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.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grandmama's Pride

Title: Grandmama's Pride
Author: Becky Birtha
Illustrated by: Colin Bootman
Reading level: Grades 3-4
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company


Grandmama's Pride is a fictional story that takes place in the south during the 1950s. Sarah and her little sister lived in the north with their family. One summer the girls and their mother travel to  grandmama's home in the south. It didn't seem odd that they had to sit in the back of the bus. Sarah and her sister did not question why they could not eat at the lunch counter. They did not think much about the local bus station that only offered seats to whites. Mom always found a polite way of explaining away these restrictions.The girls begin to notice some peculiar habits about their grandmother. She walked everywhere instead of taking the bus.She also refused to drink at the public water fountain. Once Sarah learned how to read, she realized the many signs of segregation posted throughout town. This form of discrimination clearly marked services available for whites and colored.Sarah and her family eventually return home, continuing  to read about the civil rights protest taking place in Montgomery Alabama.
The following summer, the ride down south was surprisingly different. The girls did not encounter  restrictions of public services for blacks. Once they arrived,Grandma excitedly explained that black citizens proudly held their ground to get segregation laws changed. Sarah realized Grandma was demonstrating pride all along by boycotting the double standard of services. The steadfast efforts for social change had made a difference.

Element #4- Social Movement and Change

This book describes segregation faced by African-Americans in the south as view through the eyes of a child. Once Sarah can read she understands the blatant signs signal a difference in treatment of whites and colored. She was not aware that refusing to uses public services was a form of boycotting. She is also not aware of her grandmother's silent involvement in the civil rights movement. Newspapers and TV communicated the struggle for civil rights to American's not residing in the south. The whole country watched boycotts, bus rides, protesting, and the March on Washington. It was a time of tremendous change and milestones  for blacks. Sarah was both surprised and proud to discover that her grandmother was involved in the fight for equality. Grandmama's pride in boycotting became Sarah's pride. When Sarah returned to the south, she was proud to see  that changes in segregation laws had occured. This was accomplished by her grandmother and others working in a unified civil rights effort.

Follow-up Activity

The teacher can facilitate a classroom activity to increase awareness of unfair treatment based upon color of skin.A lesson can be presented on civil rights and segregation.To increase  understanding,the teacher will seperate the class into two teams. Team members  will wear name badges in red or blue. Class privileges will vary based upon the color of a student's badge.
Sentence strips will be posted in the back seating area stating ; you can not drink at the fountain, you cannot try on clothes, you cannot sit up front, you will receive lower pay. For 10 minutes, only students wearing red name tags will be allowed to sit in the front of the class and participate. Students wearing blue name tags will be told to sit in the back or on the rug. They will also not be allowed to respond to questions about the lesson. After 10 minutes the teams will switch seating locations. The red team now sits in the back and can not participate.
The class holds a  discussion around how it felt to experience different treatment based upon the color of their name tag. Students connect  their  activity to segregation of whites and blacks. Students will write an opinion paragraph using the prompt: Is it right to treat people differently based upon the color of their skin?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Title: Cyberbullying
Author: Lucia Raatma
Publisher: Children’s Press
Grade Level: 2nd – 4th

Buy it Here!

Teacher Resources

The book Cyberbullying is a resource children can use to learn about and overcome online bullying. It has four chapters. The first chapter describes cyber bullying, explains where on the internet it can happen, how it happens, and what it looks like. The second chapter explains the seriousness of cyber bullying and the negative effects it has on a persons well being. The third chapter explains what to do when being bullied online, who to go to for help, and explains ways you can support your friends who are being cyber bullied. The fourth and final chapter explains multiple ways you can prevent cyber bullying from happening. In addition, the book has real life stories of cyber bullying, statistics on cyber bullying, and gives other resources on bullying.

Element #6 - Taking Social Action:
Cyberbullying represents element 6 because it guides children to take action against an issue that is affecting them. Bullying is a major issue for children as it can happen anywhere: in school, on the playground, online, at home, etc. Bullying can also negatively impact a child's self esteem and confidence and cause them to feel depressed. In extreme cases, people who are bullied commit suicide. I feel the awareness of bullying is improving and think that books like these should be used as resources in elementary classrooms. They definitely are informative and provide children with ways to stop and prevent bullying.

First you can read the book to the children. Next, you can have a whole class discussion on bullying and cyber bullying. Ask the students if they ever been bullied anywhere or ever witnessed another person being bullied. Tell them to describe how they felt during these experiences. Then discuss with the children what they can do when they are bullied and refer to the book. After this, have the children write and draw about one experience they had with bullying (either personal or what they witnessed). Then have the children explain what they would do now to stop the bullying and prevent it from happening again. This activity is valuable because it gives children a framework on what to do when bullying occurs. Bullying is an extremely serious issue and its very important to empower children and let them know they have the ability to take action and stop it from happening. 

Say Something - Jenna Stampone Element 6

Title: Say Something
Author: Peggy Moss
Illustrator: Lea Lyon
Reading Level: 1st/ 2nd Grade


Abby Takes a Stand – Similar book to Say Something!

Summary: A young girl who is the narrator of the book often witnesses bullying in her school but doesn’t do anything about it. She stays silent and acts as a bystander when seeing her peers get bullied. One day, her friends are all absent which leaves her to sit alone at lunch. The bullies then begin to tease and make jokes about how she is all alone at lunch. She gets upset and feels embarrassed because everyone in the cafeteria is just starring at her. She wonders why no one stood up for her but then realizes she hasn’t done that for anyone else. After her experience, the next day, she sits next to a girl who is sitting alone on the bus. She learned to take action and prevent the girl from being made fun and ended up making a new friend.

Element 6: This book ties into Element six because it presents a scenario for students to see opportunities to make a change. It targets the students in the classroom as well as outside which makes it a universal learning topic. The narrator took initiative to sit with a girl who was alone to avoid what had happened to her the day before. Saying something or taking action is what this element is all about. Instead of being a bystander, the story can drive children to get involved and help a situation or quickly get authority involved. This book helps aware students of situations that could happen to them and also showing an alternative for how one can handle the problem. It sends children a powerful message and how to deal with an issue regarding bullying.

Activity: After reading this book to a class, it is vital to have a discussion afterwards because it fosters the students in coming up with more ideas on how other bullying issues can be handled. After the read aloud and discussion, I would allow the students to make groups. (4 to 5 students in each) Each group could make up a skit that shows a bully/ bullies, victim/victims, and a bystander. After they acted out the skit, the audience has to come up with one or two ways the bystander can make a change that makes sense for that skit. 

Our Community Garden

     Title: Our Community Garden
     Author: Barbara Pollak
     Illustrated By: Barbara Pollack
     Publisher: Beyond Words Publishing Inc.
     Reading Level:Ages 5-8

     Buy it Now



Audrey Aubergine and her friends love their community garden in San Francisco. The garden is a place to play hide-and-seek, and a place to work and learn. The friends get a lesson in nuturing living plants by watering them, diging in the dirt, using garden tools and pulling up weeds. They also discover the many types of bugs that live in harmony in the soil and thrive in a garden. The friends are from different cultures and plant vegetables that are popular in their own backgrounds such as tomatillos,carrots,aspargus beans,and egplants. The excitment surrounding the vegetable harvest calls for a celebration. Audrey and her friends invite the community to participate. Residents select vegetables that can be used to create a cultural dishe to share.  A fantastic giant feast was held. Members of the diverse community came together in unity and friendship to sample the diverse dishes that represent their cultures and countries, The children were excited to see what their efforts yielded. Most importantly they were thrilled to learn the value that a community garden can bring to the neighborhood.It promotes teamwork, respect and generates community interest . It also increases awareness by providing an opportunity to network and learn about multi-cultural foods enjoyed by families living right there in their community.  What a vauable lesson to learn.

Element #5-Raising Awareness

Our Community is a great story that describes a group of young friends who are passionate about nuturing a community garden. Elementary school students learn that growing and nuturing a community garden also helps to nuture and develop friendships in the neighborhood. The planting and harvesting of diverse foods provides an opportunity to learn about foods enjoyed by families of different backgrounds. Children and neighborhood residents learn how to come together for a common good through teamwork that benefits diverse cultures. Readers also discover how a garden can be used to improve the neighborhood environment by adding green space that can also be used as a food resource. All of these aspects increase understanding of respect, and promote the benefit of community sharing.

Follow-Up Activity:

Students can use this book to promote developing a community garden in their school yard. A small plot of land can be utilized to plant vegetables. Students can form a garden club and look for seeds that represent vegetables eaten in their culture. During recess students can take turns watering and weeding the plants. Parents can be invited to participate in caring for the garden with their student. Once the plants are harvested. The class can conduct a presentation to explain what they learned about growing plants such as the  need for soil, sunlight and water. They can also discuss how their selected vegetable is used in a cultural dish. Families can share the vegetables harvested in the small garden. This will increase awarness of cultural foods, and develop teamwork and respect.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Social Justice: How You Can Make a Difference

Author: Lynn Bogen Sanders

Illustrator: Veronica Bianchini

Grade level: 4th or 5th



Summary: This book is about the steps in which to take before taking action.  The five chapters are titled: Free to Make a Difference, Getting Started, Learn All About It, Planning, and Take Action.  Throughout the book it gives you pointers and ideas on what to do to further your knowledge of your cause you want help with.  The book also, has certain pages called Action Spotlight that gives you a brief story of kids who have taking action to their cause to make a difference in the world.

Element 6: The reason I picked this book for element six is because the main goal of the book is to teach students the way in which to think about their cause and how to go about planning their steps into taking social action.  This book also represents element six with the examples shown of students like them making difference in the world and showing them that taking action is possible for their age.

Activity: An activity I would have students do after reading this book is to get into groups of three or four and to come up with a cause they believe would be worth taking action for to help their community out.  Then the students will follow the steps given from the book by researching their cause finding out everything they can, make a plan to take action, then take action.  (This activity cannot be done in one day, but maybe be broken up)

The Lorax

Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Grade level: K-2

Buy it Here!

Summary: The book begins with a young boy going up to a mysterious old tree stump and wonders if this was where the Lorax once lived. He decides he is going to ask the Once-ler, who is the owner of the house right in front of this stump. He agrees to tell the boy what happened through a whisper phone for a fee of 15 cents. After the boy pays the fee he is told of a time where the Truffula trees were beautiful and aplenty. All forms of life lived happily and peacefully. The Once-ler saw this as a business opportunity and chops down a tree to make a new piece of clothing called a Thneed. The Lorax is upset with him and tells him that nobody will buy one. Somebody promptly buys one and so the Once-ler chops down MORE trees to make more thneeds. His business grows and the pollution his factory causes forces many of the animals to leave
, which the Lorax warned him would happen. After they finally cut the last of the Truffula trees, the Lorax leaves with one powerful word, "unless". Years later when the little boy visits the Once-ler, he realizes that it means "Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not". He then hands the boy the last of the Truffula tree seeds to plant a new forest so that the Lorax and his friends will return.

Element 6: Many would argue that this book actually represents element five, but I believe it represents both. Several times throughout the story we saw the Lorax (to no avail) try to persuade the Once-ler to stop cutting down the trees because he was hurting the environment for the animals and the trees. He often said he spoke on behalf of the trees meaning that he was the voice of the voiceless in trying to create social action. He took social action many times but sadly the Once-ler's business had grown so big that there was no way to really stop it. Then after his social action failed he ran away once his nightmares became reality and all of the Trufula trees were gone. Also, the final few pages represent element 6 because the Once-ler is teaching the young boy how to take social action. "Unless somebody like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not". This one sentence says more about how to take social action than any other social action guide book could ever wish too. It shows that if you care about something enough, you can protect it from harm and be the action that keeps that something relevant.

Activity: For an activity the teacher could read the Lorax aloud to the class two weeks in one weeks time. After the first read aloud, the teacher could have students write a letter to the Once-ler midway through the story. They could write him to ask him to stop cutting down the trees or if they wish they can tell him to keep his business running. Either way their letters will reflect they change they want to see and letter writing is a form of social action. After they finish the letters they can hand their letters to the teacher to be sent to "The Once-ler". The teacher then could give the letters to a corresponding fifth grade classroom and have their "Fifth grade buddies" write letters back to the students as the Once-ler. After the final read aloud, the teacher can hand the letters back to the students so they can see their letter responses. This will help students write letters to solve social issues. If a school doesn't do a "Fifth grade buddy" system, the teacher could always write these letters on his or her own.

Our Class is Going Green


Author: Mrs. Nickel’s Kindergarten Class

Illustrator: Mrs. Nickel’s Kindergarten Class

Grade Level: K-2

Buy it here!


Our Class is Going Green, is a book written and illustrated by a kindergarten class in Oklahoma. The book is about small steps each individual within a classroom can take in order to help the environment. Simple steps as re-using paper, or even, turning off the water while you rub your hands in soap. Furthermore, the book provides the reader with compare and contrast illustrations, for instance, one page shows what to do in order to go green and the other page shows what we shouldn’t do. The book also provides a page at the end of the book where students can come up with 14 ways to go green and help the environment. Another important fact about this book is that it is printed on recycled paper.

Element 6:

I believe this book is an effective method of showing students the importance and simplicity of taking a social action, in this case by teaching the students how to go green. At the end of the book, the students are challenged to educate the entire school about the importance of going green. The steps and examples to go green involve simple steps, such as re-using paper in the class as a daily method to recycle. Students are also educated about not littering in the streets and in the school. This will provide students with many opportunities to take action on going green in the streets when they see a friend littering. In conclusion, this book can be categorized as an element 6 because it allows the students to ‘create change firsthand’ by taking these steps to go green and turning them into a habit.


This book will be a great introduction to a unit on Going Green or Recycling.  After the book is read, students can create their own book about recycling and reusing materials in the classroom. Students should use the book Our Class is Going Green, as an example. Students can also engage in various activities, such as creating posters about going green. These posters can be put up outside in the playground in order to create awareness and show others how to recycle and go green. In conclusion of the unit, students can a classroom trip to the nearest park and volunteer to clean the park, in order to raise awareness in the community.


Chester Raccoon And The Big Bad Bully

Author: Audrey Penn
 Illustrator: Barbara L. Gibson
 Reading Level: Ages 6+
Grade: K-3
Publisher: Scholastics Inc. 

Purchase Chester Raccoon And The Big Bad Bully Here Now!

If you really enjoyed this book, click here to view more stories about Chester Raccoon from the Kissing Hand collection, a series of books on life issues for children. Some books are published in Spanish and English!

Click here to learn more about the author of Chester Raccoon And The Big Bad Bully.

Chester Raccoon And The Big Bad Bully is the latest latest addition to the Kissing Hand book collection.  Chester Raccoon and his friends are being terrorized by a mean looking bully at school. When Mrs. Raccoon learns that there is a bully problem at school, she decides to investigate the situation. Chester described the bully as a mean badger with claws and fire coming out of his nose. Everyone was afraid of him. After seeing the bully for herself, Mrs Raccoon shares a story. It was about a forest that was full of smooth yellow stones, and how the animals living there changed a jagged blue stone they found into a smooth stone so that it wouldn't hurt any tender paws. Chester, Ronny, and Cassy decided to use Mrs. Raccoon's story when they next encountered the Bully. Approaching him as a group, they invited him to play, proving that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make him your friend.

Element #6- Exploring Elements of Social Action:
This book is a great resource for teachers who want to teach students a positive strategy for dealing with a bully.  Chester Raccoon And The Big Bad Bully helps children to understand that many child bullies are themselves unhappy, and it gives them an example of taking action to settle differences by peaceful means. Preventing and stopping bullying involves a commitment by teachers and students to create a safe environment. This is a great way to take action in the classroom by telling young students how they can take a stand against bullying. 

Follow-up Activity:
A great follow up activity for the book is to hold a critical thinking discussion on how to handle a bully.  The teacher can encourage students to talk about any issues they have had in the past or currently with bullies. Go around the room and take suggestions from other students on how they would handle the bully. The teacher can then write them down on the chalkboard/whiteboard. At the end of the discussion, the children can pick the best suggestions and the teacher will then compile them and print them out to make an advice book for the class titled, How to Get Along or How to Stop A Bully.