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, November 17, 2014



Author and Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Ages: 3-5
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lesson plans:
About the Author:


Chrysanthemum is the story of a young mouse who gets picked on by her classmates because of her unique name. Chrysanthemum loves her name, and thinks it is absolutely perfect, until she starts to go to school. Once the other children hear her name, they laugh and make fun of her. "It's so long", said Joe. You're named after a flower! If I had a name like yours, I'd change it, " said Victoria. The teasing makes her feel so terrible, she wants to change her name. Her parents console her, and insist that her name is perfect and beautiful, just as she is, and after a while feels better. However, once she is at school again, the teasing continues, and affects her self-esteem and general happiness. One morning the children are introduced to the music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle, whom the children greatly admire and think is wonderful. The other children once again tease Chrysanthemum in front of her, and they tell Mrs. Twinkle that her name is so long, and she is named after a flower. The teacher then tells the students that her name is also very long, and she is named after a flower as well. She tells them that she thinks the name Chrysanthemum is "absolutely perfect", and if her baby is a girl she would love to name it Chrysanthemum. Now everyone is envious of Chrysanthemum and wants to be named after a flower. They stop teasing and bullying her about her name, she regains her confidence and self-esteem, and realizes that she loves her unique name, and is proud of it. 

Element Five:

This book is an excellent example of Element Five, which has to do with raising awareness of social issues, since it brings forth the topic of bullying and self-esteem. Through this story, we learn the importance of kindness and respect, for each individual is unique, and teasing another individual about how they look, what they enjoy, or even their name, is hurtful and damaging to one's self-esteem. When the other children tease Chrysanthemum about her name, the author says "Chrysanthemum wilted", as if she was a flower who was wilting and dying. Words, as we all know can be so hurtful and painful to one's confidence and self-esteem. The old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me", is obviously not true, and in some cases names can be worse. With lovely illustrations, and told in a language that young children can easily understand, students will be able to see the consequences of teasing, and how it can affect others. 

Follow Up Activity:

After reading the book to the class, the teacher can begin to discuss the topic of bullying and teasing. Topics such as why do people tease and bully others, and what can be done to stop it. A discussion as to whether anyone in the class has been teased, and what did they do. The class can then discuss how Chrysanthemum felt when they teased her, and what could she have done perhaps to make them stop. Additionally, a discussion regarding how the other children might have felt when they teased her, and why they did. 

Since the issue of bullying dealt with Chrysanthemum's name, a nice activity might be for students to write down information about their own names. If they were named after someone, what the meaning of their name is, and why that name was picked for them. 

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