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 9, 2013


Title: McKenna

Author: Mary Casanova

Illustrator: Brian Hailes

Grade Level: 3-5
Ages: 8-12

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McKenna is a girl who loves school and gymnastics. When she starts fourth grade school becomes a little bit more difficult for McKenna. Her parents tell her she will have to stop gymnastics if she falls behind in school. If she stops gymnastics she can focus on her schoolwork and family more. McKenna’s teacher suggests she needs extra help to do well in school so she finds a tutor, Josie. McKenna walks in the library to see that Josie is in a wheelchair. Not knowing Josie is very confident, super smart, and determined, McKenna questions Josie’s ability to tutor her. With the help of Josie, McKenna is doing better in school, her confidence grows but she is still embarrassed to tell her friends she is being tutored.  She tries to hide that Josie is tutoring her from her friends but then find out the meaning of true friendship.
McKenna is injured at a gymnastics competition and as she is healing, she remembers Josie said to always believe in yourself. When McKenna recovers she realizes Josie has helped her through so much, tutored her to do better in school, gave her the confidence she needed and gained a new and everlasting friendship. 

Element Five: Raising Awareness

Element 5 is about raising awareness and it gives students the opportunity to understand different issues around the world. McKenna is a great way to raise awareness about disabilities. This book exemplifies the negative outlook society portrays people with disabilities and in this book, people in wheel chairs.  I think it is important for students to be aware of different disabilities and for them to not act in a negative way towards people with disabilities. McKenna was ashamed and embarrassed to tell her friends she was being tutored by Josie because she was in a wheelchair. Josie is seen as being different because of her disability but she is not any different than you and I, she is a very smart and confident person. This book teaches children that having disabilities does not mean less than or incapable but means being equal and capable of doing anything, you just have to believe in yourself! This book encourages children to stand tall, reach high, and dream big.


After reading this book, this would be a perfect time to have a discussion about different disabilities. Have students talk about the book and how they felt about it. Ask students what they thought about McKenna and Josie. Talk and teach a little bit about other disabilities and find out what students know about different disabilities. Gather students on the carpet and draw a Venn diagram on the board. Have the students compare and contrast McKenna and Josie. Ask students to compare and contrast the two characters and they will notice there are not many differences. Then ask the students to pair up with a partner, make a Venn diagram, and write down similarities and differences about you and your partner. After a few minutes, regroup on the carpet and have some students present their Venn diagrams. Students will see that everyone has similarities and differences. This will teach students not everyone is the same; everyone is unique!

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