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 2, 2013

Element four: The Other Side

Title: The Other Side

Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Age level: 7-10 years / 3-5th grade

The main character of the story, who also takes on the roll of the narrator, is a young African American girl named Clover.  In the town where she lives there is a large fence that divides the community in half separating the blacks from the whites. Everyday when Clover goes outside to play she sees a young white girl on the other side of the fence. No matter what kind of day it is, the girl is always playing outside, even on rainy days. Clover is intrigued by this and leaves her friends jumping rope to go sit on top of the fence with the white girl named Annie. The two girls sit on top of the fence enjoying one another’s company day after day. Finally, Annie decides to climb over the fence to join the girls in a jump rope game and all the girls come to realize how similar they are to one another regardless of skin color, they all simply love to play outside.

Element 4: Social Movements and Social Change
Element four discusses "people standing together to address the issues of social injustice that were learned from element three". This book allows students to see that change can be created with the simplest of actions. The book sheds light upon a more symbolic notion that true change involves climbing over the fence, being bold, and making sacrifices, just as Annie did when she decided to join Clover and her friends jumping rope. As stated in the element four description, “Social change is possible only if you engage and put forth your own effort. It is not something than can be taken care of by others”. The Other Side truly captures this statement and allows student to understand that coming together is a critical strategy to bettering society.

Classroom usage:
The Other Side can be used as a great tool to introduce and integrate segregation into a lesson plan. Students can learn about how intense of a roll skin color played during the Black Era, and can see a real example of how black and white communities were separated. As a teacher, I would ask my fifth grade students to think critically about the symbolic meaning behind climbing over fences and perhaps ask them to identify the obstacle that Annie and Clover overcame in the story. The students could then think about their own fences that they have climbed over in the past and perhaps fences they plan to climb over in the near future. To do this, students can create a list of accomplished and soon-to-be accomplished goals in a the form of a T-chart. The students could then proceed to discuss their goals and experiences with their peers. 

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