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

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Summary: A young girl named Kit moves to live with her aunt and uncle in the Connecticut colony in 1687 from Barbados. She experiences an intense culture shock as she learns more about the Puritan community, people, and values. Over the course of the book Kit's actions and attitudes shock the conservative townspeople, and ultimately her friendship with a widowed quaker leads peopel to accuse her of witchcraft.

I like this book, which is appropriate for 5th to 8th graders, because it introduces the history and ideas surrounding early colonial America and the religious conflicts that defined the times and people. While none of these topics are "light" in any respect this book discusses and presents them to a younger audience without dumbing them down too much or "Disney-fying" them. The book attacks these issues intelligently, yet in a manner in which that is not only appropriat for younger sudiences but comprehensible as well. Also, it is a winner of the John Newberry Medal for American Children's Literature.

I am actually using this book with my 4th graders as a read aloud book, fitting it into our curriculum of Colonial America. I think the book provides many useful "jump-off" points to the curriculum offerring oppurtunities to discuss religous intolerance and the reasons for the initial immigration of Europeans to America (largely religious based. These themes of intolereance and "witch hunt" thinking is also good material to to use to discuss topics such as mob mentality, fear of difference generating from lack of understanding, and how there are always two sides to conflicts. Of course one could use this book to discuss McCarthy's witch hunt during the cold war and the idea of being blacklisted, and perhaps if you really want to get racy you could use it to reference the other witch hunt the U.S. govt. is conducting with its heightened security, profiling, and the ever-love Patriot Act.

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