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, November 30, 2015

Take Action!: A Guide to Active Citizenship

 Title: Take Action!:A Guide to Active Citizenship
Authors:Marc Kielburger & Craig Kielburger
Element 6: Taking Social Action
Grade : 6th
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                                                           Summary :
This book is a step by step how to guide about becoming an active citizen.It thoughtfully organizes how to get involved to make social change.The first part of the book tells you the seven steps to social change which is  to choose your issue you want to get involved with to make a change,next you need to do your research,build a team,call team meetings,make a plan of action,take action and review to bring about change and most importantly have fun while doing so!The second section of the book is all how to guides such as how to use the phones,hold meetings,write letters,doing surveys,petitions and public speaking.The third part of the book is about places one can get involved such as home,school,community and government.The last two sections of the book are how to tackle the social movement according to rights and other resources and sources to use about the social change.This book gives valuable tips,strategies and examples of how to bring about change!

                                            Element 6: Taking Social Action
 This element is all about bringing forth social change.Element 6 is all about  trying to help students find a way to create their social change.It is about students taking charge but what if they don't know how?This book will fit perfectly into any teachers classroom to bring about change.The book teaches about public speaking, writing letters, holding meetings and creating petitions.This book is very helpful in helping students be an active part of the community and society by teaching them the steps to bring about change.

As a class the teacher and students can come up with a relatively easy goal to bring about change within the community.The students can research and gather their information on their problem.The teacher can help facilitate the groups within the classroom and have the students do several activities within this guided book such as write the letters, make a survey or make speeches and try to make their social change within their community.

We Shall Overcome

Title: We Shall Overcome
Written by Debbie Levy
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Element 6: Taking Social Action
Grade Level Interest: K-3 grade
Reading Level: 6th grade

            This picture book is about the power of a song to make a change. The book starts with discussing slavery and goes through singing the song in church, on the streets, in marches, across states, at home, in Africa, across the globe, up until our present time when Obama got elected as President. This book shows where the song started and all the places and people it touched. All of these people and places took action to sing this song and protest for their rights, and even the rights of others. The book ends with a very strong message, that people are still struggling against freedom, poverty, fairness, etc. and that we will all overcome. It states that everyone is a human being and should be treated equally and with respect. There is also a timeline at the end of the book that shows different points in time and how people singing this song brought upon change.

Element 6: Taking Social Action
            This book specifically targets social change in regards to the song that was created and sung as a statement. Element 6 involves taking a stand about something you believe in, to better the world and the community you live in. The creation of this so powerful that it started a movement, which resulted in social action against the government and people who believed in segregation. The end of the novel shows the results of the song and how taking action created positive change in our society. A black president was elected as a result of African Americans taking action against the government and powerful white people. The book even states that we need to have the mindset that everyone is human therefore everyone should be respected because there are still individuals suffering. If those individuals begin to take action, then they will create change.

            I would first start by having a shared reading in my classroom. The pictures and the way the book is written are interesting and will engage my students. I will then have each student reflect on a point in their life where they have stood up for what they believe in or have witnessed someone take action. They will then draw a picture about the situation they described and writing only a few sentences to describe their picture. In one sentence under the description, they must write one thing that they will take action against at home or in their community. I will make sure to include examples such as taking action and recycling, conserving water, etc.  These will be displayed outside the classroom, with the title of the book above all the pictures. My hopes for this activity is for students passing by or in other classrooms can notice simple ways we can take action, and encourage them to take social action for something they strongly believe in.

For other activities, reference this link as aguide! 

Junk Food- What It Is, What It Does by Judith S. Seixas

Junk Food- What It Is, What It Does
Author: Judith S. Seixas
Illustrator: Tom Huffman
Grade: 3rd to 5th Grade

Junk Food- What It Is, What It Does by Judith S. Seixas is a book informing children and other readers about the food we commonly put into our bodies. The book describes the foods we need in our body, how our body works, sugars, fats, salts, additives, meal plan selections, and making your own judgement to help create a balanced diet. The book informs the readers about the dangers in many different junk foods and the negative effects it can have on your body. The book presents itself with a child friendly approach with many illustrations and diagrams to show detrimental treatment to the human body, as well as other long term implications that can be avoided. The book gives you samples of balanced meals and gives a very general overview of what we should or should not eat. Seixas provides the readers with options and examples that children can use. 

Element 6: Taking Social Action
One can debate that this is more suited for raising awareness, but it is a major contributor. With an obesity epidemic on the rise, the book can be used to make changes within people's lives. With a very simplistic guideline and approach, "to watch for additives, unsaturated fats, and foods with immense amounts of sodium", it gives a great opportunity for students to start  looking into the benefits of a proper diet, and what foods like junk foods can do to the body. The book provides not just awareness of these issues, but a solution and a choice one can make. It helps develop a students stance on this issue, and ways to promote the values expressed from the book. Seixas also mentions the amount of water a human should ingest, as drinks with many added sugars and unnatural sweeteners can cause diabetes. 

First the class would have an interactive read-aloud, progressively asking questions about the class's dietary practices. After completing a read aloud of the book, Junk Food- What It Is, What It Does by Judith S. Seixas, students will then have a week long assignment, logging the nutritional facts of their entire meal each week. The diet log can be used in and out of class, strategically in the morning logging their breakfast, after lunch during the day, and dinner done for a homework assignment. They also can log athletic activities they do. With this activity, they can see for themselves what they are eating and the food they are putting in their bodies. The students can write a letter to food companies to stop using additives, or alternatively write a persuasive letter to the board of education about the food selections used in cafeteria foods. 

What Do You Do With An Idea?

What Do You Do With An Idea?

What Do You Do With An Idea?
Author: Kobi Yamada 
Illustrator: Mae Besom 
Grade: Pre K-2nd Grade 

Summary: What to do with an idea? is a book that offers much more than an amazing story but it offers a wonderful idea to challenge readers on changing the world. Creative and mindful writing along with vivid illustrations takes the reader through a story of a little boy and his magical idea. Along his journey with his idea portrayed as a golden egg wearing a crown we see him struggle with his idea, getting scared and nervous, even uncomfortable as to what to do with this idea. In the beginning he almost wants nothing to do with this idea because it only makes him unsure. Soon enough as they spend more time together and he starts to warm up to the idea of his idea! This little boy now accepts what he has and wants to share it with the world, even though some laugh at his idea, he knows he change the world with it. What he realizes through all of this is that he needs to support, take care of, and love his idea because of how special and important it is to him. This idea that this little boy has had all along gave him the ability to see the world differently and with a different perspective. He learns something very valuable in his journey and that is with perseverance and dedication, an idea can change the world and yourself forever.

Element 6: Taking Social Action 
           In this element we are to explore the opportunities to take action on issues that affect students and their communities. What is great about element 6 is that it gives students a chance to identify issues that are important and meaningful to them and find a way in order to change these issues personally. This is the last element and elements 1-5 have set us up with the knowledge and skills in order to take action on the issues that have been affecting us and the ones that still are. This is a chance as teachers to encourage students to have an idea that they create on their own and are passionate enough about so they can change the world. We want our students to feel empowered by what they can do and if they take action on their idea they can change themselves along with helping others. The story, What to do with an idea? sends an indirect but completely clear message to young children that many leaders and mentors have shared before. It’s the message that no matter how big, small, weird, or normal an idea is, if you are patient, persistent and take action on it, change can happen. The reason that this books works well for element 6, especially with young children is because it turns away from the typical books about taking social action that children are already familiar with. This book allows teachers to bring students back to their roots as to how these social actions even start and how do they take place. They happen because someone somewhere has a brilliant idea that they are passionate about and want to use it to make a difference. This is a great book to read to a young audience so we can have our future generation of students be individuals who aren’t afraid to take action on their ideas!

Activity: This is a great book to introduce to a young grade level and before reading it to the class, I would want to know their “ideas” about what they might think this book is about. I would ask the students to look at the picture on the cover page, while my hand is covering the title so I can ask “What do you think this story will be about”? or “What do you think is going to happen in this story?” just based off of the illustration on the cover page. After revealing the title of the book, I would then ask students to think of an idea they have that will help solve an issue whether in their life, or in school, or in the community or in the world. I would want them to hold on to this idea throughout the story. I would also be asking my students while reading the story, “Have you ever had an idea that you were unsure about”? or “Have you ever had an idea that you were scared to share”? or “Have you ever felt the same way as this little boy before”? All questions that can help my students relate to the story. As an activity, I would have the children go back to their desk and think about that idea that they I told them to hold on to in the beginning of class. Then I would tell my students to draw a picture and write 3-5 sentences about an idea they have on how to help solve an issue in the world by taking action on it. After everyone is done with this activity, I would collect everyone’s paper and create a book for the class. I can then read the book after putting it together to share everyone’s ideas on taking social action.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Author: unknown
Illustrator: Jess Stockham 
Grade level: Pre-K-Kindergarten 

Element 6: Taking Social Action 

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Summary: Recycling! is a great children’s book that helps readers understand how we can recycle in our daily lives. The story follows two children and their mission to recycle and make the environment a better place to live in by using the Three R’s; reduce, reuse, and recycle. In order to reduce the damage to their environment, a few of the actions the characters take include recycling their batteries and cans, reusing each other’s clothes, and planting their own vegetable garden. The detailed illustration helps readers visually see how they can recycle and provides children with real tasks that they can accomplish on their own. The book also does an excellent job raising key vocabulary that is essential to know about recycling. Once readers come to the the end of the book, there is a glossary that explains what happens to our recycling and a description of the Three R’s, which is helpful for children who need further explanation.  

Element 6 (Taking Social Action): This book exposes the various social actions that two children take in order to help their environment. The illustrations help young children see how they can go about helping the environment and certain symbols provided on the images show children what they should look for in their own environment, when they want to reduce, reuse, or recycle. Furthermore, readers see characters their own age take part in a social action to save the environment and this can captivate their interests to help, too. After reading the book, a teacher can have their students take the social actions seen in the book and implement them into their home and school life. For example, a teacher can provide various bins in their classroom that can be used to recycle different materials or make a vegetable garden with their students. There are countless social actions that can be taken after reading this informational book to children.

Activity: I will use this book in a kindergarten classroom. After reading the story, I will have my students get together on the reading carpet and come up with “Go Green Tips” that we can practice in our classroom. After coming up with the ideas, the students and I can work together in order to make our classroom more environmental friendly. Once we complete this activity, students will create their own booklet of how they can reduce, reuse, and recycle in their own home or school environment. Since this activity will be done with kindergarteners, clear images of how we can recycle will be on paper, and students will be asked to color the images, cut them out, and make a booklet. Writing will not be necessary, however, students should be able to explain each image and how it represents one of the Three R’s.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Curious Garden

Title: The Curious Garden
Author: Peter Brown
Grade level: PreK-3

Liam lived in a very dull city that lacked vegetation. One day, while he was exploring the top of an abandoned railway, he came across a patch of dying flowers. These flowers were in desperate need of a gardener and Liam knew he could help. He watered them and nurtured them back to life. As the weeks went by, the flowers started looking beautiful and happy again. When winter came and covered the flowers with snow, all he could do was prepare for the spring. When the snow finally melted, Liam returned to the flowers and cared for them again. The flowers started to grow uncontrollably and their weeds traveled down the walls of the railway, making their way into people’s yards and around the city. Liam was most surprised to see all the new gardeners that the flowers had brought around his community. Years later, the city was covered with vegetation and pretty flowers. Liam continued to visit his favorite spot where he first found that little patch of dying flowers. 

Element 6: Taking Social Action
This book exemplifies element six because the main character takes part in a social action that ends up positively affecting his whole community. His passion towards gardening and keeping vegetation alive ends up spreading flowers across the entire city. What makes him the happiest is seeing all the new gardeners (the people living in his community) outside, nurturing the flowers in their yards as well. The city went from being dull and colorless to lively and beautiful thanks to Liam and his social action of making the community a greener place.

To expand upon Liam’s social action, I will finish the lesson with a fun before/after activity. I will distribute worksheets that have two squares side-by-side on them, the left square labeled “Before” and the right square labeled “After.” I will ask students to draw a picture of what the city looked like before (left square) and after (right square) Liam found the patch of flowers on the railway. Students will be able to color their drawings while discussing what they drew with the people sitting around them. Students will also write a sentence or two underneath their pictures explaining what they have drawn.
Why Should I Save Water?

Author: Jen Green
Illustrator: Mike Gordon
Grade Level: Pre-k – Kindergarten

Element 6: Taking Social Action

Summary: Why Should I Save Water? will teach students how important clean water is and how important it is to preserve it. Through heavy use of illustrations, readers are told and shown several ways in which they and their families can conserve their water usage. When Kirsty sees her neighbor wasting water, she tells him the dangerous of wasting water and what would happen if all the water was to disappear. Kirsty walks her neighbor through a list of things him and his family do in their everyday life that wastes a lot of water, and then teaches him how to conserve it. In the text, Kirsty teaches her neighbor, and the readers, that simple things like turning the faucet off when you’re brushing your teeth or washing full loads of laundry instead of several small loads will conserve water usage.

How does it represent SJE6? Why Should I Save Water? promotes the understanding that our most important natural resource, water, is extremely important to our everyday life and it should not go to waste. Kirsty explains to her neighbor several ways he could conserve his water usage and then he takes that information and shares it with his family so they too can conserve their water usage. This book triggers a lot of classroom discussion and allows for students to take home some questions and discussion topics so they can be socially aware of their water usage at home and share that knowledge with their family.

How would I use it? I would use Why Should I Save Water? by having the class create a list of things they use water for and if they believe their water usage is good or not and in what ways they can conserve water. Also, I think that an interesting approach to this book is to use it as an introduction to a unit about water conservation and the water cycle. I think if students understand when and how they’re using too much water, it could be a good idea to begin a lesson to teach them how the water got their homes to begin with and how the water cycle works.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Take Social Action and VOTE!

Title: VOTE!
Author and Illustrator: Eileen Christelow
Social Justice Element: #6 Taking Social Action

VOTE! is a how-to book on voting; it talks about what voting is, why, how, what and where you do it. It's a great book for children to get a good first lesson on voting because although it is mainly about political elections, it relates to simpler things to vote on like a family voting on which puppy they want to buy. This makes it a very relatable book for children of young ages.  In the back of the book there is even a glossary, more information about political parties and a timeline on voting. This book represents the 6th element of taking social action because voting is a fantastic approach to taking social action and has quite a bit to do with most things involving taking social action.

Ideally, I would use this book on Election Day in a 2nd or 3rd grade classroom. We would use this book for a read aloud to briefly talk about election day and what is involved in the process. This is a great way to make use of your reading lesson for the day because you can still teach about Election Day without taking away from the content areas. After reading the book we would have a vote on whether we should write a reaction to the story or do vocabulary from the story (from the words in the glossary). 

If you want to learn more about this book and/or purchase it, you can do so here!