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, September 8, 2008

Langston's Train Ride

Langston's Train Ride

Title: Langston's Train Ride by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

Summary: This book is a mini biography of Langston Hughes. It talks about how he got the inspiration for his first poem while he was on a train going to visit his father. He starts to think of all the people who have seen these sights before him and what life might have been like for them. He writes his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" on a napkin and it becomes one of his famous poems.

Reflection: I like this book in that it has a interesting take on writing and stresses that anyone can be a writer. Also, the book is written in first person from Langston's point of view. However, I do not like the stress it places on "my people" as in the black people and the trouble they went through. I know it very important to discuss it but I think there could be better ways to describe it.

How to use: This book would be good for writers who are learning how to write poems or actually anything. It gives readers an inspiration that anyone can be a writer and writing can happen anywhere, even on a train. It could be used as a starter for Langston Hughes but I think there are better books out there. The author says things like "the Negro people" and makes it seems like he has so much pride for the plight of "his people." I am not sure how much I like that. They also have a teacher's note in the back for information about Langston Hughes.

Activities: 1) Can look at the poem at the end of the book and students can talk about what it can teach us about that time.
2) Students can start mini writing journal for them to keep with them everywhere they go.

Units: Poetry, Slave History, Author Study

Social Justice Education: This book is on the first three levels of social justice education: Self Love, Respect for Others, and Exploring Social Justice.

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