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, October 5, 2015

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

The Other Side 
Author: Jacqueline Woodson 
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis 
Grade Level: K-3

Summary: This books tells a story about two young girls, Clover and Annie who live next door to each other. Clover sees Annie everyday playing outside, she is curious to who she is and wants to meet her. Unfortunately there is a fence dividing Clover and Annie. It would be simple for Clover to climb right over the fence, but that is forbidden according to Clover's mother. The fence is not only separating Clover and Annie from becoming friends but it is also separating two sides of the town they live in, the black side and the white side. Clover and Annie are dealing with racial separation in their town but just because a fence is in between these two young girls, it does not stop them from fighting against this separation. Clover and Annie find away to be brave and free so they can become friends because a wooden fence is not going to stop they from what they believe and from what they want to do.  

Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice 
          In this element we are to explore deeper the issues of social injustice ranging from racism, sexism, religion and so forth. Elements 1 and 2 have set our students up with learning how to accept ourselves and cultures as well as respect for others. Now in this element we can look deeper at how these issues and forms of oppression have affected different groups and cultures. More importantly how they affected the children of these groups and what they go through in dealing with these forms of oppression. This is a chance that as teacher we can link back to history and the experiences that impacted these people. The social injustice issue of racism is one that can be covered every year in every grade. Segregation of white and black was only a part of the oppression that African Americans had to go through. They were not only physically separated from the whites but over all not allowed to do or be with them in anyway, strictly "because that's the way its always been" according to Clover's mom from The Other Side. The book states that the reason this is the way it is is because blacks have always been inferior the whites. Even though the book starts out by explaining the separations they are going through, in turns everything around by showing two girls who recognize that they have different color skin but still want to be friends. They don't believe and see what adults and the rest of the world sees, which is separation. This is a story of two young girls fighting against separation for social justice and how powerful young minds can actual be. 

Activity: First I would introduce this book to the class and before reading it, I would ask them to make predictions. "What do you think this story is about?" or "What do you think is going to happen in this story?". Then I would read the story to the class and ask them questions during the reading such as "Why are they separated? Do you think that it is okay that they are separated?" and "Would you go over and ask Annie if she wants to play?". As an activity, I would then have the children go back to their desks and independently write a letter. They would be able to chose to write a letter either to the mayor of that town or either one of Clover or Annie's parents, explaining why the fence should be take down, why they shouldn't be separated and why they should be able to play together.
After they write their letters, I would have them exchange them with another student so that everyone can receive a letter to open and have them read what their fellow peers have said. This will be able to engage in conversations on this topic and students would be able to see what ideas, values and beliefs they have in common with each other. 

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