens. As a result, Jacob’s father fled the country, in an attempt to stay alive, leaving his family behind. As such, Jacob, his grandmother, his aunt and his brothers moved to a ‘ghetto’ where they grew weaker and hungrier. One afternoon, eight-year-old Jacob was introduced to his new ‘uncle’, Alex Roslan, a heroic Christian man, who kindly offered to hide him safely with his family throughout the war. The Roslan’s, Alex, his wife Mela, and his children Yurek and Marishka, risked their lives each day protecting Jacob. They had to move houses, pay doctors and buy UV lamps to keep Jacob safe and alive. Throughout their journey however, Jacob and the Roslans became very close. Eventually, Jacob’s brothers stayed at the Roslan’s house as well. At the end of the war, the brothers were reunited with their father, who had fled to what was then known as Palestine. This novel clearly illustrates the harsh realities of the Holocaust and the hardships faced by Jewish people throughout World War II.

Element 3 - Exploring Issues of Social Justice:
Jacob’s Rescue offers students an opportunity to experience the various hardships of Jewish life during the Holocaust and World War II. I believe this novel clearly demonstrates Element 3 as it explores Anti-Semitism, religious intolerance and oppression caused by one specific community, the German Nazis. This book helps students understand how this oppression impacted the lives of Jews and others, like the Roslans, and how diversity wasn’t embraced like we try to practice today. Additionally, Jacob is around the same age as my 4th grade students, so it is easier for them to empathize with his feelings of fear, sadness, and anger. This book definitely opens eyes and minds to the horrors of the Holocaust and allows students to identify with a child suffering from the intolerances of German soldiers.

We are currently reading Jacob’s Rescue in my fourth grade classroom and this novel has sparked wonderful discussions about injustice, intolerance, and diversity in our world. As an introductory lesson, we had the students analyze the difference between the words "famous" and "hero". The students gave examples of people who fit into each of the categories. Later, the students explained how the word "hero" is often misused to describe people who are simply famous or popular. As we finished Chapter 9 this week, the students already made the connection that the Roslan’s are heroes because of their courageous efforts when hiding Jacob and his brothers.

Those Shoes

Title:  Thoes Shoes

Author:  Maribeth Boelts

Illustrated by: Noah Z. Jones

Reading Level:  Ages 5 to 8 and up 

Publisher: Candlewick Press

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For more books by Maribeth Boelts, click here!

Click here to learn more about the illustrator, Noah Z. Jones!

Summary:  In Those Shoes, Jeremy dreams about having the popular pair of shoes that everyone is wearing.  His grandma explains that she can only afford "needs."  After one of his shoes comes apart, Jeremy is forced to wear freebie shoes from the guidance counselor, Mr. Alfrey.  The "Mr. Alfrey" shoes bring on a barrage of mockery for Jeremy, driving him to purchase an ill-fitting pair of the shoes at a thrift shop.  After a few days of limping and some nasty blisters, Jeremy is forced back into the Mr. Alfrey shoes.  Jeremy decides to give the too-small shoes to his friend in need, after some serious soul-searching and struggle.   The gesture marks the beginning of a special friendship.

Element # 3 - Exploring Issues of Social Injustice:  Those Shoes is a poignant introduction to the issue of poverty for young elementary school children.  Through this heart-warming account of Jeremy's struggle with wants and needs, Boelts cleverly incorporates sub-themes about peer pressure for material possessions, family life, and true generosity.  This book gently, yet cleverly, exemplifies the impact of poverty on the lives of our very own classmates and the material conditions of other people in the world. 

Follow-Up Activity:  After reading Those Shoes, it would be appropriate to conduct a class discussion about wants and needs.   The students could discuss the stereotypes they have heard about poor people.  We could draw from a hat to assign each student an economic status for the rest of the class.  A select 10% would be allowed dress-up shoes, 20% would be middle income and wear plain shoes, while the remaining 70% would be poor and have old, worn-out shoes that are mismatched and ugly.  To exaggerate the effect, we could also offer the 10% group advantages like better classroom seating and priority when asking questions.  At the end of class, we could gather for a discussion to share how each group felt as a result of their shoes.  What was it like to have the nicer shoes and special privileges?  How did the 70% group feel? Relating our experiences back to Jeremy in Those Shoes, each child would draw two pictures.  One would express how they would feel if they were Jeremy with the Mr. Alfrey shoes.  The other, would show how they would feel if they were Jeremy, giving their Those Shoes away to a friend in need. 

Link to Brain Pop Jr. Video about wants vs. needs.

Dollars and Cents Video:  A cross-curriculum link to math while reading Those Shoes and tackling the issue of poverty with your class.

Reading Those Shoes with older students?  Link to a terrific social action projects related to poverty for middle school students. 

Just As Good - Element 3

Just as Good

Title: Just as Good

Author: Chris Crowe

Illustrator: Mike Benny

Grade Level: 2nd - 6th

SJE: Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice
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About Author Chris Crowe

There are plenty of books that depict Jackie Robinson journey as the 1st African-American baseball player. However, Just as Good by Chris Crowe is the 1st book about Larry Doby. Doby was the 2nd African American to play in the MLB, the 1st to play in the American league, and the first African-American player to hit a home run in the World Series. This story is told by Homer a young African-American who was banned form a Little League baseball team because he was African-American. Homer was told that besides Jackie Robinson Negro ball players were worth “spit.”It was not until  Doby helped the Cleveland Indians win their 1st world series in 1948 which reinforced to Homer that African-American people are just as good in baseball and everything else as Caucasian people are.  

Representation of Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice:

It represents Element Three because this book explores how the diversity in baseball has impacted African-Americans. This book talks about how Larry Doby and Homer are treated because of the color of their skin. For example, Homer was banned from his Little League Team and Dody was treated badly by fans due to the color of his skin. This book could be used to spark a student interest in some causes of Racism and the impact that it has had on many different races. This book serves as a moving story of how racial stereotypes and social injustices are being broken down every day and can be broken down by anyone.

Book Activity :
I would read Just as Good to the the students. Next, I would discuss some of the events in Larry Doby life that may have shaped him to become a hero. I would pout an emphasis that he was not perfect, but that he possessed many positive qualities that helped him to be strong in the face of adversity. For example, I would ask question such as What makes a Hero?, How does a Hero act?, What does a leader do?  etc... I would then divide students into groups of four or five and have them discuss within their group what qualities they think helped Larry Doby the most. Have them present their ideas to the class one group at a time.


We March- Element Four

We March
Title- We March
Author- Shane W. Evans
Illustrator- Shane W. Evans
Age Level- 4-8
SJE- Element 4

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More books by Shane W. Evans

We March is a children's book about an African American family that prepares for the historic, March on Washington for jobs and freedom in August of 1963. Along with nearly 250,000 other  people, the family began their march at the Washington Monument and ended with a celebration at the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. The book represents this family marching for justice and shows the reader how much stregnth and effort it took to finally recieve it freedom.

We March by Shane W. Evans represents Element four because it walks the reader through exactly what these family's dealt with when trying to achieve justice and freedom. Not only did these families just simply walk together to finish this march; they began with a prayer, worked to create signs demanding for freedom, created exhaustion for themselves but still managed to be filled with hope. It shows the hardships and issues of what these families had to go through when they were eager for justice.

Use of the Book-
After reading the book I would have my students work individually to think about if they have ever felt like they did not have a say or were not allowed to put their thoughts into something. Once they came up with an idea, each student would recieve a ruler and a piece of thick white paper. I would instruct each student to write on their white sheet of paper something that can fight for what they want or are trying to achieve. Once this is complete, I would ask for permission to march around the halls or around our school outside to let the students express their thoughts and feel what it's like when you have to fight for what you want in life just like the families in the book We March.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Author and Illustrator: Art Spiegelman

Grade Level: 6-8

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Summary: Art Spiegelman uses a comic book to share a story about the Holocaust, its survivors, and the ancestors who live with the history of such injustice. With mice representing Jews and cats representing Nazis, Maus narrates the experiences of Art's father Vladek. Alternating between the past and present, the text describes Vladek's life in pre-war Poland as a well off young Jewish man married to Anja, his first wife and Art's mother, as a soldier and prisoner in an Auschwitz camp, and finally as a survivor and immigrant. Weaved throughout the story are the complex and conflicting feelings Art developed as he interviewed his father.

Element: Three, Issues of Social Injustice
Maus exposes students to a historical example of religious intolerance through a personal narrative of a Holocaust survivor. Furthermore, the story provides an immediate example of how the historical roots of oppression affect the lives of people today. With teacher guidance, students can begin to understand some causes of the Holocaust and the impact the event had on societies across the globe for years to come.

Activity: Working at first individually and then in pairs, students consider a time in their lives when they felt priviledged or discriminated against solely because of their gender, race, religion, etc. Each student writes a paragraph or two describing the experience before s/he trades with another student. Together, they read one another's paragraphs and discuss them using teacher directed sample questions. Discussion topics might include, "Why do you think you were treated that way?" "Put yourself in the other person's shoes. How might the situation have looked to him/her?" "If you could go back, how might you change your response?"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When Marian Sang

Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan

Illustrator: Brian Selznik

Ages: 7-12

This beautifully illustrated story follows the true life trials of American singer Marian Anderson, best known for her historic concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, as she navigates the world of professional music and finds it particularly hostile to people of color. Marian is forced to deal with issues of which white singers would never dream.  From being completely ignored as she waits in line to apply for music school to being outright rejected by many people in the industry, Marian suffers many injustices at the hands of racism. In the end, Marian endures and is ultimately accepted in the community for who she is - a woman with a beautiful voice, but she will never understand what compelled so many people to rise up against her when all she ever wanted to do was sing.

Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice:
This book serves as a wonderful introductory tool into the world of social injustice. The main character, Marian, is as surprised as many young readers may be when she is rejected simply because of the color of her skin. No historical background knowledge is needed to appreciate the pure injustice Marian suffers as she tries to enter a world whose hostility is beyond her control. Furthermore, Marian's endurance provide a great segue into Element 4 because, although Marian does not take any social action against her oppressors, she never gives up on her dream and that lays a good foundation for exploring social action.

In the Classroom:
This is a wonderful book, but it is also a little long, especially for younger readers. It is important to help students identify the key elements of this book. I would lead a class discussion about the book in which we aim to identify the social injustices Marian faced, the reasons she was not allowed to sing, who was allowed to sing, and why. Then I might have my students think about the end of the book, when people protested against Marian singing - who they were and what they did as a protest - as a jumping off point to talk about social action and what we can do to stop what we see as social injustices in the world around us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Henry's Freedom Box

Henry's Freedom Box

Author: Ellen Levine
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Grade Level: 3-5

Summary: Henry's Freedom Box is about a boy born into slavery who struggles to find freedom. As the boy grows older he is sold to another man, and therefore, torn away from his mother. As Henry goes through the motions of day-to-day slave life, he meets a woman and falls in love. They are lucky enough, as slaves that is, to live together and raise a family. To Henry's horror, his family is eventually sold and lost forever. His excruciating hardships and tragic losses motivate him to become his own hero and seek the freedom every "man" deserves. With the help of some friends, Henry stuffs himself into a wooden box and endures a terrifying, yet successful, journey to freedom in Philadelphia.

Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice: I believe Henry's Freedom Box presents a deep and vivid depiction of slavery. Element 3 of SJE requires teachers to move past the celebration of diversity and explore how diversity has impacted different groups of people. In this case, diversity has negatively affected the lives of African American through racism and slavery. Through its words and pictures, this book illustrates the horrors of slavery and the "not-so-happy ending" for slaves who eventually reached freedom. Most textbooks provide a sense of relief to students at the end of slavery chapters by talking about the Underground Railroad and the lives of freed slaves. This book paints the reality to students, so that they can understand the way the past continues to oppress certain groups today and forever shape racism. While Henry reached freedom by the end of the story, he still lost a great deal--his mother, wife, children, and his own childhood. This is the sad reality that students must grasp to truly empathize with others and move towards the next element of social justice.

Classroom Use: I would use this book in my classroom as an introduction to the Underground Railroad portion of a slavery unit. First, I would ask my students to create a K-W-L chart about slavery and the Underground Railroad individually. Then, I'd bring the class together to pool ideas for the class chart. After discussing the chart, I would proceed with a read-aloud of Henry's Freedom Box. Students would be given ten minutes to reflect on the story and write down their emotions as both a listener and as someone "in Henry's shoes" in their journals. To extend the activity, I would assign a writing assignment that combines the book and students' personal journal entries. Students would work over the course of a week to produce a creative writing piece on Henry's new life as a free man. For example, some students might write about the jobs or activities Henry pursues, while others might focus on his decisions and "what's next" for a man who has lost his family.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Children Just Like Me (A unique celebration of children around the world)

Title: Children Just Like Me (A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World)
Author: Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley
Grade Level: Ages 7-15
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Publishing Inc., NY, NY

Summary: Through colorful photographs and children's own interviews, readers embark on a journey from New York to the Amazon Basin to learn about the day-to-day events, hobbies, aspirations, and values of children across more than 30 different countries. Children Just Like Me walks young readers through the days in the lives of children just like them. Children Just Like Me raises awareness of the similarities and beautiful differences amongst young children around the world; thereby helping young readers to embrace cultural differences that surpass the color of skin or clothing one wears.

Element #2- Respect For Others: Children Just Like Me tells the remarkable stories of children around the world from over 30 different countries through photographs and children's own interviews. A brief biography of the child along with easy-to-read descriptions about the child's favorite foods, family life, community, etc. are provided on each page. Each interviewee's personal taste and touch are revealed through their names written in their own handwritings and candid photos. This book teaches young readers about the cultures, values, and daily lives of other children in the world so that readers can discover that beyond the barriers of language, customs, skin colors, there are children in the world who are so relatable to themselves. Children Just Like Me stirs the desire to embrace and respect those who may, on the surface, seem so different from us.

Follow-Up Activity: As a follow-up, teachers can encourage each student to design a poster about him/herself, including photographs and descriptions about their schools, families, hobbies, dreams, daily lives, etc. The posters can be put together to form a giant class version of Children Just Like Me. Parents can be invited to the classroom for a day of festivities where students present the book and bring in different artifacts that represent their cultures.

The Sandwich Swap

Authors:  Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah
Kelly Dipucchio

Illustrator: Tricia Tusa
Grade Level: Pre-K-3rd grade

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About the Author


Lily and Salma are best friends at school.  They enjoy doing everything together from drawing pictures, jumping rope, and playing on the swings to eating lunch together.  Lily and Salma realize they love doing all of the same things except-what they eat for lunch is a little different.  Lily eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Salma eats a hummus and pita sandwich.  Conflict arises when Lily decides to help Salma by blurting out insensitive thoughts and feelings about her sandwich.  Soon, the peanut butter vs. hummus story spreads throughout the school and the student body begins choosing sides.  The conflict escalates into students making rude remarks and insults about things that no longer had to do with peanut butter or hummus.  After an epic food fight in the cafeteria and a visit to the principal’s office, Lily musters the courage to speak to Salma.  Lily and Salma become best friends again after tasting each other’s sandwich.  Lily, Salma, and classmates learn that it is easy to dislike something new or different; but once you stand in each other’s shoes, you learn something great about someone else and about yourself. 

Element 2: Respect for Others

The authors provide an opportunity for readers to embrace and respect the diversity of two best friends from two very different cultural backgrounds.  On one hand, you learn the value of friendship from two best friends who love to do everything together.  On the other hand, you learn how two people who like the same things can also like things that are different.  The authors depict what happens when the relationship between two best friends is torn apart because of a difference as simple as the type of sandwich one chooses to eat for lunch.  Students learn empathy and the importance of putting differences aside in order to create the possibility of learning something new about someone else and about oneself.

How to Use The Sandwich Swap in the Classroom to Introduce Element 2: Respect for Others

Discussion: On the first day of school, a teacher reads The Sandwich Swap aloud to his or her students in a community circle or class meeting time.  Then the teacher facilitates a classroom discussion about Lily and Salma’s friendship and how their relationship falls apart.  The teacher asks his or her students think about a time when they were treated “unfair” by a friend, sibling, or any other family member because of a difference in point of view, interest, life experience.  The purpose of the discussion is to set the stage for students to openly share, have respect others, and embrace differences in a safe and welcoming place. 

Activity: All About Me Bag.  
A teacher fills a small brown lunch bag with items that best 'describe' him or her.  She or he pulls out each item and tells the children a short story about it. The bag might include things such as a baby picture, picture of pet, a food he or she does not like, something that represents their culture, an object from a collection, and so on. Then students are given brown bags to decorate.  For homework that night, the student must fill their bags with items that tell about themselves. Depending on the number of students in the classroom, the bags are shared throughout the first week of school in a community circle or class meeting time.  For homework the next night, the student must discuss the activity with their parents or guardian and share one thing they learned about another student in the classroom that is different from their own point of view, life experiences, or interests and discuss and why it is ok to be different.

Learning Opportunities for Teacher & Students:  This activity gives the teacher a great understanding of each student right from the beginning of the new school year.  In addition, this activity gives the teacher the opportunity to set the stage for each to student to safely share about his or her own experiences and feel embraced by his or her peers for their differences.  As the facilitator of the discussion and activity, the teacher is a model and also sets clear expectations for his or her students on how to learn and listen with kindness and empathy to other students’ experiences.  Lastly, the teacher has the opportunity to observe and give immediate feedback to students which will further their ability to implement Element #2.   


Author: Phillip Walton

Illustrator: Tom Oswald

Grade Level: 1-3

Buy it here! 


Summary: The story EJ and The Bully is about EJ, a student at school who is running for class president. The only problem EJ is having is his competitor and bully, Warren. Warren does not respect EJ and is always putting him down and making fun of him in front of his friends. Warren will do whatever it takes to win! EJ's old friend, Izzi, believes in him and respects him. Izzi continuously gives him great advice and EJ becomes more confident and a stronger person. Being respectful to others can go a long way! I wonder who will win class president!

Element 2: EJ and The Bully is a wonderful book that shows two friends respecting each other. Not only does it portray respect, but it also displays an awful case of bullying. Having these two sides work against each other in the story truly depicts how giving respect to others is clearly the way two people can communicate positively with one another. In the story, Izzi is always encouraging EJ to not give up and to continue to fight for what he believes in. A great quote from the story that demonstrates element two is, "If you want to earn respect, all you have to do is use good manners, be considerate, and don't threaten or hurt others."

Activity: Izzi's words of encouragement and his respect for Warren truly helped him through his struggles in this story. A great activity would be to have your students begin to complement once another. This is a sign of respect and children need lessons on this at a young age. Once they have complemented three to four of their peers, they should then start a sentence with "I respect you because...." This activity is a great way for children to have positive communication and to understand the concept of respect for others.