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 23, 2013

Ways to Help in Your Community (How to Help: A Guide to Giving Back)

Author: Claire O'Neal
Grade Level : 4th - 6th Grade

Summary: Ways to Help in Your Community is a wonderful guide for children who want to make a difference in their communities but don't know how or where to begin. This book is overflowing with ideas for young minds which will help them to contribute to the world around them. There are many ways that chldren can give back to their communities to help make them better places for all. Some that are mentioned in this book are cleaning up the community, spending time with the elderly, planting a garden, and helping to feed the hungry at a local soup kitchen. As this clever and encouraging guide shows, age should never be considered an obstacle in wanting to make a difference in the community as even young children have the power to volunteer and help others in so many ways. There are also many resources included in this book that children can use to help connect them with charities and non-profit organizations in all fifty states concerning issues they may care about, such as helping children with disabilities and advocating for abused or injured animals. Young children will come to realize that helping out in their communities is an incredible way to implement positive change, and that it is not impossible for one person, no matter how small, to make a difference after all. This book will even get them to think about not only their own communities, but about communities across the country and even around the world. What a fantastic start to a future of positive change!

Element 6- Taking Social Action: This book relates to the element of "taking social action" by providing students with concrete ways they can volunter and contribute to their communities through various methods and actions. What makes this non-fiction book different from a fictitious story about a character who takes social action is the fact that it is actually a guide for children, and not a story, which will help them know first-hand where and how to start helping and giving back to their communities. This is very important because a student might read a story about someone and think to themselves, "I would like to help like him/her but don't know how or where to start." This book will show them exactly how to start, and provides them with valuable resources and contact information to organizations where they can start making a difference right away.

Activity: I could use this book as part of a Social Studies lesson where I can read it to the students and start a class discussion afterwards on the different ideas mentioned in the book on how children can give back to their communities. Before reading the book, I can introduce the students briefly to some statistics about problems or issues in the community, such as those concerning environmental sustainability or the percentage of needy people present in their neighborhoods. This will help to get the students to realize that such problems are indeed real and closer to them than they may think, and that it is so important for them to lend a helping hand and make a difference. After reading the book and discussing it, the students can refer to the list of organizations in the book and write letters to those that they may be interested in helping and offering their help. This activity will allow them to truly take action and help their communities in a proactive way.

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