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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

As Good as Anybody

As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson

Summary: This book tells a basic story about MLKJr. as a child and mirrors it with the childhood of Rabbi Abraham JoshuaHeschel.  As King grows up amongst "whites only" signs in Alabama, PolishHeschel faces Hilter's "No Jews Allowed" rules as daily life.  Both show a dedication to their education, and whenHeschel immigrates to America in search of a more tolerant society, he winds up in the throes of the civil rights movement.  Moved by the work of King, the two become friends and allies.  The book is rich with vivid illustrations, references to actual events and important people such as Rosa Parks, and positive messages of hope, equality, and passion for education and justice for all. 

How I would use this book in the classroom: This book could really be used in any primary classroom.  In a younger grade, it is a way to open up discussions of the various forms of prejudice people face and the idea of allies.  In all grades, it is a way to talk about important events and leaders in the civil rights movement while providing an accessible context, that of childhood.  I think that this book could be integrated in to many different units, from civil rights to immigration.  But finally, I think that this would be an extremely interesting book to use in a upper elementary classroom because it can open up a discussion about religion.  In the book, the two main characters are religious leaders, and they both relate because their main argument is that we are all the same in God's eyes.  Students would be able to discuss why this is their main argument, if they think it is a strong one, and if there are any others besides one that has religious implications.  Are we not all equal just because we are, with or without God?  And if most of the injustices of society are based in laws, then how does this align with the notion of separation of church and state?  What about the religious leaders of today, do you think they would be allies to these two men?  There are so many avenues to explore and rich conversations to be had...

Stages of Social Justice:
1) Self Love and Acceptance: The title of the book, enough said. 

2) Respect for Others: Again, the title says it all.  But really, this is a story about friendship and the acknowledgment of difference and the value of respect.  

3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: This book can really get kid's minds thinking about social justice, but I think the buck stops there.  In fact, it kind of makes it seem like the era of fighting for civil rights is over, confined to the civil rights movement, and now because of these two guys, everything is better now.  I think acknowledging this is the classroom would actually be a great way to elevate this book to the next two levels. 

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