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

Tar Beach

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Tar Beach is a picture book about a young girl who lives with her family near the George Washington Bridge. In the story, Cassie dreams about flying wherever she wants and being able to give her family everything they cannot have because of their ethnicity.

Much of the story, which is fictional but based on Ringgold's life, includes elements linked to slavery and Civil Rights, making it great for social justice purposes. The pictures, based on a quilt by Ringgold on display in the Guggenheim, are amazingly colorful, which would help to draw young readers in.

This book could be used to work on student autobiographies and to have the students think about where they would fly to to help their families. It could also be used to help students integrate art with reading and writing, having them make their own quilts to represent something in their lives towards which they feel passionate. (There is a suggestion for this quilt in the back of the book!) Because of the topics it covers, somewhat subtly, this would be a good way to either introduce topics to students to have them think about how these major issues impact their lives or to use after some studying has been done, so that students are able to pick out the discrimination that occurs on their own and to discuss it, based on their newfound knowledge.

Within the stages of social justice education, this covers self-love and acceptance, respect for others, and exploring issues of social justice. The main character appreciates who she is and what she has, while thinking about those things that prevent her family from having all they want, so, by sharing this story with students, it is possible to foster a respect for other cultures, allowing students to see how similar they may be to Cassie and her family.

To purchase the book or for more ideas:

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