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.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Title: Chrysanthemum

Author: Kevin Henkes

Illustrator: Kevin Henkes

Buy Chrysanthemum

Element 2: Respect For Others

Readers instantly adore Kevin Henkes main character, Chrysanthemum, in his novel, Chrysanthemum. We are introduced to a character who was born with a unique name that she cherished and admired each and every day. Every day until her first day in Kindergarten. When Chrysanthemum saw how her peers laughed and snickered at her name, she went home devestated. Her parents tried to tell her that her name was beautiful and special but it did not make school any easier. At school her classmates continued to make fun of her in the classroom and on the playground. Chrysanthemum was almost all out of luck until she met her music teacher with a unique and beautiful name, Delphinium. With the help of Delphinium, Chrysanthemum's parents, and a few accepting peers, Chrysanthemum becomes a happy kindergarten student!

Even though this a picture book, this book can be read to any classroom of any ages. I recommend introducing this book in a PreK or K classroom and always having it in your classrooms for students to read.

SJE Element 2:
Kevin Henkes is an author who truly exemplifies great lessons for children of all ages. Chrysanthemum is a story that teaches students about respect and acceptance which relates to the SJE Element 2, respect for others. At first Chrysanthemum's classmates are completely standoff towards her just because her name is different than theirs. Whether it be a name, skin color, family type or religion, students can be critical of their peers who may seem different then themselves. The message in this story shows us that it is okay to accept people who are different. Reading this story to your classroom can teach your students that it is okay to be different, it is truly what makes us special!

Classroom Ideas:
There are endless ways to incorporate Chrysanthemum into the classroom. Since most students may already know about Kevin Henkes and/or his character Chrysanthemum, it is okay to read this story aloud without an introduction. Because this story is about respect, I think it is a good story to read in the beginning of the school year as an introduction to new and old peers. There are many lessons and extensions that can be taught in the classroom.

*Students can create name plates for their desk and be proud of how special their name is. When students complete their name plates, students can also have the opportunity to share with their peers about their name, where it came from or why their parents gave them their name.

*Chrysanthemum's name is made up of 13 letters! As a math lesson, graph how many letters can be found in each of your students names.

*Chrysanthemum's name is made up of 4 syllables. If you forget to read this book in the beginning of the school year, you can use this as a mini lesson to teach syllables. See how many syllables are in each students name.

*A great way to help students recognize each others names is to play a game called "I have, who has?" To make this game, you create index cards using photos and names of everyone in your classroom. For example, one card would read: I have Christina, who has Tom? On this card, there can be a photo of Tom next to his written name!

Anything Else: Kevin Henkes is an incredible author. He uses the same characters for consistency so students can gain emotional ties to characters and he also tells stories that teach students great lessons. Some of my favorites are Chester' Way, Wemberly Worried, and Owen. To find out more Kevin Henkes books click on the link below:
Kevin Henkes Books

For more activities and ideas using Kevin Henkes books, visit Pinterest:
Pinterest Kevin Henkes

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