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, October 2, 2014

Show Way - Element 3: Exploring Social Injustice Post by Patricia Calandrillo

Show Way

Written by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Hudson Talbott


Jacqueline Woodson shares a very personal story of racial injustice in her account of the women in her own family tree. Woodson takes us back to the heartbreaking events in the life of her great-great-great grandmother, who, as a child of 7 years, was taken from her family and sold into a life of slavery. Inspired by a single piece of muslin fabric, the sole remnant and link to her family and loving mother, she began making “Show Ways”, quilted maps that laid out symbolic pathways that served to help slaves escape to freedom. The author provides example of how craft and creativity was passed on from mother to daughter through generations of women who persevered through the horrible expressions of racial oppression and bias that have prevailed well beyond the “end” of slavery.


This book would function well as an introduction to a broader unit discussing the oppression of Black Americans from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement. After shared reading of  “Show Way”, students would benefit from expanded discussion of the history of slavery in America. Based upon grade level, sequential lessons might include investigations of the Underground Railroad, the secretive network of people that helped slaves find their way to freedom in the North and the use of Show Way quilts to provide direction and guidance. Students might also make a personal connection through a creative learning experience in which students design and create a quilt square telling the story of their own family. A classroom quilt can be created from individual squares. This book and associated lessons/course of study is recommended for students in Grades 3 through 6.

Elements of Social Injustice

“Show Way” is a great choice of reading material for transitioning from Element 2: Respect for Diversity to Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice.  Element 2 is a celebration of diversity intended to instill an appreciation for differences as well as build student understanding of the interconnectivity among humans. Ideally, students will bring empathy into their discussions of Element 3, the exploration of social injustices and how diversity has negatively impacted the lives of an entire race of people in the United States. In Woodson’s book, the young reader meets the author’s ancestors, making connections to real people who have lived through the struggles for freedom and equality that African-Americans have endured since they were captured and forced into a life of slavery. Most importantly, Woodson’s family story not only exposes the horrible injustice cast upon a race of people who were forced into slavery; it celebrates the determination and resilience that prevailed within families through decade after decade of adversity. Focusing on the strengths of the matriarchs in her ancestry, Woodson proudly reverences their determination, creativity, resourcefulness and devotion to both family and freedom. “Show Way” is a powerful message about the enduring effects of oppression and the impact of social injustice across generations as well as a positive communication of the effectiveness of continued hope for achieving pure egalitarianism, a hope that must continue to live within the hearts of mankind.

Buy It
• Audible – An Amazon Company (audible books) 12 minutes.

• Scholastic – CD and DVD

• Amazon Books - Print

• Thrift Books - Print

Additional Information
• Author’s Website
- Additional Books by Author
- Notes for Teachers, Caregivers, and Readers

• Teachers Pay Teachers
-       Lesson plan
-       Worksheets
-       Printables

• Lesson Plan
-       Lesson plans for use with “Show Way”

• Thesis Paper by Rachael Lauer
- Thesis paper discussing the history of Show Way Quilts and the Underground Railroad including 3 lesson plans relative to this topic. Paper includes information about the meaning of particular quilt squares and the creation of student-designed quilt.

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