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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Chinatown: One Year in Poems

Written and Illustrated by: Kam Mak
Reading level:  Ages 5-9
Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (December 4, 2001)


The book, My Chinatown is about a young Chinese boy from Hong Kong that is trying to adapt to his new life style in Chinatown, New York City. Kam Mak divided the book by the four seasons, starting in winter, which is the Chinese New Year and sharing a full year of the boy’s experiences. Throughout the book the reader has the opportunity to admire vivid colors paintings and reading short poems describing the boy’s surrounding.  The author uses figurative language to make the reader feel like they are sharing the same journey as the boy. Towards the end, the young boy starts to conform to his new life style and appreciates what Chinatown has to offer. 

Element #2: Respect for Others:
The book My Chinatown provides students with the opportunity to get a glimpse of the Chinese culture. The book mentions some of the families’ traditions to celebrate New Year in China. The young boy in the book talks about Chinatown as a city he could connect back to his native country. On the other hand, this book allows students to understand some of the struggles many of their peers might have encountered while adapting to a new country, city, home, or even school. My Chinatown concentrates in this young boy's journey, which is an universal experience. The book teaches children, especially if they haven’t experienced it first hand, that sometimes it’s hard for individuals to transition from one place to another. By teachers encouraging discussions around these topics, it will create an environment of respect for diversity as students’ listen with sympathy to their classmates’ experiences.

Follow-Up Activities:
After the read-aloud, as a class we will create a chart of important holidays and/or festivities that are celebrated in everyone's culture. This will allow students to share their cultural background and find things they might have in common with their peers. Then we will discuss what are some nearby towns thats we can visit to get a glimpse of different cultures (Washington Heights, Chinatown, Newark, Passaic, etc.). In addition, as a class we will do some research to find out if any of these towns celebrate any specific holiday or festival. Lastly, everyone will draw a picture of something they felt attached to in one point of their life. It could be their previous year classroom, home, country, or an item. In the bottom of the paper they have to write what made them feel so attached to it. 

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