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, April 22, 2015

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade 

Written By Justin Roberts
Illustrated By Christian Robinson


Sally McCabe is the smallest girl in her school. She is so small, in fact, that hardly anyone ever notices her. She spends all day, every day being overlooked by those around her. While everyone is ignoring her, however, Sally is observing everything that happens around her. She witnessed all kinds of things she did not like, such as children being mean to one another on the playground, and school gardens being bulldozed over. Sally saw it all, and one day she decided she had had enough! She stood up in the lunch line and yelled at everyone to start paying attention to the wrongs happening around them. One by one, everyone in the school joined her stance, and put one finger in the air for support. Even the teachers and the principal stood behind Sally and supported her movement. From that moment on, Sally inspired the rest of her school to be more aware, and to ensure they did not al succumb to apathy as they had before. Everyone also began to notice Sally, and treated her as a member of the school community. She was no longer a tiny outsider looking in, but a big important part of a school actively combating bad behavior and injustice. This book would be perfect for any Pre-K, Kindergarten, or First Grade classroom. 

Element Six: Social Action

Sally took advantage of her unique position in the school community, taking note of everything that happened around her. Good and bad, Sally was aware of it all. She took this opportunity as a chance to take action and make her school a better place. She did not just make everyone aware of the injustices around them, she inspired a movement to better the school community. After Sally spoke up and challenged those around her to be better, a ripple effect began to take place. Students began to include each other in activities they never had before. The students took back the school garden. Everyone made an effort to be nicer to one another, including the smallest girl who had called them all to action, Sally McCabe.


In honor of Sally's movement, schools and classrooms could be inspired to do the same type of reform. Teachers could effectively facilitate the necessary extent of understanding by choosing a few students in the class before reading the book to be the "Sallys" of the class. These students would be chosen to observe activity in the school. Either over an afternoon, a few days, or maybe even a weeks time, depending on what works best, these students would be asked to observe the good and bad actions they see take place around them. This would have to happen unbeknownst to the other students, so certain students would have a sort of "in" to the activity. After reading the book as a class, the "Sallys" in the room would describe some of the behaviors, good and bad, that they observed. Students would then, as a class, raise their hands as the students in the book did to pledge a better school environment. Administrators, other teachers, and other classes could be invited to join into this project through speech or writing activities. This activity could also be extended to planting a school garden, as is done in the book. 

How I Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Author: Robin Nelson

Grade Level: Pk-2

Buy it here!



This books provides children with creative and easy ways on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. It shows children the steps they can take to reduce trash and energy at home. It encourages children to come up with new ideas on how to reuse materials found around them, such as turning empty water battles into bird houses. There are illustrations in each page to help children visualize on how to apply each concept, such as how to recycle different types of materials. It also includes an activity, fun facts, glossary, and index, which can be incorporated into a lesson plan. This book will inspire children to become active members of their society and help take care of our planet.

Element 6: Social Action

This book goes beyond raising awareness of how we must take care of our planet, to providing students with creative ideas that will inspire them to create change and take action in helping care of our environment. It encourages children to be responsible, and provides them with the skills and knowledge they need on how to make green choices and take part of social action.

  1. Children will be write the glossary words in their notebook
  2. They will chose one word from their list, for example: Reuse
  3. They will write a story where they will have to come up with creative and fun ways they can reuse things arounds them. 
  4. They will  include an illustration that will show what is going on in the story.
  5. They will share it with the  class and we will have discussion about the topic.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Element 6- Social Action

The Berenstain Bears: No Girls Allowed 

By: Stan & Jan Berenstain

Grade:  K-2
Buy it here!!


"No Girls Allowed" is a book about a little cub girl who always tagged along with her brother and his friends. At first Sister Bear ran slower than the Brother Bear and his friends, she could not climb trees as high as Brother Bear and his friend, and she did not know how to play with marbles. But as she grew older, Sister Bear became better at running, climbing trees and playing marbles than Brother Bear and his friends. Brother Bear and his friends were tired of seeing Sister Bear always winning.Therefore, they decided to build a secret clubhouse to stay away from Sister Bear. On the outside of the clubhouse it had a big sign that said, "No Girls Allowed". When Sister Bear find out about this, she was very upset. She decided to build her own clubhouse and do not allow any boys in the house. Furthermore, on opening day of the Sister Bear's club house, Papa Bear put some honeycomb and salmon on the barbecue. Everything smelled so delicious that it went all the way to the Boys clubhouse. They followed the smell all the way to where Papa Bear was cooking. Once the girls saw all the boys outside the clubhouse, they decided to vote and allowed the boys to come in. After eating the delicious meal, Brother Bear invited the girls to their clubhouse for dessert. Now the sign at the boys clubhouse changed, from being "No Girls Allowed" to "Girls Welcome".

Element 6- Taking Social Action

This book represents element 6, social action. Sister Bear was very upset and mad for what Brother Bear and his friends did to her. They didn't want to play with her, they were hiding from her and they did not allowed her in the clubhouse. Therefore, Sister Bear felt she must do something. She truly believed that this was "not fair". Sister Bear build her own clubhouse, and even though she did not wanted to see any boys there, she allowed them to come and eat with her and her friends.  Sister Bear took action on what felt it was wrong. She believed that what the boys were doing was not fair, and she stand up for her self and feelings.


After reading this story to students, and explaining what element 6 is about, I would have them share with a partner a time where they felt something was not fair to them. Then, I would have students share their answers. After this, students will write a letter to a person that made them feel something  "was not fair" explaining how they felt, and what they would do in order to change the situation. They will also write what social action they will take.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Kid's Guide to Social Action

Title: The Kid's Guide to Social Action
Author: Barbara A. Lewis
Ages: 10 to 13

Purchase The Kid's Guide to Social Action here!

Learn about Barbara A. Lewis!

  The Kid's Guide to Social Action by Barbara A. Lewis is a how-to book for kids interested in creating social change.  This book outlines the steps needed to create social action; from defining the problem to evaluating whether a solution is working.  KGSA also lists "power skills" useful to social activists, such as giving speeches, protesting and fundraising.  Kids are even given the tools and steps on how to interact with local, state and federal governments.  Throughout KGSA are inspiring true stories of kids who successfully created positive change, whether it was getting the state government to cleanup a toxic waste dump by their school or fundraising for a teen with leukemia in their town.   It also contains a list of tools and resources that both teachers and students can use during their social projects.

Element 6: Taking Social Action:
  The Kid's Guide to Social Action is a great book for kids who are interested and ready to take social action.  The book is full of tips, examples and resources that children would find helpful while creating social change.  Students learn how to identify and research a problem, brainstorm solutions, spread awareness and find support and eventually carry out a solution. This book is also applicable to Element 5: Raising Awareness because it contains true stories of kids who fought for social justice.

How To Use This Book: 
  What makes KGSA an exceptionally useful book for the classroom is the fact that it doesn't tell kids what social issues they should change, but instead gives students the skills to identify social problems and come up with appropriate solutions on their own.  This way, students can take action against what issues mean the most to them.  Because of this, KGSA can be used in two ways; as an independent resource as students identify social issues throughout the year or in conjunction with a social justice unit - the book includes a list of social problems students can choose for an activism project.  Although this book is most appropriate for children 10-13 as an independent text, it can still be used as a classroom resource for teachers of younger children.  As mentioned before, the book is filled with printable tools such as a petition form and brainstorming worksheet.

Want more?  Check out this author's other books!


Title: Recycling!
Author: Unknown
Illustrator: Jess Stockholm
Grade Level: Preschool-Kindergarten

Buy it here!


About this book:

This book is geared towards teaching young children (3-5 year olds) how to reduce, reuse, and recycle (the three R's).  The book is heavily focused on using illustrations to teach visually how to reduce, reuse, and recycle different items/materials.  The words in the book explain in simple terms what the pictures are showing.  The main characters are two children that are learning how to take action in protecting the Earth by helping their mother use less of some products, reuse some items (such as clothes and toys), and  recycle household items into specific bins.  The children also learn how to use left over food to create a compost pile.  Because the body of this book is so picture based, the author provides information for the reader about what happens to the products that we recycle (glass, plastics, food and drink cartons, etc) on the final page.  The author also explains the meanings of the words “reduce,” “re-use,” and “recycle” so that the read can gain a more concrete understanding of the concept.

Element 6: Taking Social Action
This book is teaching children how they can help protect the environment by reducing, re-using, and recycling.  The way the book is written allows for a lot of outside discussion during and after reading it.  For example, on one page the children are riding a bus with their mother and point out--“there’s a roof garden! And solar panels!”  The book never goes on to explain further what solar panels are, but instead allows for the children reading the book to wonder and perhaps ask questions and start a conversation at home or at school.  This technique of writing, not only teaches the readers how to help out the environment, but encourages them to start conversations and get others involved in protecting the Earth as well.

Using this book in the classroom:
This book would be a great introduction to teaching students how to take responsibility in protecting the environment on their own.  I would start the lesson by having a discussion about the three R’s and ask the students how they are already involved in this social action.  I would then introduce and read this book to the class as a way to teach more about the topic and to teach other ways that the students might help out with protecting the Earth.  This book could be read once as a whole to get an overview of the ideas behind the book, and then each page could be used as a topic of discussion or potential project for the classroom.  I would do an activity in which the class would save some food scraps for a school compost pile.  I’d ask the students to save left over food from their lunch and perhaps even bring in some leftover food from home to create a compost.  We could also designate some bins in the classroom and/or to divide up materials to be recycled (plastics bin, paper bin, glass bin, etc.). 

Additional Information:
This book is published by Child’s Play.  They publish a wide variety of books that are all geared toward child learning.  Their website ( is listed on the bottom of the last back of the book (as well as in the "resources" link above) and can be used as a resources for finding other books or activities to incorporate in the classroom.  They have a section of the website geared especially for teachers.  The teachers section provides lesson plan ideas and information on other potentially helpful books for the classroom (they have a section dedicated to books on diversity and equality).    

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions

What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions by John Berstein (also known as Slim Goodbody)

+ Grade Level: 3 and up
+ 32 pages

+ Purchase Here
+ More info On Author/TV Personality/Health Crusader Slim Goodbody

Summary: What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions is a guide to brainstorming and deciding on the best possible path to follow in any given situation. The steps this book discusses are: Stop and Breathe; Collect the Facts; Now or Later?; Know Your Goal; Explore Your Options; Consider the Consequences; Take Action; and Review the Results. These steps together form a cohesive advisement about tackling an issue with a thought-out plan, including ways to decide on the most realistic methods of achieving what you want, and weighing the pros and cons of a potential idea.

Other very interesting side-topics include an introduction passage called "Brain Divide," which discusses some basic psychology in how logic and feelings don't always line up perfectly in the cerebrum; and an ending passage titled "Follow Your Own Path," which discusses how everyone is different and how the most important thing is to be true to your own values.

Element 6 (Social Action): What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions is a very practical guide to taking action, from plan to execution to reviewing the results. It is laid out in such a way that an elementary school student can understand and follow along with it all easily enough; and at the same time, its ideas are ones that even an adult would find great benefit from following.

How to Use It: What's great about What Should I Do?: Making Good Decisions is its versatility. It can be applied to any scenario in which a decision is to be made. And it can also be used for a wide age range. However, I would say it would be best used for students in fourth - sixth grade.

One specific example of this book can be used: During a unit on the Industrial Revolution, and child labor in the past and present, students can read each chapter of this book one at a time, stopping at the end of each chapter to apply it to the child labor issue. In the end, students would be able to come up with their own ideas on if and how to stop child labor in today's world, carefully deciding along the way which methods (if any) might be most effective. If the students want to do something but are not sure what to do, the teacher could present some options the students can weigh and decide on for themselves, such as a letter-writing campaign to policy-makers, linking with local organizations, or a boycott of companies which still use child labor.

Element 6 - Social Action


 Helping Others By Elizabeth Raum

Click Here to Purchase

Element VI: Social Action


        "Helping Others" is a great book for young children to read to learn how they can become involved in their community. There are a lot of vignettes in this book that shows famous people, such as former President Jimmy Carter, who first started helping out in his community by caring from animals and protecting cotton crops form insect and how those helping characteristics carried over to his adulthood into his presidency. It obvious that Elizabeth Raum want children to be upstanding citizens in their community by teaching them responsibility and problem-solving practices. In the book, it show children working independently as well cooperatively with adults and other children in social actions activities in a way that will promote a growth in their society or society further away. These social actions range from sorting recycling cans, fund-raising for UNICEF, collecting can donations to feed the hungry, and growing vegetables to donate to local soup kitchens. These societal problems happen all around the world. The amazing thing that this book demonstrates is that these were young people, as young as the age of six, who were tackling societal problems. Young children saw problems in their  community or further community and resource out to find solutions to those problems. Whether it was reaching out to a professional or gathering more friends to peers to help with their cause, young children found a way to correct a wrong in their community or a wrong in further society.
       "Helping Others" correlates to social action because it shows different problems local and global and how students can reach out and use their resources to create a better world. Teachers can use this book to show how even children their ages have raised awareness and took the first couple of steps to solving some of world's environmental or societal  problems that arouse to them. As a teacher and a future parent I would show young children that if they see a problem that they can be the ones that fix it, they do not have to wait for adults or anyone else to be the problem-solver. I would sit down with them and think about problem that community or global face. Then have them come up with some ideas that can troubleshoot the issue.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Element 6: Taking Social Action

Title: Take Action! A Guide to Active Citizenship 
Authors: Marc Kielburger and Craig Kielburger
Grade Level: 5
Element 6: Taking Social Action 

Take Action! A Guide to Active Citizenship is a how-to guide to taking social action. It is jammed packed with tips and strategies to help children make changes in their community, state, and around the world! Take Action! was written by Marc Kielburger and Craig Kielburger, who are founder of Leaders Today, an organization that is dedicated to helping young people become socially involved. The guide is broken down into five parts to provide students with a clear set of tools and strategies to address social issues. Part 1 displays the seven steps to social involvement. It discusses topics such as choosing an issue, doing research, building a team, and making a plan of action. Part 2 is the how-to guide for taking social action. Topics in the guide include: how-to set up a group, hold a meeting, write various forms of letters, give a speech, carry out a survey, write a petition, raise public awareness and support, and how to raise funds. Part 3 discusses places that children can get involved, which is of course, everywhere! Part 4 goes over a number of social issues such as human rights, children's rights, environment, hunger, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and peace. The final part of the guide shares resources for researching social issues. The book concludes by providing students with examples of leaders today. The end of the book also references Kids Can Free the Children, a group that C. Kielburger started when he was 12 years old. The group has grown dramatically over the years. They have built and opened 300 schools, shipped over 100,000 school and health kits, and continue to pressure government to enact laws to protect children.

Element 6: Taking Social Action
This book is absolutely representative of Element 6: Taking Social Action. The book provides countless opportunities to take action on social issues. The book provides students with a number of issues that they may feel passionate about and gives them the tools to take action against them. The guide supports students every step of the way in their fight against social injustice. Take Action! provides students with the skills they need to create change. It provides them with outlines for letter writing, public speaking, proposal writing, conducting surveys, raising funds and so much more. This book is a necessary tool in a social justice curriculum.

Classroom Activities:
This book can be used in so many different ways in the classroom. It is an excellent resource for both teachers and students. There are numerous outlines for letters, speeches, petitions, and proposals that teachers can turn into worksheets to scaffold student's writing process. This book is one that can continue to be pulled out throughout the entire year. I would use this book to guide my students as they take social action. For example, if we decided we were going to take action against unjust Child Labor Laws by writing letters to state representatives I would focus attention to the letter writing section of this book. We would discuss which type of letter would be most appropriate when writing to state representatives. The class could follow the guidelines in provided in the book in order to develop effective and appropriate letters. If I wanted to inspire my students to create change I would share with them the stories of others who have taken action against injustice. We could discuss the author of the book, Craig Kielburger, and how he began his own organization when he was just 12 years old! These are just a few of the many activities and uses for Take Action! in the classroom. 
Click here to read more about Craig Kielburger's organization, Kids Can Free the Children!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Element 6: Taking Social Action: Where Does the Garbage Go?

Title: Where Does the Garbage Go?
Author: Paul Showers
Illustrated: Randy Chewning
Grade Level: K-2
Element 6: Taking Social Action
Buy it here =D !

This book is narrated by a student who talks about what she is learning in the classroom about garbage. The book continues to fulfill the readers with very important facts like, how people use to get rid of trash and where it went.  It also talks about the process of where trash was piled, which became a problem the waste was affecting the ocean animals and would float back to the beaches where people were swimming! YUCK! The book explains how they changed the way they consumed trash by making landfills and making parks out of them. It also shows statistics that 50% of paper is in our landfill! So what could the students do to help make waste reusable? The teacher introduces the concept of recycling. It explains the way you can recycle at home, and what you could recycle. Finally, what can the students do to help the environment? The book demonstrates a "how-to'' section on ways you can recycle at home and the characters in the book continue to recycle in their community.

Element 6- Taking Action:
This book is representing element 6 because it provides opportunities to take action on issues that affect students and their communities. The story clearly shows why waste can be a problem, like pollution in the air and land that can be harmful to them. The students in the story feel passionate about what they are learning and uses their knowledge about it to create a small change first hand.

This book is an informative book, and I would use it as part of a whole week lesson plan. It has different sections of learning that can be separated into different activities. For example, the story emphasizes how paper, metal, plastic and other recyclable materials are recycled. We can do a science project in making paper. Click here for instructions on how to make paper. I would also have a field trip to a landfill, just like it is told in the book.  You can ask your students to make sure to recycle at home, and find out when are the recycling and waste days to make sure that they are recycling at home. I would also do an outside activity where the students are asked to go around the school and pick up any garbage or recyclable items and sort them out to their appropriate spots.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Author: Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete (with Denene Millner)
Illustrator: Shane W. Evans
Grade Range: K-4
Element Five: Raising Awareness
Buy here!

Summary: about a sister who has a brother, Charlie, who has autism.
My Brother Charlie is a wonderful book for anyone wanting to learn about autism, despite the books’ K-4 reading level. The pictures in this book are pleasing as it portrays everyday life and activities of children. Callie and Charlie are twins who share the same characteristics and interests but are different in many ways. I like the fact that the book listed their differences before stating the information that Charlie has autism. In this way the book highlights how Charlie is different the same way anyone is different. The book is written from Callie’s perspective and how special Charlie is to her and her family. Callie loves Charlie very much and Charlie loves her. Charlie expresses his love to her by his actions more so than words. The last few sentence at the end sums up the book: “Charlie has autism but autism doesn’t have him”. This book is an excellent example of raising awareness to realize that autism does not mean a person isn't a person.

Element 5- Awareness Raising
As a future special education teacher, learning about disability is essential for my career, however, general education teachers and anyone in general could benefit from this book. Learning about disabilities raises awareness and suppresses any discomfort that some may have.  In order to raise awareness, teachers should provide opportunities for students to learn about and respect differences so they can embrace the diversity we all bring into this world. This book offers as a tool to help explain autism and covers themes of acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, challenges, and abilities. Every student can benefit from this book, no matter the grade level, as autism is becoming more recognizable and identifiable. This book does a great job of describing the characteristics of autism and how families work together to help each other. This is also a great book for children because it does a nice job of showing how all children are special and how we can find the value of uniqueness in all people.

Classroom Activity: Before reading the book, I would brainstorm with my class what they know about autism. Then I would make a web on a poster board of all answers. Note: if you have difficulty with students coming up answers about autism, then help them with the information provided at this website: (Appendix A) and display on SmartBoard. Read the book aloud and then assemble students into small groups. Ask students to talk amongst themselves to make the connection that Charlie is just like them. I would then have the students draw a big picture of themselves and write characteristics about themselves inside their pictures. We would then relate it to each other’s as well as Charlie’s and Callie’s. I would debrief the students about Charlie’s disability on how he shares characteristics with other students and that everyone is unique in their own ways.

Element 5: Raising Awareness

Title: City Green
Author: Dyanne Disalvo-Ryan
Illustrator: Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan
Grade level: grade 1 to grade 3

Hardcover (New): $14.21
Hardcover (Used): starting at $2.97
More information about author and book:

 This book written and illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan, is about an intelligent young girl name, Marcy, who wanted to make a change in her neighborhood after a building was demolish due to it being unsafe. There stood an empty lot filled with dirt in the middle of a neighborhood. One day, during spring Mercy wanted to make a change. She wanted to do something with the lot.  Herself and her neighbor made a list with a few of the neighborhoods’ signature on it to ask to use the lot by the city. The city approved, so Mercy and her friend started to clean and plant all types of things on it. The whole neighborhood saw what they were doing and decided to step in and help. By the time summer came, there were so many different kinds of things that were growing in a lot that use to be empty. Now this place is an area where neighbors come together to relax and play. All of this happens with one little girls hope and passion to make a change.

SJE Element 5: Raising Awareness:
This book represent element 5 in many ways. It shows a child that with some effort and hope you can do anything to make a difference. They can inspire to make a change in their classroom or neighborhood by involving people around them. Even though this book gave an example of a neighborhood coming together to make an empty lot come to life. The child can use this example and change a view of a person on anything. Such ideas can be something that deals with discrimination, bullying, helping the environment, and more!  The book can demonstrate to a child that by raising awareness on an issue, it can bring people together.  This book also gives great colorful pictures, which will intrigue the students to get involve.

As an activity I would first read this book to the class.  Then I would ask them questions on what they have learned from this and tell me what they liked about it. I would then tell the students that they would try to get the whole student body and parents if possible, to help make a difference around the school. The students will make flyers to help clean the school by picking up trash and painting anything that needs to be painted. The students will be posting these flyers all over the school. They will see that just like in the book, they can get people involve just by making others around them aware of the issue that needs to be done. 

Extra help:
I found this helpful RIF guide for educators made for this book.  It shows you different ways you can teach this book, it includes lessons plans & activities package. It focuses on balanced literacy, vocabulary, and reading strategies.  Check it out the link is right below:

Wangari's Trees of Peace

Author: Jeanette Winter
Grade Level: 2
Resource: Information about Wangari's life
Wangari’s Trees of Peace is a story about a woman who returns back to her home in Kenya to find that deforestation has devastated the land. She plants some trees herself, and then tells the other women in the village to start to do the same. She asks them to spread the word to other women to start planting trees. She starts providing women with money and information about planting trees. When the women in other villages see that Wangari’s village is growing trees successfully, they begin to plant trees too. Wangari stands up to the men cutting down the trees and is put in jail. She briefly worries that her work will stop, but she is not alone because there are so many women planting trees.
 Element 5: Raising Awareness
This book jumped out at me while I was reflecting on element 5: raising awareness because of the way that Wangari empowers the women around her to do something about their situation. The women had to collect firewood from miles away and their land was barren. Wangari’s idea was simple and the women embraced it. The way that word spread teaches children that an idea can motivate change. This book teaches students that a lot of little things can result in big change.
I would incorporate this book into my lessons about earth day and reflect on the ways that we can make changes to improve our world. I could also use it to facilitate an activity in which we grow seeds and then plant them in the ground.