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, February 11, 2015

Last Stop On Market Street- Element 1: Self-love and Knowledge

Author: Matt De La Pena
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Grade Level: K-3
Blog post by: Megan Peekel

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About this book...
In Matt De La Pena's book The Last Stop on Market Street, he takes the reader through the journey of CJ and his Nana on a Sunday afternoon. The reader encounters not only a variety of people in different places in their lives, but all are riding the bus. CJ wonders many things, why don't they get to have a car, why is the man blind, why do we help the homeless, or why doesn't he have an IPOD; in response to CJ, each time his Nana points out the beauty on their bus ride and all the wonderful individuals he gets to experience. The illustrator Christian Robinson rendered the drawings in acrylic paint, collage, and digital rendering. The bright colors and moving scenes will draw in your readers and help them experience the story along with CJ as well as explore sensitive topics that can be "normal" everyday occurrences such as: disabilities, homelessness, not owning a car, or poverty.

Element 1: Self-love and Knowledge

Many students and families come from a variety of backgrounds, it is important that children can feel safe in their environment, particularly their learning environment. One way for teachers to introduce this is through a story; CJ experiences many things that your student's may also go through and might be embarrassed to share with the class. By exposing that everyday people, including people in books, have something that makes life beautiful. By introducing a book like The Last Stop on Market Street, teachers can start a conversation about what makes life beautiful and how we should appreciate the diversity in what our students lives are. If they feel that there is beauty and safety in their history and their living circumstances, students are more likely to experience self love and knowledge.

Teaching Moments: Activity

At the start of the year when a teacher is introducing the different elements of Social Justice, while creating a safe classroom community, this book can be introduced. After a read aloud and students interacting with the book, by trying to find beauty in their classroom, teachers can start a conversation about what is "normal". They can create their own "Day in the life of ME!" Through art and words students can show what one "normal" day in their life would include, perhaps it is similar to the life that CJ has or perhaps it is something very different. By teaching student's that "normal" can mean different things to different people, we start to create a safe classroom community in which difficult subjects can be discussed; for example if a student is homeless, they would be able to relate to this book and understand that their life, although different than many, is still beautiful. This starts to build a self love and knowledge, that each student can experience. 


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