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.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Title: Wings
Author & Illustrator: Christopher Myers
Grade level: 2-3
Interest level: P-3

Available for Purchase from Scholastic and Amazon
Learn more!  New York Times Book Review of Wings
Christopher Myers talking about his book
Other books by Christopher Myers

Summary: Wings, by Christopher Myers, illustrates the story of Ikarus Jackson, a young African American boy who is new to his community and soars above rooftops using his "long proud wings." The story is narrated through the viewpoint of a young girl in Ikarus' neighborhood who admires him and the radiating confidence he displays as he moves across the sky. Ikarus' initial self-efficacy shines through his ordinary clothes, hair, and shoes. However, his peers, a teacher, and authority figures ridicule his individuality and shake his spirit. When Ikarus' classmates resent and denounce the size of his wings, he doesn't soar across the sky with the same pride, but drags his wings out of school and drifts away slowly disappearing into the sky. Empathizing with her hero, the narrator relates to Ikarus' loneliness as she also endures harsh criticism for her quiet nature. Soon, an epiphany emerges when the narrator regrets her passivity during Ikarus' poor treatment and not standing up for her friend. Running through the streets, she finds Ikarus has been punished for hanging around rooftop pigeons. Such exaggerated consequences based on false judgment of Ikarus' character upset her, and she recognizes this as an injustice. Ikarus hits rock bottom in flames, which prompts the narrator to stand up and do something about it. Giving admiration to Ikarus and his unique spirit, they both realize that what is on the inside makes us beautiful. Their unified confidence is what rises them up over the villains in their lives with the most power. Despite the discrimination and injustices these characters endure, the heroes persevere with pride and do so together. Through vivid written imagery and pages of ornate paper cut-out artwork, this story teaches a meaningful lesson with the appropriate grit and honesty we need to reevaluate ourselves and our society.

Element 1: Self Love & Knowledge: Wings is a story featuring a fantasy element ("wings") that serve as a meaningful metaphor for Ikarus' self-efficacy. Having confidence within and confidence in others is what yields love and acceptance, marking an essential component of the 6 pillars of social justice. While Ikarus' pride is momentarily rattled, his friend and narrator guides him back to his center by reminding him of his own worth and therefore inspiring him to find the love within himself again.  The narrator is then driven to reflect on her own experiences where she has felt defeated by the judgment of others. When she finally offers Ikarus praise, "your flying is beautiful," this action serves as a defining moment in the story. For Ikarus, the narrator, and the reader, we look within ourselves to find our own wings. together, we realize that we all have strengths within us that will help us fly, empowering us to do anything we put our mind to and to love ourselves in the process.

Classroom activity: This story teaches readers valuable lessons on confidence, identity and self-reflection to cultivate acceptance within oneself and for respect for the individuality that makes us all unique. I would use this book as a resource for a 2nd or 3rd grade classroom activity that will inspire students to make connections with each other to find out what gives their peers "wings." In pairs, students an probe each other with questions that make connections to the reading in reflection of their own lives. Through this probing, questions will inform their partner of what strengths give their peer wings and feel good about themselves. They will then compose a tribute to their peer based on what they learned about them. Students can also decorate their wings through artwork or write their actual tribute on a pair of wings. Tributes can be self-assessed and presented to their classmates so that everyone can learn about and honor the unique characteristics that act as their classmate's wings.


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