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.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Giant Steps to Change the World by: Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee

Title: Giant Steps to Change the World
Author: Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee
Illustrator: Sean Qualls
Grade Level: 3rd-4th grade

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For more information about Giant Steps to Change the WorldSpike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee, and Sean Qualls or possible lessons Click Here!


Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee is an inspiring children's book about taking action. Throughout the book, the authors discuss many issues that someone can go through while trying to make a difference. However, they emphasize the idea of pushing through and believing in ones-self. The challenges that are mentioned in the book are also compared to famous examples of people who went through similar things. Their names were not said specifically, however, the person is briefly described with what they accomplished. Each person described is named in the front and back covers of the book along with a quote they have said. This includes people such as Jesse Owens, Marva Collins, Ben Carson, Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa, Langston Hughes, Albert Einstein, Tuskegee Airmen, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barak Obama, and Neil Armstrong. The book ends posing a question to the reader, "what's your next step going to be?" This allows children to think about issues they see and how they can be changed. This would be a great book to start children in thinking about different actions they would like to take. 

Element 4: Social Movement and Social Change:

Giant Steps to Change the World discusses twelve perfect examples of people who beat the odds and changed the world. Each one of them is briefly described with their accomplishments and some hardships that they went through. This represents Element 4: Social Movement and Social Change because the students will see different examples of people who are represented in social justice movements throughout history. The students have learned about a variety of groups who were impacted by social justice movements in Element 3. They can now connect specific people with the groups. Giant Steps to Change the World will show the children that even through all the hardships and struggles, people pull through and can make a difference. The entire book is about inspiring children to want to take action on an issue they recognize is occurring. The main idea is that students will think as though anything can be accomplished if they feel strongly enough about a topic. Because the book ends asking, "what's your next step going to be," the students understand it is important to make a difference and they can do it too. 

Use in Classroom:

Giant Steps to Change the World is an inspiring book for children to want to take social action. Lessons can be done previous to or after reading the book about the people it connects to, so the students can understand more about what these people did. The quotes in the book can be used as a matching game to the descriptions given about them. The students will be able to connect the names with their actions and visualize the change being made and the story behind it. Then the students can choose a problem they notice around them. This could be a big social issue or a small problem they see around school, because the first step does not need to be big. From this, the students can plan ways to make a change with these issues and begin to take action. This could be things like writing letters to a company or organization, talking to the principal, or making something to put around the school or the town. They can continue to follow up with their projects and see what type of difference they made. Each student can record the steps they took and results. These recordings can be made into a class book of impacts allowing others to read their book and be inspired as well. 

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