Friday, February 16, 2007

Fireboat: The Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maria Kalman

Summary: Fireboat is the real-life story of the John J. Harvey, which was first launched in 1931. After many years of service fighting fires along the Hudson River, the boat was finally retired. In 1995, several New Yorkers bought and restored the old fireboat. This inspiring book tells how, and why, the Harvey was called into service again on September 11, 2001.

1)Students write a poem describing the characteristics of a hero
2)Students make appreciation cards for people who have jobs that impact the students' lives
3)Characteristics of Heroes: Write a list of character traits on the board (like bravery, intelligence, etc). Go through the character traits one at a time and discuss whether each particular trait would make a person a hero. Then have the group write down which of those traits they see in their friends and in themselves.
4) Empathy and Peace Building Activities
5) "If I Were a Hero, I Would…" Will they care about their friends, help their parents, be kind to people, say hello to neighbors? This exercise encourages students to think of themselves as heroes and feel good about it.

Social Justice Education: Covers all areas
Through the activities listed above, students will learn about self-love and acceptance, in addition to respecting and loving other people.

This book can also be used to discuss what happened on September 11th, andthe children can generate ideas on how the protect their country. What would they do if they were the President?

Sunday, February 11, 2007



"I See The Rhythm" is a very rich book with beautiful illustrations on the history of African American music. It goes into great detail how music has evolved over the past 500 years; from early 1500's to present day. Additionally, NYC's legendary Savoy Ballroom, the Apollo Theater, and the Cotton Club are given special focus.


This is a Wonderful book that provides the history of African American music alongside with information and dates of what has transpired historically. Igus makes it easy to connect history to each musical era.

Activity in Social Studies:

Students can work with maps of Africa and the U.S. and show how blacks originated in Africa and migrated to the U.S. They can then begin to connect the different musical eras that have evolved:
Slave Songs, Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, Swing, BeBop, Gospel, R&B, Rock-n-Roll, Funk, and Rap/Hip Hop.

Social Justice Education:

Students will learn self-love and acceptance as they learn about their own culture; respect for others as they learn about other cultures; exploring issues of social justice as racism, sexism, and classism are confronted; social movements and social change show how people have struggled for social change; and taking social action- students will understand how music has worked towards a non-violent social change.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester

Summary: This book explores the issue of race and racism. What would happen if there was no race? Aren't we all the same? Each individual has their own story, and their race is just one part of their whole person. Filled with beautiful illustrations and uses more developed concepts of race.

Reflection: The book presents several stories of different people, and demonstrates how not everyone is the same, however, we all are still human, and therefore, we are all equal. This book gets across this idea strongly, and is a great source for discussion about race and concepts revolving around human equality. I would gear this book to children 2nd grade and above, for maximum advantage.

  • Each student creates a portrait of themselves, and explains their story.
  • Useful for debates about race and its existence in our society
  • Exercise in multiple perspectives and stories of individuals
  • Students create a play in which each child gives a monologue of their own story
  • Make a mural of all students, one with their skin color, and one without, showing that no matter what skin color an individual is, they have the same interests, etc.
**This book reflects all stages of the social justice pillars.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Harlem Stomp: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance
By: Laban Carrick Hill

This is a non-fiction resource book. It is a compilation of texts on the Harlem Renaissance. It does not have to be read cover to cover, but can also be enjoyed in segments. It calls readers to think about this time period in American, and NYC history.

How I would use this:
This sheds light upon a very important question. This book asks, why it was necessary for there to be a Harlem Renaissance. Why was it a big deal that people from Harlem were creating wonderful things? This shouldn’t have been surprising, it should have been assumed that people from Harlem, just like all other people, would be creating stunning work. Through these questions a teacher can include this work in a studies ranging from slavery to contemporary race relations in the US. This book can be used for older grades, but can also be adapted and segmented to fit the needs of younger children. Teachers should use caution when utilizing this work, due to the fact that much of the material inside is sensitive and often not censored.


Social Justice Education:
I feel as if this book is an example of level four, Social Movements and Social Change. It discusses the Harlem Renaissance and provides students with the ability to access this time period.

*Posted for: Valerie Bracco*

The Village Basket Weaver

The Village Basket Weaver by Jonathan London takes place in a quaint Carib village in Belize. This is a touching story about young boy, Tavio, and his aging abuelo (grandfather), Carpio. Tavio spends time watching his grandfather work on weaving a basket used for preparing cassava bread (a bread native to Belize) and starts to realize that his grandfather is not as strong as he once was. At the same time abuelo wonders who will carry on this important Garifuna cultural tradition of basket weaving, since all the young boys in the town are leaving to find jobs in the city. The interesting characters in this story (of African and Carib Indian decent) have done a good job of preserving their cultural but they face increasing pressure from the industrial world to become more modernized.

How I would use this book:

∙ Unit on the importance of preserving culture/ embracing where we come from and who we are.
∙ Unit about breads from different countries
∙ A unit about the Caribbean and/or people from South America

Helpful Links:

Domains of Social Justice: 1) Self love and acceptance: Children learn to appreciate their own culture and the importance of preserving it. 2) Respect for Others: Children can learn about a culture that is very different from their own. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: Children see how cultures are being pressured to change due to globalization.

Thank you, Mr. Falker by, Particia Polacco

Summary: One of the most touching children's books I've read in recent memory. This book is very close to my heart since I can relate to the feeling that the character Tricia goes through. This autobiographical story by the great Patricia Polacco tells how "Tricia" overcame her reading problems with the help of a compassionate teacher. In the book, Tricia, who has a yearning to learn to read because of her family's love of learning, discovers that letters in books seem to be all just wiggling shapes. As Tricia moves through school, students call her dumb. She sadly begins to except their teasing and begins to believe she truly is dumb; until, Fifth Grade when she is blessed with an outstanding teacher, Mr. Falker.


  • I would use this book in the beginning on the school year as a read aloud to teach the students tolerance in the classroom. I want the students to understand that there is no reason for teasing and name calling especially in “our” classroom. After the read alond we would have a class discussion about the book and hurting peoples feelings.

  • It also can be used to show that everyone is different and its ok to be different. And as a class we could sit in a circle and tell something that makes us different from the rest and how that makes us all special. This is another activity that would be done in the beginning of the school year. This activity can also help us introduce ourselves in the beginning of the school year.

  • You can also have the kids go back to ther seats and write a letter to Tricia letting her know that its okay to be different and that she is not alone. Or they can also write about how they would feel if they were in Tricia's shoes.

Curricular units:

  • Tolerance (social studies)

  • Class room behaviors

  • Literacy

  • Self esteem (social issues)

Social Justice Education:

  • Self love and acceptance: This book shows the students that its ok to be different and that they sohould love themselves for who they are.

  • Respect for others: This book skows how they should have respect for others that are different then them reguardless of the difference and that everone should be treated the same way

  • Exploring issues of social justice: This book taught them how it felt to be put down all the time. It shouwed them a form of oppression.

  • Social movements and social change: This book really doesn't fit into this area of social justice.

  • Taking social action: This may show the students that its not right to tease and put other peole down. If they see that happening to someone one day they will have the strengh to help that person out that is getting teased and teach the peson who is doing the teasing something new.

Something Beautiful

Title: Something Beautiful

Author: Sharon Dennis Wyeth

This book, in my ,is a wonderful book that has the potential to leave students aware of the negative social situations that are evident in the community and how to change those situations as well. In this story there is a little girl that describes the different scenes of vandalism, homelessness, and danger in her neighborhood. The girl learns about the defintion of the word beautiful and that each person should have something beautiful in life. With htis in mind the little girl questions members of their community on what is beautiful to them, and finds that everyone has something they treasure for a different reason. In the end the girl decides that she will clean up her neighborhood as a start of making the world beautiful.

Social Justice: I feel that this book fits stages 4 and 5 of the Social Justice track.

Book Club Blog: Fly Away Home

The Streets are Free

The Streets are Free
Story byKurusa
Illustrated by Monika Doppert
Translated by Karen Englander
This is the story of the children of the Venezuelan barrio of San Jose. It is the story of their protest to get a place to play.
This book can be used in all elementary grades- the only difference would be the complexity of the conversations that followed the reading.
Suggested topics for discussion: equity (is it fair that the children have no place to play?); urban development (what does it mean, what effects does it have on space and the community etc); politics and "the system" (how do the students use the system, why does the mayor forget about their project after elections are over?);empowerment- even though they are children they are able to organize and fight for their rights and affect change.
This book can be used specifically to teach reading strategies (empathizing, questioning, empathizing) it can be used as a provocative text to encourage writing and it can also be used as part of social studies units on various topics. PS I just discovered that there is a teachers guide for this book as well (although I cannot vouch for it as I have only seen it online)

Elena's Serenade by Campbell Geeslin

Summary: Elena's Serenade by Campbell Geeslin is a book about a young girl who one day asks her father to teach her how to be a glassblower like him. Her father responds by saying, "You are too little, Elenita, and the hot glass might burn you. Besides, who ever heard of a girl glassblower (p. 4)?" Her brother encourages her to follow her dreams and go to Monterrey, Mexico where the great glassblowers are. She takes this suggestion by dressing up like a boy and heads off to Monterrey. Throughout her journey she plays various Mexican songs through her pipe. Her songs help various different animals who are going through their own struggles. By the time she reaches Monterrey, she proves to herself to be a worthy glassblower and impresses all the great male glassblowers. She returns home and proves to her father that young girls like her can blow glass.

Reflection: This is book was a great book for several reasons. First, the illustrations by Ana Juan are beautiful. Second, the book is about gender issues. Elena's character is a great role model and example for young girls. She not only proves her father wrong, but she also displays courage and bravery when she journeys through the wilderness all by herself. In addition, she helps many animals along the way who voice their admiration to her. Finally, the book has many Spanish words and Mexican songs in it. The book provides English translations on the first page.
How would I use the book/Curriculum Units: This book is just a great book to read, because of the illustrations and story. This book could begin a discussion about gender issues, Mexican culture/experiences, stereotypes, Spanish vocabulary, Mexican songs, and glassblowing. I could also use this book to discuss literary elements such as plot, character development, conflict, point of view, etc.
Domains of Social Justice: 1) Self-love and acceptance- Children can learn about Mexican culture as well as female self-empowerment. Elena, a young Mexican girl, is a character who proves her capabilities to both her father and to herself. 2) Respect for Others: Children learn how one girl earned her respect by go against female stereotypes. 3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: The main point of this book is to address issues of sexism. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: Children learn how Elena stood up for herself and proved to her father and others that she could be a great glassblower. 5) Taking Social Action: Students can begin to think about stereotypes and what they can actively do to change those stereotypes.


Sadako, by Eleanor Coer, is about a young Japanese girl diagnosed with leukemia because of the dropping of the atomic bomb. Sadako is told that if she folds 1000 paper cranes, the gods will make her well again. Sadako dies before folding 1000 cranes, but her friends finish folding the rest so that she could be buried with them. After her death, a statue dedicated to peace was created in her honor.

When students read Sadako's story and the ways in which the dropping of the atomic bomb adversely affected her, they will be able to connect to a child from across the world, someone from another place and culture. They will learn to show compassion towards people of all races and cultures. I would use this book to begin discussions about war, specifically World War II. The book teaches students that war affects people long after it has ended. It also teaches them that war harms real people and that many of them are children.

In terms of social justice, this book relates to levels 2 and 4. It teaches them to respect other cultures and explores issues of war.

If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America

If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America by Anne Kamma, describes the intense moments of hardship that slaves faced, and their dedication and determination to be free. This book addresses more than fifty questions about the life conditions of a slave in America. Were all slaves brought over from Africa? What did slaves wear? Did slaves go to school? How would slaves find out the latest news? Could you be made a slave even if you were free? The answers to the questions are honest, straightforward, and simplified for students in the 4th - 5th grade to understand what occurred during the years of slavery.
I was interested in this book because it addressed numerous questions I had as a child, as well as questions my 5th grade students wondered about when they learned about people who fought against slavery, such as Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass. I would use this book to motivate students to think of questions they have about slavery (small group activity) and discuss where they will find the information. What book, magazine, and website address their questions. This activity will encourage students to critically think, ask questions, and explore resources.
This book could be used effectively to address the five social justice education. Students will learn about traditions, values, and ways they can take social action

Big Al and Shrimpy

Title: Big Al and Shrimpy
Author: Andrew Clements
Summary: This book is the story of Big Al, a big fish, and his friend Shrimpy. The fish are friends despite their differences. When a problem arises and Big Al finds himself in trouble, Shrimpy is able to gather all of the fish together to save his friend.
Reflection: With its beautiful pictures and likeable characters, this book is a great way to bring up the subjects of differences, cooperation, and making a difference to a young class. Students see characters who are friends despite their differences, fish working together, and that even the smallest fish can make changes. The illustrations and simple words clearly depict how characters feel and seem to be an excellent starting point for a discussion on any of mentioned topics.
-The book could be read at the beginning of the year to encourage respect and cooperation in the classroom.
-The book could be read to motivate students to advocate for a change.
-If a class is doing an ocean study, this book could be tied in to motivate students to take action on a real issue occurring in the ocean.
-The book could be used to expand adjective use for students and encourage description by having students describe the characters as many ways as possible.
-Science could be investigated by having students look up different types of fish. Students also might investigate the real problems in the ocean if they are motivated by the story. Levels of
Social Justice Education:
I-Students learn they are part of a community.
II-Students learn to respect differences.
V-Students are motivated tomake a difference.
Links: Amazon

Check out Big Al:

Families Are Different

Families Are Different by Nina Pellegrini

Summary: Nico and her older sister are adopted from Korea. One day, Nico is sad because her parents look different from her. She starts noticing that there are other families who do/do not look like one another. Nina Pellegrini(author) illustrated different types of families that we see these days.


I liked this book because it was not all about adoption. I feel like there are enough(?) books about just adoption. Pellegrini did not a good job of making sure that the story is about importance of family.


For younger grades (k-2), it would be a great read aloud to study about family. Children could share that family does not always mean mom, dad, sister/brother who all look a like. Because the book does not mention gay parents, it would be a good conversation to bring up after the read aloud.


I thought of perhaps asking the students if they think it is 'correct' to call 'Parent-Teacher Conference'-- If our school is calling it that, perhaps we gather ideas to change it to be something else. Since the conference is not always between a parent and the teacher.

Possible Activity --- Family Graph

Monday, February 5, 2007

Freedom on the Menu

Freedom on the Menu by Carole Boston Weatherford is a wonderful book about a family dealing with segregation during a time when things were all about to change. In the story a young girl's family is involved in many different aspects of standing up for themselves and their beliefs. Her brother is even a part of the Greensboro Sit-Ins.

I thought that this book was not only a great read but had a wonderful message behind it. Unlike some other books on civil rights and segregation that I have read, this book adds the element of social action that is encouraging for students and can be turned into a major social aciton project by teachers. There are tons of activities/lessons that can be generated from this book. A wonderful discussion about taking action against racism, prejudice and bullying occured in my classroom after I read this book to my 6th graders.

Additionally, this book addresses the Social Justice stages 3, 4 and 5.

Subway Sparrow by Leyla Torres

An English-speaking girl, a Spanish-speaking man, and a Polish speaking woman might not be able to hold a conversation, but they will be able to work together to help a city sparrow escape from the subway car.
I highly recommend this book because students will relate to it since the setting-- a subway-- will be very familiar to city kids. The mixture of different languages adds multicultural value to the book.

1. Discussion about how language does not have to be a barrier for different people to work together.

2. Students can write their own story in a different native language or try to write in any other language they know.

3. Read the Spanish version of the book: Gorrion del Metro. Then you can do a compare and contrast activity through Venn Diagrams, etc.

Social Justice Education domains:
This book addresses Respect for Others because it exposes kids to other cultures and different languages.
This book addresses Self-Love and Acceptance because it teaches kids that speaking different languages or being different is okay as they cooperate with each other.

Units: Science Connection
It can be used with writing, literature, and even science. Kids can explore the different birds found in the New York City and learn how these creatures survive in the city. Then kids can engage in various activities about habitats and how they can help city animals like the sparrow survive in a busy city.

It's Our World, Too! (Young People Who are Making a Difference)

It's Our World, Too!
Young People Who Are Making a Difference, How They Do It- How YOU Can, Too!
Author: Phillip Hoose


This book contains accounts of various young adults who have fought to make a difference in the workplace, to demand children’s labor rights, to promote social and cultural equality, and to raise environmental awareness. It is a guide that can help encourage young children to work for positive changes in their communities. This book also contains a handbook for children on how they, too, can become activists for a better future.

I think it would be refreshing for students to read about how others, who are the same age as them, are changing the world into a more positive place because many of the heroes and civil rights activists they read about in textbooks are adults. Young students may be able to relate to the activists portrayed in this book and may also be inspired to make a difference themselves, especially with the advice offered in the handbook on how one can become more involved.

Sections of this book can be introduced to the class during units of study on activism (social, environmental, etc.).

Levels of Social Justice Education:
I, II, III, IV, V (All Levels)

Related Book: We Were There, Too! (Teacher’s Guide)

Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya is a wonderful story that reveals the sad truth about what happened to animals at the zoo during times of war. There were three elephants and other animals that had to be put to sleep because the zoo keepers were scared that if bombs were to drop on the zoo that those animals would run around the city and hurt people.

This story shows that it was not only human beings that were being effected by the war. Animals, too, are being effected by the war. This story can be used in the classroom to show other perspectives of war. Discussions can be lead by this book. Topics such as the feelings of these animals; the feelings of the soldiers. The students can explore deeper issues of the interaction between humans, animals, and war. They will understand that they all are related in many ways.

Stages of SJE: Respect for others is covered in this book because the soldiers really did not want to kill those elephants. Exploring the issues of Social Justice is covered in this book because this book deals with how the animals were killed for not a very reliable reason.

The book is available at

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Love Is A Family

Love Is A Family, by: Roma Downey

Summary- Lily has to go to Family Fun Night at her school, but is afraid that the kids will laugh at her since her family is not big and consists only of her mom and her. However, little to her surprise when she goes she sees lots of other kids like her, and also learns that some students have stepmom's/stepdad's, were adopted, and others live with their grandparents.

Reflection- It is a great book to teach children that not every family must have a mom and a dad with their children. Students learn that every family is different and special, and where there is love there is family.

Lessons/Curriculum- Since the book does not address homosexuality, a good lesson might be to incorporate this and talk about having two mom's or dad's. Also, students can write about their families and how they are special or write poetry (like Where I'm Coming From). They could also make a collage to express what there family is all about. Teachers can do a unit on family and/or community using this book.

Social Justice Curriculum- The first three stages and the last stage is addressed. Students learn to understand and respect who they are, who others are, and ultimately, to not label all families as having to be exactly the same. Every family is unique in their own way, and there is nothing wrong with that.

By: Nikki Giovanni
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Rosa tells the story of Rosa parks. It starts by explaining a normal day for her and then the bus incident. It then goes into the social action that happened after the bus boycott.

I was very disappointed when I first read this story because it seemed to be like every other Rosa Parks book: it doesn't talk about how she was involved in the civil rights movement before she decided not to give up her seat. As I continued reading my opinion changed because of the amount of the story that covers the social action of the era. I think it would be important to introduce this story after already having some background on Rosa Parks. I do not think this can be the only information students are given about Rosa Parks. The illustrations are also very beautiful. The illustrator takes advantage of color and makes every character look different.

In the classroom this can be used as a tool to explore the civil rights era. Students can write about how they would have reacted if placed in her position. It would be even more interesting to use the social action section of the story. Students could resesarch some different events that were part of the civil rights movement. They could compare the ways that people participated in social action during the civil rights movement to social action movements in other countries.

This book touches on all 5 aspects of Social Justice education. I was suprised at how well it went into the social aspect aspect of the civil rights movement. Students can continue to explore the different levels as they review the story.
Some useful links:

Maniac Magee

Maniac Magee
by Jerry Spinelli

This novel is set in Two Mills, Pennsylvania, and is a tall tale based on 12-year-old Jeffery Lionel "Maniac" Magee, an orphan who is homeless and is a baseball superstar, can run very fast on railroad tracks, and is able to soothe racial tensions in his town of Two Mills. Two Mills is divided between blacks and whites by Hector Street (blacks on East End, white on West End). The racial tensions in this book are very strong. Maniac is very confused by the racial biases - to him, the people are simply people - heterogeneous but having much in common, such as kindness and cruelty.

Having read this book in elementary school, I can speak about the impact this novel's message had on my psyche. For the longest time, I considered Maniac Magee my favorite book, which indicates that Spinelli is a great children's author. More than that, however, this book dealt with important issues and left me with new ideas about race. Something that has stayed with me is the mention of skin color as more than just black or white - I remember descriptions of skin color as caramel and chocolate, and it made me appreciate my own skin color and that of others.

Character Traits Chart
There are many notable characters in this story who possess exceptional traits. Construct a chart that lists the traits of the main characters in Maniac Magee: Amanda Beale, Maniac Magee, John McNab, Earl Grayson, Mars Bar Thompson, Russell and Piper McNab.
Home Sweet Home
Maniac is searching for a home. Explore the meaning of "home" with your students. Have them create a shape poem, a recycled poem, a poem of alliterations, an acrostic poem, a limerick, a limerick, or other type of poem that reflects how they feel about their home.
Oral History
Maniac Magee learns about Earl Grayson from the tales the old man tells. Have your students learn more about a significant elderly person in his/her life. Use this list of questions to help the students and the interviewed person get started.
(adapted from

Social Justice:
This book addresses all levels of social justice, especially social change, as Maniac's ability to bring people together in Two Mills is transformative.

Poems to Dream Together: Poemas Para Soñar Juntos


Poems to Dream Together: Poemas Para Soñar Juntos
by Francisco X. Alarcon, Paula Barragan, Paula Barragan (Illustrator)


This book is a collection of bilingual poems. The poems are told through the perspective of a young Mexican boy. They depict childhood memories, the importance of education and peace. There is one particular poem about Cesar Chavez that describes his hopes and dreams. The pictures are vibrant and set the mood of the each poem.


The author wrote these poems in both English and Spanish because he spent part of his life in California and the rest in Mexico. I would use this book in the classroom to have an discussion on the different traditions and everyday experiences the are explained through poem. “Pregunta a Mama” discusses the daily routines of a mother. When read in Spanish there are many nuances and annotations that are lost when translated into English. I would discuss with my students the difference in saying something in your native language or in the way you would speak to your friends in English for example, and each form of speaking changes in emotion and meaning.

Activities:• Students can write about their experiences specifically those that express the ways of their culture.

• Students can write poems that in their native language or in the (less formal) way they would speak with friends or siblings.

Curricular Units:
• A unit on the Mexican Revolution.
• A poetry unit.

Social Justice Education:

1. Self-love and Acceptance: Students will learn about accepting and celebrating their own traditions.
2. Respect for Others: Students will respect the traditions of other students in the classroom.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: This book discusses class, traditions,
4. Social Movements and Social Change: The Mexican Revolution.
5. Taking Social Action: Certain poems discuss how Mexican people will rise above all obstacles and become professionals as is “Para Soñar El Futuro.”

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Summary: A young girl named Kit moves to live with her aunt and uncle in the Connecticut colony in 1687 from Barbados. She experiences an intense culture shock as she learns more about the Puritan community, people, and values. Over the course of the book Kit's actions and attitudes shock the conservative townspeople, and ultimately her friendship with a widowed quaker leads peopel to accuse her of witchcraft.

I like this book, which is appropriate for 5th to 8th graders, because it introduces the history and ideas surrounding early colonial America and the religious conflicts that defined the times and people. While none of these topics are "light" in any respect this book discusses and presents them to a younger audience without dumbing them down too much or "Disney-fying" them. The book attacks these issues intelligently, yet in a manner in which that is not only appropriat for younger sudiences but comprehensible as well. Also, it is a winner of the John Newberry Medal for American Children's Literature.

I am actually using this book with my 4th graders as a read aloud book, fitting it into our curriculum of Colonial America. I think the book provides many useful "jump-off" points to the curriculum offerring oppurtunities to discuss religous intolerance and the reasons for the initial immigration of Europeans to America (largely religious based. These themes of intolereance and "witch hunt" thinking is also good material to to use to discuss topics such as mob mentality, fear of difference generating from lack of understanding, and how there are always two sides to conflicts. Of course one could use this book to discuss McCarthy's witch hunt during the cold war and the idea of being blacklisted, and perhaps if you really want to get racy you could use it to reference the other witch hunt the U.S. govt. is conducting with its heightened security, profiling, and the ever-love Patriot Act.

Mama Loves Me From Away

Mama Loves Me From Away
By: Pat Brisson, Illustrated by: Laurie Caple

Mama Loves Me From Away captures the relationship between mother and child during difficult times. The beginning of the story introduces readers to the young girl and her mother's special bond. As the story progresses, Sugar, the young girl, experiences a variety of emotions after her mother is sentenced to prison. This story shows how family members can stay in touch despite the distance between them.

I think that many families can relate to the ideas in this story. If a student in your classroom has a parent serving jail time, this text would be especially helpful. Also, if children were separated from their parents due to a divorce, the idea of this story could be used to help them understand that parents still love their children from far away. This book does not go into detail about why the mother is serving time. If you read this story to students, I think that it would be important to have a discussion about jail sentences and what it means to serve a sentence.

This book does not address the five stages of social justice. The ideas in this story successfully address the first three stages. The characters in this story allow readers to learn about the culture of a family and how it functions when a parent is far away. Students might not identify with the culture represented in the story, but they will most likely be able to strengthen their intercultural competence of the culture presented in the text. Related discussions about jails and jail sentences could explore issues of social justice/forms of oppression.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

If a Bus Could Talk

Summary: If a Bus Could Talk by Faith Ringgold is a story about a girl who unknowingly takes the same bus Rosa Parks took when she refused her seat to a white man. The bus starts talking to the little girl when she stumbles upon the seat that's reserved in Rosa's name every year. The bus starts to tell the alarmed little girl all about Rosa's life. The bus talks about how Rosa faced racism during her childhood as well as how her act influenced the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which later changed the law of the segregated buses. Rosa continued to fight social injustices throughout her life. The little girl realizes that Rosa, Dr. King and E. D. Nixon are all on the bus with her. Inspired now, she is really excited to meet them and asks them all questions about freedom and the movement.

How to Use Book:
This book talks about Rosa in a creative way. Also, it doesn't only talk about Rosa's "single" act on the bus which is usually what only people know. Students can be encouraged to learn more about other people like Rosa and research other important things they've done. This book talks about how she was an activist all her life. This book covers a broad range of struggles Rosa and others had to endure at this time and can be used in units such as the Civil Rights Movement, Racism, Sexism, and Violence.

Social Justice: This book covers ALL domains of Social Justice.


by: Peter Golenbock

Summary: This book is about Jackie Robinson, who is well known around the world for being the first black man to try out for a major league. The connection to the history behind the story takes place during the 1940’s when laws for segregation did not yet exist. The story examines the differences in the way the members of the negro league were harshly treated and the way members of the major league were treated. I would love to use this book as an introduction to teach my students about the segration period and the civil rights movement period. I also think this book would interest the boys in the class.

Activities/Lesson Plans:
1. Draw a three-way Venn diagram to compare and contrast the courageous acts of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and Branch Rickey. (character study)
2. List the differences in the way the Major League players were treated and the way the Negro League players were treated. (Think critically and discuss the cruelty in the way the blacks were treated and why that is?)
3. The story can be used in a unit on the Civil Rights Movement, Segregation period.
4. I would also use this book as a way to introduce new challenging vocabulary words like: (apathetic, courage, humiliation, loyalty, respect, prejudice, segregation, taunts, vigilante)

Domains of Social Justice: Teammates addresses all of the stages of social justice: Self-Love and Acceptance, Respect for Others, Social Movement and Social Change, Taking Social Action.


Henry's Freedom Box

Title: Henry's Freedom Box
Author: Ellen Levine

Summary: This book tells the true story of a young enslaved boy that has been separated from his family. He misses his wife and children, and goes to a man who is known for helping slaves through the Underground Railroad. Henry has the idea to get into a big box and be shipped to Philadelphia in order to become free. Henry's Freedom Box has beautiful pictures and can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom.

Possible Units: This could be used in a unit on Slavery, the Underground Railroad, Civil Rights/Freedom, and even a geographic study on where slavery was popular and reasons why. I think I would use this book to spark a debate on whether Henry was right to break the law and be sent somewhere else since slavery was wrong. This would be interesting to have the students delve into the deeper issues behind slavery and segregation.

Stages of Social Justice Education: Henry's Freedom Box covers #2: Respect for others; #3: Exploring the issues of Social Justice through racism, classism and oppression; and #4: Social movements and change through discussing the Underground Railroad and fighting for rights.

Resources/Links to find the book:
To buy the book,
To research the book,
To find more lessons on the Underground Railroad,

Friday, February 2, 2007

Langston's Train Ride

Title: Langston's Train Ride by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

Summary: This book is a mini biography of Langston Hughes. It talks about how he got the inspiration for his first poem while he was on a train going to visit his father. He starts to think of all the people who have seen these sights before him and what life might have been like for them. He writes his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" on a napkin and it becomes one of his famous poems.

Reflection: I like this book in that it has a interesting take on writing and stresses that anyone can be a writer. Also, the book is written in first person from Langston's point of view. However, I do not like the stress it places on "my people" as in the black people and the trouble they went through. I know it very important to discuss it but I think there could be better ways to describe it.

How to use: This book would be good for writers who are learning how to write poems or actually anything. It gives readers an inspiration that anyone can be a writer and writing can happen anywhere, even on a train. It could be used as a starter for Langston Hughes but I think there are better books out there. The author says things like "the Negro people" and makes it seems like he has so much pride for the plight of "his people." I am not sure how much I like that. They also have a teacher's note in the back for information about Langston Hughes.

Activities: 1) Can look at the poem at the end of the book and students can talk about what it can teach us about that time.
2) Students can start mini writing journal for them to keep with them everywhere they go.

Units: Poetry, Slave History, Author Study

Social Justice Education: This book is on the first three levels of social justice education: Self Love, Respect for Others, and Exploring Social Justice.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Woman

A is for Abigail by Lynne Cheney is an impressive "alphabetic" compilation of incredible, multi- cultural women who have changed American history: doctors, writers, educators, pioneers, lawyers, social activists, inventors and adventurers, entertainers, entrepreneurs, artists, environmentalists, athletes, trailblazers, etc, etc.

A is for Abigail addresses stages 1, 4, and 5 of Social Justice Education. By learning about the incredible contributions these women have made to society, boys and girls alike will learn about their own culture and admire the strength of our country. Students will learn about how people have struggled for social change, thus, being inspired to explore their own contexts and work for change.

Potential Plan of Study: Each member of the class can choose one woman to develop a biographical report on.

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home
By Eve Bunting

Fly Away Home tells the story of a boy and his dad who live at an airport. The boy tells us about how daily life runs for those who live in the airport. He tells us how they try to earn money and that one day, he really hopes that he and his dad can leave the airport and live in a real home.
What drew me to the book was the topic that it discusses. I have not been exposed to many texts that deal with homelessness and poverty and was curious to see how this book handled it. Also, I think the book does a good job about breaking down stereotypes about the kinds of people who are homeless and their hardships.
I believe that this book explores levels 2 and 3 of the social justice stages. It explores issues of social justice and teaches respect for others.

For some activity ideas that use this book check out these websites:

Other books dealing with homelessness:

Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Anderson

A memorabl glimpse into the historical development of this country's common culture. It is about the woman who saved Thanksgiving.
I have never read a book like this before. The author caught my attention after reading the first page.

November - American Indian Heritage Month & Thanksgiving.
February - Black History Month, March - Women's History Month, April - Poetry Month.
Social Studies:
Compare and contrast the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Research the history of another holiday, such as Labor Day, Arbor Day, or Flag Day. Trace back your own family a few generations and create a family tree. Which famous American would you like to be related to? Make a fictional family tree that connects that person to you. Make up stories about the generations of family members who connect you.
Writing: Choose meeting times and places, create a reading list, and ask club members to share their own writing.
Study how the shape of America changed over Sarah Hale's life. Create maps that show the United States in 1788, the year she was born, and 1879, the year she died. How many states were added? Research the geography of the Civil War. Create a map that shows the states which joined the Union and those which joined the Confederacy.
Study population statistics for the years 1861-1865. Figure out the percentage of the population that was affected by the Civil War. Research how many turkeys are eaten for Thanksgiving every year. How many pounds of potatoes are cooked or how many pumpkin pies are eaten? What is the average number of calories consumed at Thanksgiving dinner?
Why were grapes considered a cure? Why didn't Sarah or David take antibiotics? What remedies were prescribed in the 1800s? What kind of bacteria can live in raw poultry?
: Sarah Hale is described as a superhero. Draw a picture of Sarah as an exaggerated comic book superhero. Draw other historical figures in this style.
Social Justice Education:
stereotypes, sexism, fighting for and creating change, slavery, pickets, abolition, union, wars, self-love, taking chances