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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid
By: Daniel Stefanski (an autistic kid) 

Grade Level: 3-6

Daniel Stefanski, a 14 year old middle school student on the autism spectrum wrote this book to help readers (young and old!) better understand autism and the people who fall somewhere on the spectrum. Daniel's book goes beyond simply how to talk to a kid with autism and helps readers understand how they can break through the stereotypes of autism to understand that people with autism just understand things different. Daniel offers many suggestions from how to be a good friend to how to get along better with kids with autism. His hopes are that kids without autism will feel more comfortable around kids with autism and hopes fewer autistic kids will feel lonely. Through a series of situations that he and his friends go through almost on a daily basis, David helps readers understand how to navigate situations without hurting anyones feelings.

Element 6: Taking Social Action:
I believe that this book is a great example of Element Six because the book really takes an issue that affects so many communities and gives readers an easy to understand 'How To' lesson. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 1 in about 68 children, so its prevalence is widespread, especially in schools, and the chances that it exists in most schools is very likely. By addressing what kids with autism do and don't understand, and what they have trouble feeling, it can help other kids who are not on the spectrum to have acceptance and begin to understand at an early age that although kids with autism are different, they are still kids. The book does a great job at taking various situations and helping kids take social action into their own hands by giving them the tools to navigate these situations, when they otherwise may not know what to do. Daniel even helps readers by offering suggested language that is sensitive enough for kids with autism to understand.

First, it is important to gauge your classroom, depending on if it is inclusive or not, to see how comfortable students on the spectrum in your own inclusive class would be discussing their own autism to the class. If there is interest, have students on the spectrum get into groups with general education students have have students with autism discuss their own autism and perhaps come up with a few 'How To' guidelines. Students in groups will put together a mini-book with illustrations to present to the rest of the class.

In a general education classroom, have students choose a social action that they feel strongly about (unisex/transgender friendly bathrooms, recycling, tackling racism at school, bullying) and have them either in partners or individually put together mini 'How To' booklets on how to embrace the social justice issue and publish the books around the classroom for others to read.

In a special education classroom, have students each create a dedicated page that will make a class book. Each student will work with his or her parents on a special day in school to describe something that they wish to tell others about their disability or certain characteristics about the student that they would be grateful if others knew about them. Each student will present these characteristics to the class and help others learn what they could do to make the situation better. In early childhood classrooms, provide scaffolding like "What I don't see…" for students who do not understand body language or sarcasm, or "I do not like it when…" for students who are sensitive to loud noises or yelling.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Kid's Guide to Social Action


Title: The Kid’s Guide to Social Action


Author: Barbara A. Lewis

Element 6: Taking Social Action

            The Kid’s Guide to Social Action is a step by step guide for children on how they can change the world around them. Part 1 guides the reader to identify a problem and then further their understanding of it by doing the appropriate research. Part 2 teaches the reader different skills they can use for their social action project. Some of the skills include how to write a letter and tips on how to write a successful speech. Part 3 teaches children how they can bring about change in their local, state, and national levels of government. It takes the reader through ways they can initiate or change a law and teaches them how to get lawmakers to support their new bill. Part 4 is a list of a variety of resources including phone numbers for every state legislator, phone numbers and addresses of U.S government offices, and other social action organizations. Part 5 has tools and reprintable forms that teachers can photocopy and use. Throughout the book, there are real stories of children who are trying to bring about change in their communities.
            This book represents Element 6: Taking Social Action because it provides concrete steps the reader can take to bring about social change. It has students identify a problem that they notice and then provides various resources and information on how to take their ideas and make them a reality. It allows the reader to become proactive members in their communities.
Incorporating social action and allowing students to be proactive in bringing awareness and change to different issues related to social justice is important. When beginning a social action project, I would use the steps provided in part 1 to help guide the students in identifying a problem and situation that they want to change. The book can also be used when teaching about the parts and powers of the government. It can also be used in various subjects and different projects. I believe the book is a great resource that teachers can use throughout the year.

Can We Help?

Title: Can We Help?
Author: George Ancona
Grade level: K-3

Available for purchase at:

This book provides children with some examples of ways that they can help others in their community. The author, George Ancona, includes photographs on every page of the book. These images show children and adults doing volunteer work such as knitting hats and scarves for homeless families, planting and harvesting produce for people who don’t have enough to eat, distributing foods to needy families, and picking up trash to clean the environment. The author also explains how students can help their peers through tutoring and mentoring. The activities featured in this book can be accomplished by children of various ages.
Element 6: Taking Social Action
The photographs within this book show that young children can do things that will significantly impact their communities. Although children may believe that they are too young to make a difference, the photos prove otherwise. Through these images of community members coming together to help others, students can begin to understand that they have the ability to take social action and make changes.
Classroom Activity:
I would use this book as an introduction for students to see that they can help others within their community. In order for students to understand the importance of taking social action and bringing about change in their community, they can write about ways that they would like to see others helping and volunteering. I believe that by sharing their ideas with one another, they will realize how they can affect people's lives in positive ways.

Gabby & Grandma Go Green

Author & Illustrator: Monica Wellington

Grade Level: Pre-K to 2nd grade


Buy It Here!!

When Gabby visits her Grandma they always plan a day full of "go green" activities. Gabby learns step by step how to make a reusable bag only using recycled cloth materials. Grandma shows Gabby that the bags can be used  to bring bottles to be recycled and then for grocery shopping at the local farmer's market. They stop for a picnic in the park with their sandwiches they made from the fresh food they bought at the market. Next stop, the library! Gabby and Grandma search for books with even more ideas of projects to help save the Earth! Gabby and Grandma walk home to Grandma's house and Gabby fills her reusable bag with fabric to make more bags, she wants to make one that says "Go Green!".

Element 6- Taking Social Action
This book provides students with a step by step directional guide of how to make recycled bags out of cloth located in the back of the book. Throughout the book, there are helpful tips and sayings of how you can go green to help save the Earth on the border of each page. Some of these tips include "change to long-life light bulbs" and "use cloth napkins instead of paper". All of the tips can easily be applied to anyone's daily activities and people of all ages can participate in them.

Classroom activity: 
Gabby & Grandma Go Green provides students with the knowledge of reusable bags. I would create a lesson off of this and have the students bring in their own reusable bags. I would then set up different stations throughout the classroom such as a Farmer's Market, Recycle Center and a School station. The students would demonstrate how their cloth bag can be used for many activities all in the same day. For example, the students would visit the "Recycle Center" first and drop off their recyclable,  materials, then they would visit the "Farmer's Market" and pick up fresh food, next they would use the same bag to bring their books to the "School station". Students will then reflect and discuss where else they can use their reusable bags and how it helps save the Earth.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers Strike of 1909

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

By: Michelle Markel

Pictures by: Melissa Sweet

Grade Level: 3-5



Clara came to America with high hopes and excitement towards her new life. However, she quickly realized that her father would not get hired anywhere so Clara took a job in the garment industry. She soon learns that the working conditions are unfair and unethical. Clara never quit, she went to school at night, she spent her time studying English and she never stopped fighting for women's rights in the workplace. Clara organized the Shirtwaist Makers Strike of 1909 and showed young and old women everywhere to never give up and never stop fighting. This is a story about taking action for what is right.

Element 6: Taking Social Action:
I believe that this book is element six because it is a perfect example of taking a stand and taking action against something that needs to be changed. Clara shows an excellent example of how to take a stand and stand up for what is right. She was able to change the garment industry and form unions. This is a strong message to children to never give up, never stop fighting, and stand up for what is right.

One activity the students can do with this book is to have students split into groups and come up with their own picket signs for the strike that Clara had for the shirtwaist factory. Then as a class we can brainstorm something they feel needs to be changed within either their lives or their school and set a plan to create change. Once the students have come up with a plan, the students can use it to inform other people and then take social action to create change.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving

Author: Ellen Sabin

Illustrator: Kerren Barbas

Grade Level: Preschool - Grade 3

Buy it here!



Appropriately, Ellen Sabin’s The Giving Book begins with a page addressed to the recipient from the giver of the book describing the many benefits of giving. The book also allows the student to add his or her name as a co-author as well as insert the student’s picture on the cover.  The book begins with an explanation of what giving is all about and how it works and contains many colorful illustrations and easily understood language.  A student gets the opportunity to add his or her definition of giving and what “charity” means to the student.  In addition, the book contains many pages that allow the student to write his or her own answers to a variety of questions about how he or she has helped others and what he or she hopes to accomplish in the future with regard to charitable activities.  One section of the book, called “Your Actions Make a Big Difference” provides a place for the student to chronicle who he or she helped and how and provides space for the student to comment.  The book also provides a chart where the student can keep track of the money he or she has saved that will be put in the student’s “giving bag” for future good causes.  Additional pages are provided for the student to draw pictures of himself or herself while helping others.  Overall, The Giving Book introduces the concept of social action in very kid-friendly terms and encourages the student to begin a life-long practice of helping others who are less fortunate.

Element 6: Taking Social Action

I believe The Giving Book is an excellent example for young students to introduce the concept of social action.  Students are given several examples of activities  they can partake in and are also allowed to brainstorm their own thoughts about how they can give back to the community or help those in need.  The Giving Book shows that everyone can make a difference and have a positive affect on the community, even young children.

Class Activity: 

I would use The Giving Book to introduce to my class the concept of social action in the form of charitable giving.  Each student would have a copy of the book and personalize it as Ellen Sabin intended with their name and picture.  The Giving Book, I believe, is something that can be used throughout the school year as a way of incorporating character education.  I would also have my class brainstorm about what kind of social action project they would like to undertake and provide them with the tools necessary to have their ideas become a reality in the school or community.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Kid's Guide to Service Projects

Author: Barbara A. Lewis

Grade Level: 3rd and up

If you enjoyed The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects, click here to check out Real Kids Real Stories Real Change to read real life stories of children doing incredible things to better the lives of people all around the world!

Resource: Click here to access Youth Service America (a program committed to helping children find their voice and take action) to find ideas for service projects by category.  


The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects is a complete guide that students can utilize to make a difference in their communities.  Organized in an approachable manner, Barbara Lewis provides students with real-life stories of children making an impact, both big and small, in their communities and around the world.  The book breaks down service projects into commonly advocated for topics: animals, politics, community development, homelessness, the environment, friendship, health and wellness, etc.  The next section of the book delves into the “how to’s” of service projects.  In these chapters, the author gives students step-by-step guides in creating components that may go into their service project (such as posters, proposals, lobbying, etc.).  The most important thing this book does is empower students to take on service projects no matter how big or small, and allows them to realize that anyone can make a difference.

Element #6: Taking Social Action:

The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects provides a perfect “blueprint” of what it means to take social action.  Filled with inspiration, tips, and resources, The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects empowers students to take on social action, gives them a clear guide of how to successfully take on social action, and inspires them to never give up.  This book could be particularly impactful to students because the plethora of topics allows every student to find an area that is relatable to their lives.  Whether they are seeing crime first-hand in their communities, are being bullied or know someone being bullied, or simply love animals and want to make the world a better place for them and the people who live here, this book gives students a wide array of topics or inspiration to choose from.  Further, giving students the how-to guides, complete with step-by-step instructions of how to plan and implement various aspects of service projects, only sets them up for more success.


The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects is filled with so many ideas and inspiration that it could be used in virtually any Social Studies lesson (it could also be used across content areas to simultaneously address a social studies standard).  An example of how it could be used in the classroom is to have the students read an informational text on waste, and perhaps develop a passion for curbing waste in their communities.  Students could access this text to follow step-by-step instructions on how to put a recycling program in place in their school or home communities.  By utilizing the guided how-to’s throughout the book, students could learn how to create effective flyers, PSA’s, and even attempt to enact an ordinance or law.