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

The Librarian of Basra

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
Written and Illustrated by Jeanette Winter

Alia Muhammas Baker is the chief librarian of Basra, Iraq's central library. When Alia hears of the impending war in Basra, she worries her library will be destroyed in the fighting. Determined to save the books, "which are more precious to her than mountains of gold," Alia works to secretly transfer over 30,000 books from the library to safer areas, such as a nearby restaurant, the homes of friends, scattered throughout the community. Alia rescues the books just in time, as nine days later the library is destroyed. With the books now in safe keeping, Alia patiently waits for the war to end, as she dreams of a new library.

This book can be integrated into several areas of study:
Math: Students can focus on the books transferred. May have students place books in equal groupings and 'spread'
throughout town in a certain number of trips. Can give students dimensions of houses, and have students apply area formulas to decide how many books could fit in each house, etc.
Social Studies: Study the geography of the Middle East, of Iraq, of Basra; the restricted roles of women in some regions of the country; the various cultures of the region; The importance and value of books in society - the knowledge and history they contain; Learning more about the story of Alia and read interviews with her, learn about how and why the author chose
to write the book, etc.

Domains of Social Justice Education:
The Librarian of Basra has a strong focus on:
Step 3: Exploring issues of Social Justice
Step 4: Social Movement and Social Change
These are two areas that student can delve deeper into, and begin to study and explore how forms of oppression are confronted and how people have struggled to social change. In addition, students may want to fundraise money, to help the book's publishing company, Harcourt, who is donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book to a special American Library Association fund set up to help buy books for Basra's Central Library, which is still awaiting funding to be rebuilt.

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