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, April 30, 2013

The Berenstain Bears Don't Pollute Anymore


Author: Stan and Jan Berenstain
Grade Level: K-2

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Summary: When Papa Bear reads a news paper article talking about pollution in Bear County he does not feel it is a problem in their town.  However, brother and sister bear meet with the author of the article, Professor Actual Factual, and find out how serious the problem really is.  The cubs learn about the importance of caring for the environment and come up with a plan to get the message out to other kids and parents alike.

Element 6: This book represents element six because it shows different ways in which children can take action and help stop pollution in their neighborhoods and schools. 

Activity: After reading the story, a large group discussion can be held to talk about how the Berenstain Bears helped stop pollution.  After the discussion have the students make up their own posters and  bumper stickers then give them out to family and friends.

Service Learning in the PreK-3 Classroom

Title: Service Learning in the PreK-3 Classroom: The What, Why, and How-To Guide for Every Teacher

Author: Vickie E. Lake, Ph.D., and Ithel Jones, Ed.D.

Illustrator: Michelle Lee

Grade Level: Pre-school through 3rd Grade

Summary: This book is an excellent resource which can assist teachers in PreK through 3rd grade classrooms with implementing service learning and provides the necessary tools to carry out successful service learning projects within individual communities and beyond.  This resource also comes with a CD which includes a powerpoint presentation about service learning as well as printable PDF handouts to give students based on the activities that are in the book.  The book also includes many detailed lesson plans and activity ideas which will promote service learning and innovative ideas to engage your students in taking social action.  This teaching resource includes everything a teacher needs to successfully implement service learning in their classrooms and also provides teachers with various handouts to get their students involved in the planning  and completing of community projects.  

Element 6- Taking Social Action: This resource provides teachers with tools that are necessary to engage students in taking social action.  There are various lesson plans which are very detailed and seem easy to follow which will lead to teachers being able to help their students understand that it is very important to take social action and become involved in helping their individual communities and country as a whole.  The lesson plans and activity ideas all seem very innovative and appealing to students which will ultimately keep them engaged and motivate them to want to be involved in social action and take a hands on approach towards making a difference.

Activity:  This book would be very easy to use and is very practical for the planning and completion of service learning in the classroom.  If I were to use this book in my own classroom, I would utilize all of the planning tools that are provided such as the forms to help plan for service learning, brainstorming activities to come up with ideas for projects, and contact organizers to keep track of important contact information which will be needed for service projects.  I would also plan on picking 2-3 of the activities that would relate to some of the other content being taught in my classroom and would be sure to use the creative handouts included in the book to give to my students.  By using this book in my classroom, I feel that it will provide me with the opportunity to display how important taking social action is to my students because this book will help to make service learning projects fun and exciting as well as organized and beneficial to students' educational experiences.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

How to Help the Earth- by the Lorax

Title: How to Help the Earth- by the Lorax
Author: Tish Rabe
Illustrator: Christopher Moroney and Jan Gerardi
Reading Level: Grades 1-3

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Summary: How to Help the Earth- by the Lorax is a great beginner  "How To" book. It shows children simple things that they can do in their daily lives to make a difference. The tale isn't boring either; it's bright, fun, and catchy with its rhyming lines. The Lorax is a character from the famous author Dr. Seuss and Tish Rabe took the opportunity to expand on what the Lorax is all about. Throughout this colorful book the Lorax talks about what happens when we throw trash away and are wasteful with resources such as paper and water. He helps children understand what happens to garbage after tossing it in their trash cans and how garbage and waste is destroying our planet. This book is also part of the "Step into Reading" series.

Element Six- Taking Social Action:  How to Help the Earth- by the Lorax is a great book to help kids learn how to make a difference on Earth, not just read about how the earth is being destroyed by pollution. The colors and the Lorax character will keep kids interested in the topic. The book also shows kids doing every day tasks, such as brushing their teeth and taking a shower. By turning the water off while brushing and taking a shorter shower the Lorax tells the kids that they will help the planet save water.

1. An activity that I would do in connection to How to Help the Earth- by the Lorax would be to ask the students to bring in recyclable items to class (bottles, cans, paper, batteries, etc) so we can learn how to separate the items accordingly and how each type of recyclable gets recycled. I would also ask students to bring in items that they no longer need so we could start a class or school donation drive.
2. Another activity that I would do would be to have the students keep a log for a week. I would tell them to pay attention
when they are walking outside and to note how much trash they see on the streets, what kind, and if there are any garbage and recycling cans in the area. Depending on how this goes, if the students feel as though we need more cans for garbage and recycling I would have them write letters to the mayor addressing their concerns.
3. The Lorax also loved planting trees and in the story told us how important trees are. As a class we would plant a tree together and would make sure that the tree gets the proper nutrients to flourish. 

Taking Acting Against Bullying

Author: Jane Bingham
Grade Level: 4th and 5th Grade

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Taking Action Against Bullying is a great book for children to learn how to stop bullying at an early age. The book has 7 chapters that deal with what bullying is, how it feels to be bullied, who gets bullied, why do people bully, beating bullying, and bullying in society. It helps students understand when other students or they themselves are getting bullied. This book can help prevent bullies from wanting to continue their bullying.

Element 6: Taking Action
Taking Action Against Bullying is an Element 6 book on how to take action. This book is a great resource for elementary students that teaches children how to stop bullying. As we all know, bullying is a serious issue for students and it seems as if it isn't getting any better, so this is a way to promote anti-bullying. This is also a great way for children to stand up to bullies and keep themselves and other students safe.

After reading this book to the students, have the students act out a bullying situation they have seen before or maybe they can get really creative and make up their own skit and show how the person getting bullied is really effected by it. This is a great way for students to get a visual sense of how hurtful bullying can be. Once all of the students have watched the other students' skit, tell the students to stop bullying next time they see it happening. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Kid's Guide to Social Action

Author: Barbara A. Lewis 
For ages 8 and up, though the social action suggested within the book could be adapted for younger children.

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The Kid's Guide to Social Action is an amazing book-- perfect for Element 6, and for a kid or teacher who wants to make a difference. The book, which contains inspirational quotes within the chapters, not only has step-by-step instructions for kids to do everything from making a PSA to lobbying for change.

 The book is split into five parts: 
Part One: Life Beyond the Classroom
  • Examples of kids who have made big changes through social action
  • Brainstorming tricks
  • Tips for writing evaluations about what has been learned
Part Two: Power Skills
  • More examples of kids who have made big changes
  • Telephone tips and skills
  • Letter writing etiquette and advice (which differs if you are writing to, say, an editor, as opposed to a public official)
  • How to successfully use the internet for research
  • Interviewing tips and tricks
  • How to make a successful survey
  • Proposal, proclamations, and petition writing tips
  • How to gain representation on councils and boards
  • Media coverage and advertising (including "Attention getting tips" and how to write a press release)
  • How to make a successful PSA 
  • The importance of voter registration
  • Organizing a group
Part Three: Working With Government
  • Even more examples of kids in action, changing the world
  • Learning about local and state governments
  • How to change local and state law
  • Amending state constitution
  • Lobbying (how to, tips, many ways to lobby)
  • Resolutions (how to write one, as well as tips)
  • Learning about national law
  • Learning about the court systems
Part Four: Resources
  • State legislature contacts
  • Government offices
  • Contact groups for information, networking, and programs
  • Awards and recognition for kids
Part Five: Tools
  • More tips for brainstorming- coming up with ideas and choosing your main idea
  • Various blank templates to use (including phone, letter, and fax forms)
  • Filled in templates to demonstrate how to write everything from a survey to a proclamation
  • A grant application checklist
  • Voter registration (door-to-door campaign)
  • Student court chart
While I know it seems as if I have listed everything that could possibly be in this book, I have not! This book is chock full of great information, interesting stories, and hands-on, accessible ways for kids to make a huge difference.
Relation to Element 6:
 When I was assigned Element 6, I set out on a search for books for kids that did not have to do with recycling, since Dr. Picower had asked that such texts be avoided, since there are so many out there. I found the search for a book fitting Element 6 difficult, until I found The Kid's Guide to Social Action. What I love the most about this book is that it does not suggest just one problem in the world, and then give the reader a step-by-step list of how to "fix" what is broken. Instead, it gives the reader a chance to consider problems that matter to them, and gives the reader the toolkit needed to take action and begin to make a change. I think that this open-ended approach to social action gives kids the ability to stand up for something that they believe in, rather than having a book dictate what they should be trying to change.

There are so many suggested within the book! Have your students brainstorm issues relating to a lesson. Maybe you are learning about pollution, and the kids notice the lack of garbage cans on the street. Use the book to help the kids contact officials, run a letter writing campaign, advertise, write a press release, and get some garbage cans put onto the street! There are so many options and ideas in this book that I think it is a useful reference tool to keep in your desk at all times, especially as a teacher!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge : Element 6

         The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge

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This book takes Ms. Frizzle's students for a wild ride to see what actually causes global warming. After the students discover it is their actions that contribute to global warming, they decide they must take action to help minimize global warming and also raise awareness so others can do the same. The students take action not only in their school, but decide they must reach people in a bigger way. They put on a play at their school which attracts the local news and also write to the mayor, senators and even the president!

                                             Element 6: Taking Social Action

The Magic School Bus and the Climate Change is a great book for teachers to read to their third to fifth grade students to raise awareness about global warming and climate change. The book teaches about how each person has an impact and can help lessen global warming, but the more important lesson in the book is about taking action to make change. The book shows how students use the information they learned to make a change not only within their school, but also in their community and even the country.


One fun activity would be for students to make posters or signs to place around the school which would save energy and reduce waste, such as using the dryer in the bathroom instead of paper towels. This would raise other students awareness about this issue while also helping make a change.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Author: Kevin Henkes

Grade Level: K-2

Summary:  “Chrysanthemum”, written by Kevin Henkes, is a story about a little girl mouse named Chrysanthemum who absolutely loved her name and thought it was perfect.  Once she started kindergarten though, her opinion changed about her name because her fellow classmates would tease her and tell her that her name was too long and she was a flower. She started to dislike her name because of the hurtful things her classmates were saying to her.  Until she met Mrs. Twinkle, the music teacher, who all of her classmates loved.  Mrs. Twinkle told the class that she has a long name too and that if she has a baby girl that she is naming her Chrysanthemum.  Once the children heard what Mrs. Twinkle said, they began to change their opinions and stopped saying hurtful things to Chrysanthemum.  The class ended up changing their names to names after flowers and Chrysanthemum was able to love her name again.

Element Five:  This book represents the element 5 of “Raising Awareness” because it identifies the main character Chrysanthemum being bullied by her classmates.  Students are able to learn about the affects of bullying and how it can make people feel who are being bullied.  Students may not truly understand the affects of the hurtful words that they are saying to someone.  Chrysanthemum expressed her sadness with her parents about how her classmates were treating her which allows for the students to understand that the harmful words were really affecting her.

Activity:   An activity that would work for this story would be the “Wrinkled Heart”.  The activity would start by the teacher passing out a heart made out of construction paper to each student in the class.  The teacher would explain to the students that while the story is being read, that every time they hear the children in the book teasing or bullying Chrysanthemum, to either crumble or tear the heart.  Then every time they heard the children in the story say something nice to her, to try to smooth out the heart.  At the end of the story, the teacher would pass out band-aids and have the students try to fix the heart and make it flat and smooth again.  Then the teacher would explain to the students that no matter how many times they tried to smooth out the heart, it would never be perfect again.  This activity would be great for the students to understand bullying, and they would be able to raise awareness by trying to stop bullying. It shows the students that when they say hurtful things to someone that the words will always affect them and they can never be taken back.  A good follow up activity for this would be to have the students think out loud as a class ways that they could prevent bullying.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

Author: Carol McCloud
Illustrator: David Messing
Grade Level: k-3

Summary: This book explains every individual has an invisible bucket. This bucket reflects our moods and self awareness. The book explains how we can fill and take away from our buckets and how it will affect each individual.

Element 6: The book gives children examples on how to "fill" each other's buckets and also how not to take away from one's bucket.

Activity: Students first talk about their own "buckets" and write a little journal entry about their current bucket level. Then the entire class makes a list on ways to fill each others bucket. Over the week the kids will try to fill others buckets as much as possible. On Friday, the children will write another journal on their current bucket level. Then compare the first journal to the second. 

Stop Bullying

Author: Lucia Raatma

Grade Level: 3-5

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More Resources

This book by Scholastic is essentially an anti-bullying resource made just for kids. It first describes and explains what bullying is and that it can appear in many forms. Then it goes into understanding who tends to be bullied and who the bullies are. Next it becomes a guide for how to respond to bullies and how to stop the pattern of bullying. There is much statsistical data throughout the book as well as pictures to bring the ideas of the text to life and relate it to real-life experiences that unfotratnely all too many children have experienced.

Element 6: Taking Social Action:
Element six of social justice is social action. This book is a great resource for any elementary classroom, as bullying is a very real issue for kids. All kids have experienced bullying in some way, whether as victims, witnesses, or bullies themselves. Therefore, this book shows kids how to take action within their classroom environments and beyond to stop bullying. It shows simple ways in which kids can stand up to bullies and make their classroom a better and safer environment for everyone.

This book would be a great book to intorduce to students in September. It would show students that bullying is not acceptable in the classroom, as well as help students to think of ways to combat bullying around the school, throughout the school year. It gives great examples of how to build stronger bonds of freindshp and kindness as well, which transcend across grade and age. Therefore, this could segue into an activity in which students might write about a time when they experienced bullying in some way (without names as anonymity is key). Then they could do an activity where they could re-write the story to show how someone could have stood up to the bully and explained why his or her actions were wrong. This would ideally get students to think about ways in which they can continue to to take social action against bullying and to hopefully get a better understanding of how bullying affects the victims.