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.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Whoever You Are
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Leslie Staub
Grade level: K-2
Blog post by: Adriana Rivero

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About this book:
Mem Fox focuses on the different attributes that make us all human in order to have students understand and accept different cultures.  Fox introduces the story on explaining how despite who we are, we all have emotions such as crying.  We all bleed the same when we get hurt.  We all laugh the same when we find something funny.  We may find differences in language, way of living, or even our physical attributes, but we are all very much alike when we break down our emotional characteristics.  The illustrator, Leslie Staub, does a great job of portraying children of all backgrounds with all different lifestyles for students to be able to relate with.  Staub depicts emotions in her paintings, such as sorrow and tears, but also illustrating happiness and smiles-- also an image students grade levels K-2 can understand and make a connection with.  Lastly, Whoever You Are helps students respect our differences and to embrace all the resemblances we may see within one another without forgetting to celebrate together!

Element 2: Respect for Others
In order to be respectful of others and the differences that children bring to the table within a classroom setting-- whether it be physical attributions, cultural, language, or religion-- students must first find a reason and a way to understand that despite differences between their peers, they are still very much alike.  Whoever You Are does an amazing job of teaching readers how to make a connection with their peers on a new level.  Making connections to students that may have different beliefs, practice diverse cultures, or even dress and look differently is key to a successful classroom to establish a thick layer of respect.  This book can promote an icebreaker as well as new friendships within a classroom as well, especially if children have questions about other cultures that they are unfamiliar with.

Follow-up Activities: 
Being that this book is multicultural, there are a few ways it can be incorporated in a classroom as well as followed by a variety of activities.  Questioning the students on their comprehension can be a general start.  Making sure your students understand the story and the message being sent by the author is key.  Some follow-up questions such as, "What makes these children different? What makes these children the same?"  Perhaps asking the students, "Do you think our world would be boring if each and every one of us were exactly the same?" Since the illustrations to this book are so vivid, have students try to differentiate the characters.  "From what country do we believe this person is?" If they can manage to pin point which country the characters are from, ask what they know about that country (language, religion, etc.).  Lastly, a great way to create group discussion and for students to familiarize themselves with their peers is to pair them up.  Have them interview each other and exchange interesting facts about themselves and their cultures or traditions.  Finally, have students share with the class what they learned from their peer interview.

Resources: Lesson Plans for this book!

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