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

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, by Walter Dean Myers

Funny book! Love it!

Lately I have been immensely preoccupied of the notion of one's blackness. After reading the book The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Students, by Gloria Ladson Billings during the break, I started a research on the resources that I could use in teaching black students. I stumbled upon Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, last semester at the book fair at my student teaching placement, in the free books box. So of course I grabbed it. And I am glad I did.

Summary: Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff is a book about a group of friends and their everyday life experiences in Harlem (which as a culture of itself). Stuff the narrator of the book, moved to 116th st. when he was 12yrs old. He makes friends pretty easily. He walks the reader through he's life in Harlem telling us story after story of the different events that happened to him and his friends. This book is overall funny--with some sad moments. However it is pretty real and attracting; especially for black students. Recommended for grades the upper grades, starting in the 5th.

How to Use this Book: Something that I really like about this book, is that it covers lots of the typical issues that adolescent go to. From making new friends, to loosing a parent, and to sexuality. Chapter 4 is one of the chapters that I would definitely use in the classroom, in talking and going about community building and peer support. I think Walter Dean Myers does a great job talking about it in a children perspective. The language the author uses is just like how one would hear it in 116th st. in Harlem; which I thought was great. Because it is important for students to find something that represents themselves in books that they read. While Ebonics can be considered as the language of underachieved people, I feel that for students, black students that come from places where Ebonics is spoken this is a good way to get them find reading a book appealing. However it is important for them to also be familiar with standard English. So a teacher could use passages from the book and work with students on how they would go about saying the same things in standard English. 

Domains of Social Justice Education: 

Self-Love and Acceptance - Respect for Other: Many of the characters, including the narrator, Stuff have these characteristic. They somewhat define themselves through their abilities. For example Sam is called Fast Sam because of his track running skills. The group of friends in this book, while joking around on each other, all do accept each other for who they are and where they are coming from. Whether it's one who might have issues doing well in school or parental issues at home, they find commonalities between them and also ways to help each other out.

Exploring Social Issues: In two chapters in the book the group of friends are put into prison. Although it is for less then 24 hours, what seems to get them there is racial profiling. For example, in chapter 6 the three friends, Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, stop these two boys from running away with a ladies pocket book. The two boys manage to get away, but they leave the purse behind. In their doing their good dead they get hurt, but cops manage to throw them in jail as if they were the thieves and refused to hear them out when trying to explain what had really happened. Clearly these officers had set ideas of what type of boys they were to be, assuming they had stolen the money they were carrying with them. This is a good way to go about thinking, talking, and exploring the issue of social justice/injustice.

Social Movement and Social Change: As I mentioned before this book portrays really well the notion of community building and peer support. The characters in the book form a support group called The Good People in order to be support their friends in good and bad times. In this group they talk about their issues and discuss different ways to solve them. While this group was somewhat exclusive, its formation made changes as these group of friend were now a bit comfortable about having problems and going to their friends to talk about it. 

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