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

Shin-chi's Canoe

Shin-chi's Canoe

Shin-chi’s Canoeby Nicola I. Campbell

Pictures by Kim LaFave

Summary: Shin-chi’s Canoe is a story about two Native American children’s experience at Indian residential school. Shin-chi, a six-year-old boy, lives with his family in an Indian reservation. Shi-shi-etko, his sister, is about to return for her second year, but this time she is not alone because Shin-chi is going too. On their way to school, Shi-shi-etko asks her little brother not to forget their Indian traditions and culture. She also tells him about all school rules he must remember, and they will not come back home until next summer. Shi-shi-etko gives Shin-chi a tiny cedar canoe, a symbolic gift from their father representing everything Shin-chi must keep hidden. Life in residential school is very hard and lonely to Shin-chi. Children do not have enough foods to eat but have to do a lot of works besides academic learning. This little canoe becomes Shin-chi’s important friend who could remind him of their home. But Shin-chi still remembers the Indian tradition that his father and grandfather taught him, he often goes to the nearby river with his tiny canoe to check what season it is by observing the fishes. Finally, the sockeye fish appears in the river, it is time for children to go home. When Shin-chi and Shi-shi-etko arrives home, they find out that their father is carving a real dugout canoe for them.
USE: Shin-chi’s Canoe is great book for introducing one of the injustices among the history of Native American to students. By using this book as an opening hook to a Unit study of Native American, children will gain an access to the study of Native American through a very different perspective. In this book, there is a page of historical information about Indian residential schools from the author. It could help students better understand the historical background at that time. Shin-chi’s Canoe can also be integrated into unit study of other similar social injustice happen in our history, such as Japanese American Interment. Shin-chi’s Canoe not only introduces the social injustice that Native Americans encountered at that historical moment, or describe how it affected people’s lives, such as Shi-chi and his family, but most importantly it also teaches children to take actions like Shi-chi and his sister to against such social injustice by remembering and valuing their own culture. Teacher should encourage students to connect Shin-chi’s experience with their own experience to examine how our society/lives are different or similar to Shin-chi’s.

Stages of Social Justice Education:
Self love & acceptance: Students can talk about their own cultures in comparison with Shin-chi’s culture. It is important to have students recognize that we all come from different culture and background. Our cultures teach us many important values, and shape who we are today.
Respect for others: Have students create a class book to include every student’s cultural and family background, and Shin-chi’s as well. Students should discover that differences are what make our world better.
Exploring issues of social justice: Through Shin-chi’s experience in the book and other historical documents, encourage students to talk about the social injustice behind Shin-chi’s story. Why did Shin-chi have to go to residential school at that time? Why do we think that shin-chi should not go to residential school? Connecting Shin-chi’s story with students’ real lives by exploring issues that they think are injustice in our society.
Social Movements and Social Change: Encourage students to think what kind of action Shin-chi took to against such injustice in the story. Also have students discuss what kind of actions they could come up to against social injustice in their lives.

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