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.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Written by William Miller
Illustrated by Gregory Christie

Richard Wright and the Library Card, written by William Miller and illustrated by Gregory Christie, this book explores the young life of famous African American author Richard Wright.  First taught to read by his mother from the newspaper, Richard developed a love of reading and craved the opportunity to scour the seemingly endless shelves of the library.  Living in the segregated South of the 1920s prohibited him from borrowing books, so he learned at a young age that social inequality was attempting to hold his people back.This true story shows the determination of a young man and his pursuit of his passion in a society where his education and development are not appreciated by the government.  Through twists and turns Richard finds his way around this system and teaches us not only the value of a pursuit of knowledge, but that in an unfair situation it is your responsibility to take action against it.
Element 4 Connection 
When we meet Richard Wright he is living in a community in the Southern United States where segregation is still the prevailing thought.  He finds his passion in reading and a love of books, but being a dark skinned African American in the south he was not allowed to borrow books from the library.  He had a friend he worked with, a white friend, Jim, whom he asked to rent books out for him. Jim, a humble and reasonable man graciously helped Richard, and as it says on the final page of the book, as he traveled north to begin a new chapter in his life, "Every page was a ticket to freedom, to the place where he would always be free." This book teaches children not to accept discrimination, even if you cant make a sweeping change of legislation, you can live your life more freely, chasing ones dreams and breaking barriers is the general take away.

Who was Richard Wright? 
Richard Wright was a strong Civil Rights activist in the United States, but unfortunately died before he could witness the full scale of the movement. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially those involving the plight of African Americans during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries.  Clearly a strong proponent of change, Richard Wright and the Library Card gives children a look into the early life of an important, but sometimes underappreciated figure in the development of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Follow up activity
Have children go with a caregiver to their local library, if they do not have a library card, sign up for one.  All students will find a book that interests them that is about a passion they have, be it music, a sport, cooking, etc...  Students will have an opportunity to share with the class about their passion and their book.

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