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, February 1, 2016

The Skin You Live In

Title: The Skin You Live In
Author: Michael Tyler
Illustrator: David Lee Csicsko
Grade Level: K-3 

For purchase: click me.
For more informal reviews: click me.
Also, click me for some insight from Publisher's Weekly.

"And like the wonderful flowers in the fields that make wonderful views, when we stand side-by-side in our wonderful hues ... We all make a beauty, so wonderfully true. We are all special and different and just the same, too!"

This children's book addresses self-esteem in younger students. At a certain age, there is a time when students realize that they have a certain skin color, as well as their own talents, interests, and flaws as a part of their individual identities. This book takes this incredible, difficult journey of learning about oneself and makes it realistically simple, silly, and completely frank in it's child-likeness. In a playful, poetic manner, the story starts with statements that address what children do every day in the skin that we live in. Then, it moves into defining the various types of skin colors that anyone could possibly be, in a fun, original way. Lastly, the story emphasizes loving one's own skin and not comparing it to other people's skins, which is further develops into not comparing who you are on the inside with who others may be on the inside. It is an honest evaluation that everyone does something that is respectively unique while being able to relate to others. It all starts with being comfortable and glad in one's own, unique, skin.

Element I: Self-Love and Knowledge
This is when teachers allow for students to really reflect on who they are. With this children's book, a sense of pride comes from this light-hearted take on our individual skin color. "The Skin You Live In" provides such a simply elegant way to view ourselves. For elementary students who are just learning about their own identities, this kind of lesson is so important. It is essential for students to love and know exactly who they are and how beautiful they are. In addition, it is impertinent that students understand that their own skin color goes beyond race. We each have our own skin shade to love and identify with when we see ourselves, view ourselves, and understand ourselves. Exposing students to the differences prepares the students to begin to respect one another for Element II.

Relating to the Classroom
At first, I was thinking of doing self-portraits with the students. We could preface the lesson with looking at ourselves and one another and realizing that we are all different, but the same. After the reading the book, I'd like to ask the students to raise their hands if they laugh, smile, cry, jump, sing, dance, and more. As students begin to get excited and raise their hands and see that everyone else is raising their hands, that we all have a lot in common. I would also be participating and telling the students that I laugh, cry, jump, sing, smile, and dance too. But I also listen, I love, and I learn, which would then prepare for Element II: Respect for Others. At this point, we would start our self-portraits, but I'd also as the students, "What else can your skin do?" The book gave the example, "The skin you have fun in; the skin that you run in; the skin that you hop, skip, and jump in the sun in ..." I'd like for my students to draw themselves with their families, with their friends, while they're playing sports, while watching movies, and while reading, or writing, or any of their other favorite hobbies. The top of their portrait would say, "My skin ..." and the students would fill in the blank. I'd like for the parents to come in and see how proud the students are of their own skin color, their backgrounds, and their lives. We have skin that we live in, and we can all do what we can productively put our minds to. We all realize that each and every one of us is beautiful in our own way. 

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