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 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.  

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