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

Behind the Mountains

Behind the Mountains

Behind the Mountains
By: Edwidge Danticat

This book is written in the format of first person fiction in the point of view of Celiane EspĂ©rance. Through her journal entries, Celiane opens the eyes of the readers to the life of child experiencing political unrest and corruption through first hand dangers and incidents that happen to her and her family. Celiane also gives insight to the struggles and of an immigrant child both in school and in the home since she not only has to adjust to a new school & friends, but a “new father” as well. The history of Haiti is also cleverly integrated into Celiane’s entries in order to teach the readers the accurate history of Haiti and also given recognition to important people in Haitian history. Surprisingly, this book also shines a light on school violence and gang-related issues present in schools.

Danticat’s book would be of excellent use for teaching the history of Haiti and heroes of Haiti. Danticat successfully integrates accurate information on both these topics in a subtle fashion. This book could be used in literacy in order to teach point of view in writing and journal writing as well. The fact that the book is entirely written in a journal format can also encourage journal writing to students with emotional and behavioral disorders and even immigrant children in order to provide them with a channel of how to release their inner frustrations. Moy’s paintings are emphasized much in this book and could lend itself for studying and making Haitian art. This book would also be of good use for community building skills since being part of a whole community is emphasized all throughout this book and students can have a healthier understanding of the life of an immigrant classmate. Since school violence is presented when Celiane moves to Brooklyn, New York; NYC public school teachers could also use this book in order to teach students about prevention of school violence in their own communities.

Social Justice Domains:
  1. Self-love and acceptance: Yes, students learn how to value and appreciate the richness of Haiti and its people.
  2. Respect for other: Yes, student will learn how to understand and respect the cultures of others by reading a first-hand account of an immigrant child.
  3. Exploring issues of social justice: Yes, the corruption and political unrest will teach students about the oppression experienced by Haitian residents.
  4. Social movements and social change: Yes, students learn how although there was political oppression in Haiti, people still stood up for what they believed for.
  5. Taking social action: No.

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