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 13, 2012

How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story

Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Beth Peck
Grade Level: 2-4

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Summary:   How Many Days to America? is a picture book that captures the immigrant/refugee experience of coming to America and several of the hardships that may ensue on such a pilgrimage. The narrator of the book is a young boy who describes how he, his little sister, his mother, and his father flee the country after the soldiers approach them one day. The father tells his young son that they must go because "we do not think the way they think," and they must leave everything behind except some money. While on board a crowded boat with many other refugees, the family experiences several obstacles on their journey including dealing with a broken sail, running out of food and water, and being robbed by thieves. When the boat finally reaches land, they are turned away, but given some food. When, the boat finally arrives in America, they are welcomed, and the family learns that it is also Thanksgiving a holiday that celebrates coming to America with a large feast.

Element:  This story covers Element 2 of Social Justice Education, which focuses on respect for others and allows students to share information about their cultural backgrounds with others. In addition, this element is often the element that discusses many types of oppression that occur within society such as racism, sexism, and classism amongst a few. In a time in which immigration is such a big issue, it is important for students to gain a better = understanding of the immigrant experience-- why immigrants come to America and what they experience on their journey here. This book allows students who many not understand immigration or may have misconceptions about the topic to gain a better understanding of such experiences. On the other hand, students who may have parents who have emigrated or may have emigrated themselves can connect with the characters in this book in terms of the difficulties in leaving ones country for another.  What is interesting about this book, is that it does not directly identify the ethnicity or culture of the main characters, and therefore individuals of all backgrounds who have emigrated to the US can relate to the characters in this book. After reading this book, students should be able to identify the reasons for which one may emigrate to the United States, and the obstacles immigrants may face when coming.

Activity:  This story can be used in a variety of ways across the curriculum. The story could be specifically used in a unit that focuses on immigration. The teacher should discuss with his or her students reasons why someone would leave for America or any other country from their homeland. The teacher should help make connections with the students by asking them if they know of anyone who has come to America from another country and to share what they know. Students should talk about how they would feel if they had leave their homes in order to go to a new place. For specific activities, students can engage in a variety of things. The teacher can invite guest speakers from the community, such as parents, to come and share their immigrant experience with the class. Additionally, students can set up an interview with someone they know, like a family member, who has emigrated to the United States. Students will be able to ask this person why they left their homeland, what they experienced on their journey here, and what life has been like for them since they arrived in America. Lastly, to gain a better perspective on the lives of immigrants, students can write five journal entries as a young person who is emigrating to a new country. They must explain why they are leaving their home, what their experiences are on their journey, and how they feel about going to a new place.

Information about the author
More books by Eve Bunting

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