Thursday, February 28, 2008

Title: Pink and Say

Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Summary: Grade 4 Up-This picture book set during the Civil War is very different from the usual Polacco books in terms of content and audience. It is certainly the deepest and most serious book she has done. Say Curtis, 15, a white boy, lies badly wounded in a field in Georgia when Pinkus Aylee, an African American Union soldier about Sheldon's age, finds him and carries him home to his mother, Moe Moe Bay. Say is nursed back to health by Moe Moe Bay's nuturing care. But then she is killed by marauders, and the boys return to their units. They are then are captured and taken to Andersonville, where Pink is hanged within hours of their capture. One of the most touching moments is when Pink reads aloud from the Bible to Moe Moe and Say. Say tells them that he can't read, but then he offers something he's very proud of: he once shook Abraham Lincoln's hand. This is a central image in the story, and is what ties the boys together for a final time, as Pink cries, "'Let me touch the hand that touched Mr. Lincoln, Say, just one last time.'" The picture of their clasped hands, with the hands of the soldiers wrenching them apart, is exceptionally moving. Polacco's artwork, in fact, has never been better. She uses dramatic perspectives, dynamic compositions, and faces full of emotion to carry her powerful tale. History comes to life in this remarkable book.

How would I use the book/curriculum units: This is a great story to teach children about history. Although this is a picture book it is reccomended for grades 4 and up. This is a great book that can be integrated into a social studies curriculum by teaching about the civil war.

Reflections: I feel that this is an extremely powerful and moving story. This is a good book to use in the classroom especially since it shows that not everyone felt the same way, just because a lot of people were fighting for slavery doesn't mean there weren't exceptions. It is a good example to display to both white and African American students.This book depicts an African American boy helping out a white boy despite the fact that the white people were individuals who were keeping them inslaved.

Domains of Social Justice:
1. Self love and acceptance: This book displays Say a character who not ashamed of being African American and is very passionate about fighting for his freedoms. We should love and accept ourselves for who we are and never be ashamed of it.
2. Respect for others: We learn through this book the importance to respect others and their cultures. Despite the differences between the two boys cultures they still respected each other. 3. Exploring issues of social justice: The book definitely opens doors to a discussion on racism and what that looked like at the time of the civil war.
4. Social movements and social change: The book takes place during the civil war a time period in which people are fighting for social change. The book also depicts how Say is scared to go back to his unit but he feels he owes it to Pink to go back and fight. The character faces a moral struggle to do what is best for him or to do what is right.
5. Taking social action: Say took social action by retelling the story, and keeping the memory of Pink alive. He took action by raising awarness.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

We are all alike...We are all different

Grade Level: K
Title: We are all alike…We are all different
Author & Illustrator: Cheltenham Elementary School Kindergartners

Summary: This book is about the way that people are different and alike. The book talks about the way we look, our families, the places we live, the food we eat, and the things we like to do. It talks about how we are alike because we are people, we have families, we live somewhere, we eat food, and we like to play but then for each section it says that we are different and explains how and why we are different from each other. This is a great book because it was written and illustrated by a Kindergarten elementary school.

Reflections: I really liked this book. I love that it is written and illustrated by other students. The book seems so simple but has such a powerful message of acceptance and tolerance that will be really important for young students to learn.

How Would I Use the Book: This book can be used in a variety of ways. We could do exactly what those students did and we could make up our own book and make our own pictures. We could use it to make "All about me" books and share the things about ourselves and how we are different. We could share about our families and where we live and what we look like. It could also be a whole unit on diversity and the meaning behind that word.

Domains of Social Justice:
1. Self-Love and Acceptance: Students would learn about their families and where their from and would be encourage to accept that.
2. Respect for Others: Students would learn about their fellow classmates and would be asked to respect each other and they would see how in the book all the students saw that they were the same but also different.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: This book teaches the students to accept one another for who they are. This book would help the students to explore the issue of acceptance and trying to promote that around our communities and world.
4. Social Movements and Social Change: Students will learn to accept one another and see beyond their differences. Hopefully talking about this will go beyond the classroom and the students could even make a published book of their own and spread the message of acceptance and tolerance.
5. Taking Social action – The students can share what they learned with the people around them and start taking action by practicing acceptance and tolerance.

Young People's Stories of Respect by Henry & Melissa Billings

(No Image Available)

Grade Level: 1-2-3-4-5

Summary: Stories of Respect is part of a collection of books that focus on character. This particular book contains four mini stories that explore respect within different cultural contexts. Stories from this book examine: the importance of people vs. the outside appearance in Syria, appreciating friendship and talents of others in Mexico, respect of nature symbolizing the hierarchy of people (from England), and valuing age and wisdom in Japan.

Reflections: This book is beautifully illustrated and relates a very importance message concerning character that is appropriate for all age groups. Each story takes on a different format (poetry, realistic fiction, fable, short story moment) that integrates smoothly into other subject areas. Each mini story contains a finishing paragraph on that connects the moral of the story to character development. Each story has the possibility of being explored from surface level to a deep, meaningful understanding.

How Would I Use the Book: This book can be used in a multitude of ways across the following content areas: theme, reading and writing. Topic areas for each would include: character development, cultural appreciation, study of cultures and tradition, read aloud, independent reading, shared reading, book club partners, most reading strategies in the TC workshop, social issues, reinforce behavior management, explore new geners, series study, family, friendship, etc.

Domains of Social Justice: 1.) Self-Love and Acceptance: Children learn about different cultures, an appreciation for self-identity, friends, family and how to develop their own unique character. 2.) Respect for Others: Children learn how differences makes others unique and why it is important to treat others with respect. Children also learn to develop a strong community within their classroom and school. 3.) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will understand how the treatment of others (hate, discrimination, judgment, love, etc.) affects the world at large. 4.) Social Movements and Social Change: Students will explore current situations occurring within the world and why these injustices are occurring today. 5.) Taking Social Action: Students will create raise awareness of the respect of others, its importance, and how as a community we can promote change for good. Students could speak with other classes and create public service announcements.


Buy the book:

The full collection of Young People’s Stories: (Stories of…fairness, cooperation, hard work, patience, courage, kindness, peacefulness, sharing and truthfulness)'s%20Stories.html

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Peace Book

Title: The Peace Book
Author: Todd Parr

The Peace Book is a beautifully illustrated picture book that conveys powerful messages behind simple words to define peace in different contexts. Peace messages that convey equity: “Peace is having enough pizza in the world for everyone”. Peace messages
that touch upon multiculturalism: “Peace is learning another language”. Peace messages that
deal with homelessness: “Peace is everyone having a home”. Peace messages of friendship: “Peace is making new friends”. Peace messages of tolerance: “Peace is saying sorry when you hurt someone” and so many more.

The vivid cartoon-like pictures of this book most definitely grabbed my attention right away. I was even more drawn to this book after I read the author’s note inside the first page of the book. He wrote that “he remembers being excited in grade school every year when he got his orange UNICEF box and went door to door collecting money. He always felt good that he was making a difference. Growing up, he never fully understood how big the world was or the impact one person can have on someone a world away. Now, he understands it better and hopes that donating part of the proceeds from this book will help UNICEF spread its message of peace to the world”. I think that Todd Parr has succeeded in making a difference to those who read this book. He has taken a challenging and complex topic such as “peace” and made it more tangible for children all around and adults like myself!

How would I use the book/curriculum units:
This book is great because it can be used as a jumping start for many social justice issues such as homelessness, friendships, tolerance, multiculturalism, equity, being different, caring for the environment and much more which all fall under the big “peace” umbrella . Todd Parr also has many other books that may be helpful when teaching about any of the above topics. The following link lists information about his other very popular books:

Domains of Social Justice:

1) Self-love and acceptance: “Peace is being who you are”.
2) Respect for others: “Peace is helping your neighbor”, “Peace is keeping the water blue for all the fish”, “Peace is saying you are sorry when you hurt someone”.
3) Exploring issues of social justice: “Peace is listening to different kinds of music”, “Peace is learning another language”, “Peace is traveling to different places”.
4) Social movements and social change: “Peace is giving shoes to someone who needs them”, “Peace is sharing a meal”.
5) Taking social action: “Peace is being different, feeling good about yourself and helping others. The world is a better place because of you!”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting

Summary: Fly Away Home is the story of a little boy and his father who live in the airport. The book describes the daily living situation they experience: traveling from one terminal to the next based on flight schedules, returning luggage carts for spare change, trying to remain unnoticed from one day to the next. The little boy talks about his friends in the airport and the difficulties they face being homeless. One day a bird flies into the terminal and the boy cheers for it to get free, out of the confines of the airport.

Reflections: This is a wonderful book to introduce younger children to the concept of homelessness. It exposes the harsh realities of not having a place to live, but does not paint a frightening picture. Throughout the book, the boy is very positive and keeps hope that he and his father will rise out of this period in their lives. I think this sends a good message to readers, since the tone of the book is not depressing. I believe that children could begin to understand what it is like to be without a home without assuming homeless people live in cardboard boxes.

How would I use the book/curriculum unit: This book would serve as a great start to a unit on community and homes. The boy and his father do not live in a house of their own, but they do have some place that they can think of as their home. Students could get an idea of what sorts of things homeless people face. From there, students might go on a trip to a shelter or a soup kitchen to see how one group of people live. I have also used this book in a lesson on symbolism. The bird in the book symbolizes the little boy and getting free of the confines of the airport. I had my kids create their own symbols in their realistic fiction pieces that symbolized the desires of the character.

Domains of Social Justice:
1) Self-love and acceptance: Students learn to appreciate their lives and what they have, such as a home and a bed to sleep in.
2) Respect for others: Students learn to respect the lives that other people, be it different from their own. They will look past stereotypes of homeless people to understand that poverty is a real issue in the US.
3) Exploring issues of social justice: Students will begin to look at ways in which people are forced into poverty and the injustices that people face that result in homelessness.
4) Social movements and social change: Students will look at ways in which people have tried to deal with poverty in the US. They will see the successes and failures of such endeavors.
5) Taking social action: Students will begin to raise awareness of homelessness and poverty. They will talk to politicians and community members to help people in need.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird w/ Sonia Nimr

Grade Level: 4-5-6

Summary: A Little Piece of Ground is an incredible story about a young boy by the name of Karim, who is living through the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This beautifully written novel brings to life the aspirations and the daily struggles of Karim, whose only desire is to play soccer, but the strict curfew keeps him inside for hours to days on end. When the curfew is lifted, Karim makes ever attempt to escape from the house and play with his new friend Hopper. They discover an abandoned ground and clear it to create a makeshift soccer field. One day Karim loses track of time and is outside on grounds when the curfew is enforced. Karim’s only option is to hide out in an abandoned car near the field. Days later he is spotted by the soldiers and endures great pain and risks in hopes of seeing his family again.

Reflections: This is my favorite children’s book thus far. Not only did it allow me to experience a different world of my own, but it also encouraged me to educate myself on matters still occurring in the Middle East. This read is very captivating and therefore difficult to start/finish en route on the subway. The language and style of writing would easily draw in any child or adult. You experience every emotion in this read and you start to become one with the character, Karim. Your own judgments of others and culture is tested in this book as Karim experiences the cultural judgments he has on other groups of people and vice versa. The title may be difficult for younger students to understand. It is a metaphor for the bigger problem of Palestine wanting independence while Israelis oppress them.

How Would I Use the Book: This book can be used in a variety of ways. It could integrate content areas of theme, history and literacy. Topic areas for each would include: cultural appreciation, study of the other countries (particular Middle East…historically & today), government structures, Read Aloud, Independent Reading, Book Clubs, almost all reading strategies modeled in reader’s workshop, stop & jots, reader’s response, if your school permits a discussion on types of religion, author study, comparison study of life as a teenager, friendship, family structure, etc.

Domains of Social Justice: 1. Self-Love and Acceptance: Children learn about their own culture, an appreciation for friends and family, understanding their own identity and what that means in this large world. 2. Respect for Others: Children learn about the encounters Karim has and learn to understand the daily encounters they have with others, who are the same or different or both. What actions can they take to minimize hostility between people? Groups of people? 3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students learn about the roles of sex (societal perspective), how cultural groups are oppressing one another and what results due to it all. 4. Social Movements and Social Change: Students learn of the different identities that are present in the classroom and learn about appreciating the uniqueness that is present in all of us.


Full Summary of Book:

Buying the Book:


Title: Maniac Magee

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Summary: Jeffrey "Maniac" Magee is a young boy who had to deal with the horrific death of his parents. After their death, he ran away from home and found himself in a small town plagued by racism.  This town was literally divided in half by the main road.  The black people lived on one side, and the white people lived on the other.  The two groups did not even imagine crossing the main road.  Maniac, however, does not understand or believe in the racism that is felt by this town.  So, he travels throughout the town to try to change the beliefs of the people who live there.

Social Justice: This book obviously teaches about racism and offers a perfect example for what it means to stand up for what you believe in.  It answers many questions surrounding the issue of racism and then empowers students by showing progressive change.

Teaching Resources,

TV Movie:

To Buy:

Friday, February 8, 2008

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni

This is the story of two best friends: little blue and little yellow. They go to school and play everyday until one day they can't find each other. Finally, they reunite and the two friends hug until little blue and little yellow both become little greens! They go home and are rejected by their parents who do not recognize their own children! Not wanted in their own homes little blue and little yellow meet again and cry. Their tears change little blue and little yellow back to their original colors. Little blue speeds off to explain everything to his parents who are so overjoyed that they go running across the street to tell little yellow's parents. Then their parents end up hugging until they themselves turn green.

This book is a story of friendship, differentness and (in)tolerance. The attributes of two best friends meld into a new form and that differentness. This book would be a great tool to begin to integrate social justice into the early grades because the book is short and the plot is simple and the text is accessible to young independent readers. Also, the simplicity of the story is carried over into the artwork which can easily tell a story without the words the pages.

How would I use the book/curriculum units
In the earlier grades this book is a great tool on friendship. A little of you rubs off on your friend and a little of your friends rub off on you. And you might change a bit, but you're still you on the inside.

With older students it can be a lesson on racial tolerance. What happens when you mix all the colors? You get this blackish color. If you squeeze that through a prism you get white. And all the other colors in-between. Why isn't it alright for mama and papa blue to have a green son? Speak of families and skin color. A literal mix of races and colors as well as the mesh of different cultures. The cultural differences between different cultures of the same skin color.

Domains of Social Justice
1. Self-love and acceptance: Children learn about their own culture
Students learn to be proud of who they are through little blue and little yellow

2. Respect for Others: Strengthens intercultural competence
Students learn that there is nothing wrong with being friends with people who are different and that is also okay to be different yourself.

3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Racism, classism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression are confronted
Students see how even little blue and little yellow's parents reacted to their own children because they were different. But then see how they learned to accept that difference and even became different themselves.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Taste of Salt

Summary: Taste of Salt is a story about a young teen in Haiti during an important political time for the country. The young teen, Djo, tells his story of the years leading to the ultimate political uprising and installation of a democracy and president of Haiti. Djo has had an interesting perspective. He lived with the future president for several years and, though young, was a leader of political change in the country. When Djo finds himself in a hospital bed, struggling for his life, a young girl, Jeremie, is sent to record his story. As she listens to his almost lifeless words, she finds herself mesmerized and reminded of her own story. Together their lives retold offer a painfully detailed depiction of Haiti's struggle toward freedom in the 1980s.

Reflections: This book does not gloss over the ugly and horrific details that political uprisings and revolutions may bring on. I love the way these complicated times are told through the eyes of two young teens. Their experiences and their age offer a unique perspective to the situation. Instead of looking back at the revolution from an outsider's view, we are able to get into the nitty gritty of the war. Often times concepts of war are politics seem foreign to students. By learning about them through a young person's perspective, they may be able to relate to the concepts and characters . The author also does a tremendous job of capturing the voices of the young people. She writes the way Djo may have really spoken. Though this might be difficult for students to understand at first, ultimately it beautifully shows differences in dialects. I think this would be a great read aloud for 5th or 6th graders or an independent read for middle schoolers, depending on reading level.

How would I use this book?: This book would be great to open up discussion about war and politics. In a TC or related curriculum, this book could fit into many units. The development of the characters is done beautifully, and it is a good example of perspective and storytelling. What I think this book captures best, however, is the story of a young boy struggling to make a change in his country. Although he is poor, uneducated, and young, he still works hard for social change. And in the end, he does make a difference for his country. I think this would be a great book for students to read and talk about, thinking about ways in which they could make a change in their country, community, house, school, etc. In addition, this book opens up concepts of different cultures and ways of living.

Domains of Social Justice: 1.) Self-love and Acceptance: Students will read about an example of two young people who, despite coming from different upbringings, find ways to relate to each other and love each other. Also, this book is great for students with Haitian background or Dominican since it shows both sides of each culture (mostly Haitian). 2.) Respect for others: Students see that it is impossible to judge someone just from where they are from. 3.) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Racism, classism, and ageism are all confronted in this story. 4.) Social Movements and Social Change: Djo and his crew struggle and risk their lives for social change in this story. Jeremie also does her part, even though she comes from an educated and conservative background. 5.) Taking Social Action: Djo is educated about politics and uses his knowledge to take social action. He advertises for the future president, and he doesn't back down. There is also a clear view of what the future president does to get to his position, preaching concepts of truth and action.

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me ~ Maya Angelo

Thandi, which translates as Hope, is a young Ndebele girl of South Africa. This strong and vibrant girl takes us through her village and her life. She presents readers with all that is important and good in her eyes. In addition to being a treasure of a book in terms of culture, there is also a visual vibrancy that does complete justice to Maya Angelo's story.

Reflections: I love this book because it really stands out as a introductary book to South African life. The visual pleasure one derives from it is a motivator on its own and the written words of Maya Angelo really top off its attractiveness. I really feel as though this book has the potential to intrigue every child in a classroom. Instead of values and struggles and the like being presented fact by fact, it is presented through the story of a young girl, someone who is relatable to students. Not only is it very accessible and knowledgeable, but it also allows for a discussion of "what is culture?" and "what is respect?" Which are a nice lead into ideas of social justice and social change.

Elements of Social Justice: 1) Self-love and Acceptance: Seeing the importance and pride Thandi has for her culture, students will learn to name and understand their own values within their culture. 2) Respect for Others: Students will learn that different cultures value different things, although there is room for similarities. 3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will begin to explore their classmates' and teachers' cultures as well as others in the school community through the lens of values just as in the story. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: Students will learn about how they can take part in social change around their community and perhaps an African community. 5) Taking Social Change: Students will decide how they would like to take part in social change in either their community or an African community.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Title: Rules
Author: Cynthia Lord
Publisher: Scholastic
Summary: Catherine is a 12 year old girl who wants to have a normal life, but it is impossible when her brother David has Autism and her family revolves around his disability. She spends years trying to teach David rules in order to wear off his embarrassing behaviors. During the summer Catherine meets Jason who has cerebral palsy, a boy different than any other boys she met before. Her own behaviors force her to question what is normal?
Reflection: I bought this book because I was interested in seeing how the author was going to portray Autism in a book for children. The books was humorous, entertaining and sensitive. I enjoyed how the author embedded a serious issue with the everyday lives and events of Catherine, a young child like many.
How would I use the book: I would definitely use the book as a read aloud over a period of days and examine the issue of acceptance. I would highlight the disabilities that are mentioned in the story, Autism and Cerebral Palsy and make sure that students are aware that their peers can face these disabilities, but not to treat them any differently. This book is more for the upper elementary grades. I would form literacy circles and provide various questions to enhance knowldege and enjoyment of the book. As actitivities I would have students create some of the things mentioned in the story done by David or Jason. The students can construct their own and have a sense of what it might feel like to have one of those disabilities.
Domains of Social Justice: 1) Self Love and Acceptance: Students learn to love themselves for who they are. 2) Respect for Others: Students learn to appreciate those who are different from them in any way. 3) Social Movements and Social Change: Students learn that they can help students with these disabilities by becoming friends with them and protecting them from anyone that wishes to harm them. 4) Social Action: Students learn that they can become advocates for their disabled peers and teach the entire school about the disabilities or any others present in the school by any means.

Go Figure

Title: Go Figure

Author: Jo Edwards

Summary: Go Figure reads like a journal of a girl named Ryan who struggles with her weight. She fluctuates from being comfortable with her body to using her reflections for her therapist to rate how much of an imact her weight has had on her failed relationships with boyfriends, friends and family members. Her closest friendships seem to be full of weight and body type comparisons and secrets about what size clothes she wears and her love for baggy pants and oversized shirts. Ryan's ex-boyfriend is an up-and-coming musician and she's thrilled when she finds out that he's written a song inspired by her, and after telling everyone in her social circle about it, she hears it for the first time and is crushed to discover that it's very hurtful, although it wasn't written in an aggressive way. Ryan begins paying serious attention to her weight and it becomes even more of the focus of her day to day life.

Reflections: Go Figure is written in a very sincere, honest voice. A teacher who decides to use this book or parts of it in an elementary classroom certainly has her work cut out for her, but I feel that it is worth the effort. Many aspects of the storyline and the language used as the story builds are quite mature and take place once Ryan is in high school, but the prologue takes place when she is in fifth grade at cheerleading camp, and the story continues on as she grows older, showing the lasting, painful effects of hateful words and how they can alter a person for their entire life. Body image is a serious topic that needs to be addressed in classrooms, and clearly it starts young and continues to get worse as we get older and progress through the rest of our schooling.

How would I use the book/curricular units: I would use the prologue to this book [available on the page, see "links" below] and a brief overview/selective retelling of the rest of the story with a 4th or 5th grade class. Different sources have different opinions on the appropriate grade levels for this book, ranging from sixth to twelvth grade, but I think that it would be a little bit too provacotive for fourth and fifth graders in its entirety, aside from the challenging vocabulary we come across from time to time. The prologue could be used either as a shared reading text, a read-aloud or as an independent reading piece. I would introduce the piece to my class by telling them that I was reading a book over the weekend and found something that I wanted to share with them, because I felt that we could all relate to it in one way or another, no matter how old we are or where we go to school. I think that the piece is powerful, and will leave quite an impression if its used as a read-aloud with the whole class or with a small group, or if the students read it on their own for homework and then we discuss it as a whole class the next morning, highlighting important parts of the text. Which method I used would depend on that particular class and the climate within the classroom. With reference to the TC aspects of Literacy Education, Ryan and Sadie & the others who teased her at cheerleading camp are both suitable candidates for a Character study. I would ask students to think about how Ryan felt when she heard those things about herself, and we would discuss how she reacted (she chose to quit cheerleading and "stopped caring" about what she ate and what her body looked like). Then I would ask students to think about what they would do if they were in Ryan's position, and how they could have helped Ryan if she was in their class. Overall, my goal with this text would be to make my students much more aware of how they speak to each other and what effects words can have on us.

Domains of Social Justice:
1. Domain of self love and acceptance & 2. Respect for Others: After working with this text and seeing how hard it can be to be spoken to out of hate, students will work towards making their classmates feel better about themselves rather than worse and in turn, will begin to hear more positive comments about themselves, building up their own self-image.

3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice & 4. Social Movement and Social Change: Students could look into professions and other aspects of life where people are discriminated against based on their appearance. Students can become active observers in their own school, making note of put-downs they overhear and thinking of ways they can make others feel better rather than feel worse.

5. Taking Social Action: Students can work to form a system within the classroom and within the school where students can use compliments as currency for things like in school celebrations and going on class trips to further build community. Both the person giving the compliment and the person deserving it would gain a point. Students can lose points for putting down their classmates. This is just one example of a way that the overall atmosphere of the classroom and the school could be changed, and in this way, the older grades in an elementary school would be establishing the system of change and positive reinforcement for the entire school.

Internet Links:
Book for sale on
[The prologue that I mentioned using as the main text with students is available on the amazon page, so even without the book, teachers can use that part of the text with their classes!]

Elena's Serenade

Title: Elena's Serenade
Author: Campbell Geeslin
Illustrator: Ana Juan

Summary: This beautifully illustrated story is about a little Mexican girl who goes to prove to her father and herself that she can be a glassblower like him too. However, he doesn't think that she can do it because she is too little and she is a girl. So she disguises as a boy and sets out on a journey to find the great glassblowers in Monterrey. Along the way, she meets a burro who was lost, a roadrunner who can't run fast, and a coyote who sings horribly. She helps them gain confidence and they help her get to Monterrey. At her arrival, she is mocked at first but later amazed the glassblowers by using her pipe to make music and glass stars. She then makes a glass bird to fly home and shows her father that she really can do it.

Reflection: This book was an automatic inspiration to me because it has the important theme of "I can do it if I try." Even though her father didn't believe her, she set herself at a risky position and went far away just to prove herself. I loved the colorful crayon illustrations and the facial expressions on the characters' faces. I also liked how it was a dual-language book because there were many terms that were said in Spanish [they were defined at the beginning of the book].

How I would use this book: This story leads to meaningful conversations about topics such as confidence, determination, and believing in oneself. It can be integrated into social studies, Spanish, word study [many thematic terms can be zoomed in on], art, music, and role-playing. For example, the girl had discovered that she was able to make beautiful music with her pipe and it led to her surprise that she can also blow beautiful glass stars. Students can discover a talent that they have and use it to inspire others to gain confidence and teach one another. For a dual-language class, students can learn the meanings of the words in Spanish and use it in their writing. Artistically, they can use guided imagery to make their own representations of the story. I think this book can also help a lot with teaching students about another culture.

Domains of Social Justice Education: 1. Self-love and acceptance: The little girl clearly shows that even though she is told that she is a girl and is too little to be a glassblower, she is determined to prove that she is wrong, even though she has never done it before. She accepts herself for who she is and embraces her culture. 2. Respect for Others: When encountering the animals who face struggles and humiliation, the girl does not laugh but instead uses what she knows and loves to help each one. 3. Exploring Issues of Social justice: This book explores general roles or sexism and physical attributes. 5. Taking Social Action: Elena definitely creates change by proving to her father that she indeed can be a glassblower and that she turns out to be a great one. The other characters think she is superb too, only they do not know that she was a boy in disguise.

Possible Activities [scroll down]


title: Yoko
author: Rosemary Wells
Summary: Yoko by Rosemary Wells is a book about how a cat teaches her classmate about acceptance and respect while she gains self love herself. Yoko, a young Japanese cat, loves sushi and insists that her mother sends her with it for lunch. When she gets to school and lunch finally arrives some students have franks and beans, cheese spread sandwiches, and spaghetti. All her classmates make fun of Yoko because of her sushi and her teacher calls for a cultural food day so that the students may learn to accept one another. For this day Yoko brought in sushi and red bean ice cream but no one ate her food. When the party was over Timothy, another student was still hungry and eats a piece of Yoko’s sushi.
Timothy loves the sushi and Yoko is very happy that her classmate has finally accepted her and the food of her culture. The following day Timothy and Yoko decide to have lunch together and have dragon rolls and brownies. In the end, Timothy, along with young readers, have to confront the issue of how one is socially just and respectful and the struggle that people must endure to cause social change. Also, in the book, students see how Yoko learns that you have to have self love for yourself and your culture.
Reflections: This book is a wonderful piece of literature to use with both first and second graders that presents heavy topics in a way that is understandable and not scary. It helps students to see that they must respect, accept, and appreciate the culture and traditions of all cultures. It shows that Yoko must struggle to create a social change in her classroom, which is a issue of social justice that students will have to one day explore in their own lives. In seeing that Timothy tries and likes Yoko’s sushi, students are able to see that he has respect and acceptance for the traditions of Yoko’s culture and is willing to take social action by having sushi with her the following day.
How would I use the book/curriculum units: The grade level in which Yoko targets in approximately first and second grade. Therefore the book could be used first in a broad discussion about treating others fairly. It could then filter into lessons about respecting and appreciating people who have different cultural traditions, in which student learn about all the cultures represented in their own classroom. The teacher could take all this information and write it on a piece of chart paper with all different colors and then it could be compared to a piece of chart paper with a few pieces of the same colored information. The students could then discuss why it is better and why it looks more pleasing to have all these different cultural characteristics that represent their class. After they have stated why they feel it is better to have many cultures represented in the class the students could explain why this discussion was an example of respect and acceptance for others.
In learning all this, as a class, the students could then be divided into pairs and in the pairs they would interview each other about their cultures. Students could then present what they have learned about their partner as well as create collages that represent that person (using cultural information that they had learned). Each student could also go home and speak to their parents about how their culture has been treated poorly and how these issues were explored and tackled with social movements. After students have learned this information then the teacher could have students share this information as long as it is not too overwhelming. A discussion could follow in which students would talk about what they would do in that situation, how they would show respect and acceptance, what they would do to explore this issue, and how they would try to change it.
Domains of Social Justice: 1) Domains of self-love and acceptance: Through Yoko students learn to have self love for who they are and the culture they are, as Yoko had to do. They see how Yoko finally creates self love and acceptance when she is proud of her culture and eats sushi proudly. 2) Respect for others: In this book students are shown how one cold be disrespectful as well as respect to another person in regards to their culture. Students are given the ability to see how disrespect makes someone feel and then see how this disrespect could change to respect and why it is better to have the latter situation. 3)Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will be able to explore racism but in an age appropriate manner. Being that many issues of social justice are overwhelming and evoke strong emotions, students can not go into such issues deeply in first and second grade. However students can learn about social justice and how one sees this by looking at Timothy’s role in the book. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: This book allows students to see how they could take steps to find out about and respect another person’s culture as well as help in making other people respect that culture. 5) Taking Social Action: In this book students learn that they could take social action such as Timothy did when he disregarded what his peers thought and accepted Yoko and her culture (by eating sushi with her). The book also sets the background for discussions about how Timothy could have taken more social action such as working with Yoko to teach other classes about Japanese culture.

Ken Mochizuki's Baseball Saved Us

Baseball Saved Us
Written by Ken Mochizuki
Illustrated by Dom Lee

Summary: "Baseball Saved Us" illustrates the confinement of the Japanese Americans and immigrants in internment camps during World War II in the United States. This is a part of history that has been played down until the more recent decades. Through a young Japanese boy's eyes, we are able to witness not only the scenes behind barbed-wire fences but also witness the boy’s hope and dreams come forth through the game of baseball.

Reflection: I believe that this book adequately displayed the injustices and humiliation that a group of people had undergone in the United States but also at the same time expressed a hopeful and encouraging story. I can still see some prejudices and stereotypes that could come out of this book but it seemed fairly sufficient in expressing its purpose and exposing children and parents to different aspects of history and of life.

How would I use this book/curriculum units: As I mentioned earlier, it is a part of history that has been downplayed and may only express a piece of how injustice is capable of being repeated in various forms throughout history, and open minds to its existence in current times, unless there is a form of change and action that is taken. This book can be used to explore such topics as immigration, injustice, human rights, racism, suffering, cultural diversity, and isolation. Students can attempt to identify with the boy and his experiences. All of these explorations – through history and baseball – can be used, related to, and adapted for a variety of lessons and activities. Students can also be involved in sharing about their research and study on this part of history and move on to emphasize similar existing situations in the present world.

Domains of Social Justice:
1)Self Love and Acceptance: Students will be able to empathize with the young boy through personal or other experiences and seek how it is possible to be hopeful and encouraged by their passion and interests.
2)Respect for others: Students will be able to explore a culture and learn to see beyond the physical and exteriors of people and situations.
3)Exploring Issues of Social Justice: immigration, injustice, human rights, racism, suffering, cultural diversity
4)Social Movements & Social Change: Students can learn about and more deeply explore the current injustices and sufferings in history and current world (its causes, its effects, etc.) and also the issue of human rights and racism.
5)Taking Social Action: Students can act by showing their community and the world of the injustices and racism that exists right now through various means.

The Magic Tree

Title: The Magic Tree: A Folktale from Nigeria
Author: T. Obinkaram Echewa Illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Mbi is an orphan boy who lives in a Nigerian village with many unkind relatives. When there is work to do, everyone calls his name. But when it's time to eat, all Mbi gets are scraps and bones to chew. Then one day, while everyone else is eating dinner and Mbi is sitting under an udara tree near the compound, a magical fruit falls from the tree. When he plants a seed from the fruit, a huge udara tree suddenly grows just for Mbi. Now he will never go hungry.

But when the meanest boy in the village tries to steal some of the fruit, Mbi makes the tree grow taller and taller, until its branches-with the boy on top of them-are lost in the clouds. Once the villagers understand that the tree will respond only to Mbi, he earns their respect and love. In the end, Mbi teaches all the villagers a lesson they'll never forget. In the final picture, Mbi is smiling and strong, dressed in a beautiful robe with gift coins pasted on his forehead.

Reflections: I enjoyed reading this book because at the end it gives a meaningful validity to the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child.” The author shares the perspective of orphan child who faces many adversities, such as dealing with work, loneliness, and hunger. In many Nigerian societies, orphans are sent to live with family members since there are few institutions for parentless children. I empathized with the character in the story since he was always willing to help anyone who needed his services, but they all forgot about him when he needed theirs. Although Mbi begins the story with no family or friends, in the end he is taken in by the entire village as their child and member of the community because the people see his noble and giving heart with the actions he constantly makes. The watercolor illustrations are really quite spectacular.

How would I use the book/curricular units: I would use the book as a read aloud to discover the meaning of unfamiliar Nigerian words using illustrations, patterns in the text, and surrounding sentences. Furthermore, this would be a great resource when discussing different cultures, especially when dealing with respect for others.

Domains of Social Justice:
1. Domain of self love and acceptance: Students learn how a community can give love and support to children who are impoverished.
2. Respect for Others: Students will learn the importance of appreciating people for their unpaid deeds and how to reciprocate their services when needed.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students learn what effects social economics status has on a culture
4. Social Movement and Social Change: Students will learn what methods in the past have worked to help countries, such as Nigeria to improve poverty in local areas.
5. Taking Social Action: Students will be encouraged to participate in efforts to volunteer their time, donate clothes, and being involved in a community social service program and serve as buddies to other children.

Internet Sites:
Place where you order the book at a cheap price.
Contains a list of other African web/literature resource books and videotapes that can be viewed related to discuss Nigerian community.

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting

Summary: A homeless boy who lives in an airport with his father, moving from terminal to terminal trying not to be noticed, is given hope when a trapped bird finally finds its freedom.

This book tackles the issue of homelessness and brings the reader to feel emotionally attached when the little boy asks why other people get to live in homes? What makes them so special?

Available for purchase new or used:

What drew me to this book was the idea of the lack of justice that a young boy realizes at such a young age. So many children may not be confronted by the issue of homelessness, or it may remain an issue to which they are unattached. The reality is that there are many children who live with homelessness everyday and as teachers we must be sensitive and aware of this. This book enlightens children's minds by introducing a basic idea of one issue of social justice.


1) Rereading the book to examine what the people in this book value and how their values compare with those of the children in your class is a worthwhile activity. These people may be homeless but they are not valueless. Help the children see how they are coping with this difficult situation without hurting anybody. They have not turned to crime in order to get a place to live. The father goes off to a part time job. They are constantly looking for a way out: an apartment they can afford, better paying work. They are staying clean, washing up with full flights of people in the washrooms. The boy's father is insisting that, when it comes time, the boy will go to school even though he's not sure how he will manage it. There is compassion toward others in the book and real friendships between some of the homeless.

2) With older grades, kids can conduct research about ways that the homeless family living in the airport isn't getting help. What about welfare, etc... the students can find out what is available in their community to help with this issue and possibly write letters for change if they feel a need.

3) Organize some kind of event to act on this issue. Encourage the students to create a project, either to be ongoing throughout the year, or on a regular basis, like a food drive, food drop offs, clothing drives, mid runs, etc...

Stages of Social Justice Education

Self love and acceptance: The book introduces a child who lives a different type of life than your students might.

Respect for others: Having a discussion with students about being sensitive to many different life styles, with regard to class, race, sex, etc...

Exploring isssues of social justice: Introducing homelessness as a social issue that needs to be addressed.

Social movements and social change: Students doing research about the services available for the homeless in their city or neighborhood.

Taking social action: Students organizing drives and other iniatives for their community to help with the issue of homelessness in their communities.

The Other Side by Jaqueline Woodson

Summary: The Other Side by Jaqueline Woodson is an inspiring story of two young girls from different walks of life. Clover is a young African American girl who has always wondered why her town is divided into two sections, a black section and a white section, by a large fence. Clover’s mother always warned her never to cross the fence because it “wasn’t safe.” However, one summer Clover noticed that a young Caucasian girl in a pink sweater would climb up on the fence and sit there all alone. As time went on Clover became more and more curious about this girl and why she sat on the fence. One day she walked up to the fence and the girl asked what her name was. The girls spoke and Clover discovered that Annie Paul lived on the other side of the fence and that her mom told her not to go over the fence just as Clover’s mother had told her. As the summer wore on Clover and Annie Paul got to know each other better, spent a lot of time sitting together on the fence, and wished that someday someone would knock it down.

Reflections: I really enjoyed reading this book and think that it is an excellent resource to be used in all classrooms. This book displays the issue of segregation, the ways in which racist ideals become engrained in children from their parents, as well as how the next generation can make the choice to go against the grain, challenge the beliefs and fears of their parents and elders, and find out about others for themselves. I really loved the fact that within this text we saw two different girls who were brought up to have certain feelings about one another challenge those beliefs and reach out to each other in an effort to not only learn more but to create a bridge between two peoples who were so clearly divided. Rarely do we see a text in which a child takes the power into their own hands so to speak and decides to be responsible for their own beliefs by investigating “the other,” challenging the status quo, and finding that their efforts have led them to discover that challenging authority can be a wonderful thing!

How I would use this book/curricular units: This text would be great to discuss the Civil Rights Movement and segregation, what they were, how they began, and how they ended. In addition, this book could be used to discuss racism and classism and issues related to both. The students can talk about instances of racism and/or classism that they have experienced and how that made them feel in addition to how they would have preferred the other person reacted to them. The teacher can also create an activity to demonstrate segregation, racism, or classism by dividing the class into two groups based on a random trait, treating each side differently, and stating that students on one side were not to talk to, play with, look at, or share materials with the students on the other side of the class. The teacher could then use this experience as a reference point for discussion in which the students share how they feel and compare and contrast their experience to the experiences of Clover and Annie Paul in the text. Finally, this book can be used to discuss social justice and they ways in which social justice is reached through challenging certain ideas and standing up for what you believe in at any age.

Elements of Social Justice Education: 1) Self-love and Acceptance: Students will learn to love themselves for who they are and where they come from. They will see in the text how Clover and Annie Paul loved themselves for who they were and where they came from and accepted each other even though it was not the “popular” thing to do. 2) Respect for Others: Students will learn to investigate other people and cultures and appreciate them for what they are just as Clover and Annie Paul did for each other in this book. 3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will discuss and learn more about racism and classism and their effects on all people. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: Students will learn about how people work for social change just as Clover and Annie Paul did in this text by sitting on the fence together and playing with one another. 5) Taking Social Change: Students will learn how to take action and create social change on their own just as Clover and Annie Paul did in the text.


Zen Ties- Jon J Muth


Zen Ties
is about Stillwater the Panda who's nephew Koo visits for the summer. During Koo's stay with his uncle, he learns many valuable lessons. For instance, when they stopped in the park for tea, Stillwater did not want to throw away the empty cups. Instead, he told Koo they would use the same cups everyday to save them.
Stillwater also introduces Koo to his friends Addy, Michael, and Karl who get along very well with Koo. At one point in the story Michael expresses to Stillwater that he is nervous about his spelling bee, but Stillwater encourages Michael to do his best and not to worry because doing your best is what you're supposed to do. Seeing that Michael still appears to be nervous, Stillwater decides to do something about it. He introduces Addy, Michael, Karl and Koo to Miss Whitaker, a friend of Stillwater's. At first Addy, Michael and Karl are hesitant because they are scared of Miss Whitaker; however, Stillwater explains that Miss Whitaker isn't feeling well and that they must bring her something to eat.
When the five of them bring some soup over to Miss Whitaker, she shouts at Stillwater for bringing the children. Stillwater however, remains positive and cheery and comes inside as the children follow behind. While Stillwater helps Miss Whitaker with the soup, the children clean up Miss Whitaker's house. They even draw pictures for Miss Whitaker. The next morning Stillwater goes back to Miss Whitaker's house where he informs Miss. Whitaker that Michael is participating in a spelling bee. Surprisingly Miss Whitaker turns out to be a fantastic spelling coach and helps Michael out. Michael ends up winning the spelling bee, and the story closes with all of them sharing Michael's win at Miss Whitaker's house.

Reaction/ How I Would Use this Book:

I thought this book was wonderful on two parts. In the beginning Stillwater tells Koo that they will not be throwing away the cups because he did not want to waste it. I feel like this is a great way to teach students how we should learn to conserve certain things and try not to waste, if we can help it. You can definitely stem a lesson integrating Science into it, i.e. talk about recycling. Even though the message it was sending wasn't the overarching theme in the story, I still felt it was an important theme to touch on. At the same time I felt this message could also be viewed in through a Social Studies lens, looking at the generational ties between Stillwater and Koo, why was Stillwater so keen on saving the cup?
The overarching message I felt this book was trying to convey was the importance of friendship and the ties we have to one another. Even though Miss Whitaker was resistance at first, Stillwater and the children did not give, only to realize that Michael and Miss Whitaker were able to connect on another level. Zen Ties also portrays giving back and helping others, whether it be a neighbor or a friend or doing something simple such conserving. It teaches students not to give up and have patience, even if something may appear to be resistant at first. I strongly believe this is an important theme that can be discussed in all classrooms, across all grades. It would be a great resource to use when talking about creating a community within the classroom and look at differences students have. It's also a wonderful way for students to connect with their community, and think of ways to help others.

Elements of Social Justice: 1) Self-love and Acceptance- Just like there is a generational tie between Stillwater and Koo, student's will learn to understand what connects them to their heritage and their family, and accept their own unique qualities. 2) Respect for others: Student's will learn that other cultures and community value different things. For instance, Stillwater did not want to throw out the cups because he did not want to waste them. Koo at first did not understand why, but after his Stillwater explained why he did not want to throw them away, he was able to see through his uncle's eyes. 3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: student's will investigate the different cultures in the classroom and their community and look at what is thought to be valuable. In addition, students will explore the different aspects of ageism and how the community responds to it. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: students will learn about how they can give back to the community and provide opportunities for those who are unable to assist themselves. 5) Taking Social Change: Student's will participate in a community organized event that will allow them to contribute a talent they may have, and share it with someone, i.e. going to a nursing home and reading a story.

Suki's Kimono

Summary: Suki’s Kimono is about a first-grade girl determined to wear a kimono on her first day of school. Her sisters warn her that it is not “cool”, but she doesn’t care. The kimono reminds her of the summer she spent with her grandmother and the street fair she attended that celebrated Japanese culture. No matter who snickers at her clothing, she stands proud. Suki’s teacher asks the class to share stories about their summer vacations. Suki describes her time with her grandmother. The best part of the festival was the dancing, which she demonstrates for the class. The entire class claps and celebrates her dancing skills. Suki dances the whole way home proud of her achievements for the day.

Reflections:This book has beautiful illustrations and is just very enjoyable to read. Suki takes pride in her culture and beliefs. She is only a first-grader, yet is able to ignore others in order to be true to herself and what she really loves. It shows a willingness from others to accept, appreciate, and learn from classmates' cultures and ways of dress. But beyond cultural appreciation, it illustrates self-acceptance, something difficult for children and adults alike. Suki is unwavering in her faith in herself and her culture. She is not embarrassed of her kimono and dancing like her sisters, but proudly displays it and shares it with others.

How I Would Use the Book: This book lends itself extremely well to discussing many cultures within a classroom. Children could easily discuss and inquire about their own cultures and share this knowledge with their classmates. A teacher could use this book during a unit about cultures and traditions, or social norms and mores.
Besides cultures, this book is excellent for teaching children about self-pride and respect, or even feeling different. It can help children embraces differences and be proud of who they are today and the background of their families. The children could explore one unique thing about themselves or their families and become an expert on it and present it to the entire class.

Domains of Social Justice: 1. Self-Love and Acceptance: Clearly Suki displays this from the beginning to the end of the story. 2. Respect for Others: Suki earns the respect of her classmates once they understand her reason for wearing the kimono and watch her dance performance. 4. Social Movements and Social Change: Hopefully after reading this story, children will take an active role in understanding and appreciating the differing cultures of the classmates and neighbors. They will begin to seek out opportunities to further explore people who are different from themselves.

Oliver Button Is A Sissy

Summary: Oliver Button Is A Sissy is a book about a boy named Oliver whose interests are completely different from the other boys in his class. Instead of playing sports like the other boys, Oliver enjoys jump roping, playing with dolls, and especially singing and dancing. When Oliver’s parents realize how much he loves to dance, they decide to send him to dancing school. Everything seems great until the other students in the class find out about Oliver’s love of dancing. They constantly tease him and call him a “sissy.” Despite the teasing, Oliver continues practicing and even enters a talent show. Oliver’s teacher encourages the students to attend the show and they all show up to watch. In the end, Oliver does not win first place, but he impresses his fellow classmates and gains their respect. He was no longer a “sissy;” instead he was a “star.”

Reflection: This book brings up the subject of gender stereotypes and the pressure that society places on conforming to these stereotypes. What’s great about this book is that it presents readers with a strong character who is able to overcome the negativity associated with not conforming to gender stereotypes. It gives readers the message that it is okay to be different and that they should pursue their interests regardless of what other people may say about these interests. In this book, Oliver Button continues to do what he loves to do—dance—even though he is often teased about it.

How I Would Use This Book/Curriculum Units: This book can be a part of the community-building process at the start of the school year. As students learn about each other and their interests, they are also learning that it is acceptable to be different from each other, since differences add to the uniqueness of every individual. Moreover, students learn that it is acceptable to be different in the sense that they can pursue any interests even if others say it is inappropriate for their gender. Additionally, this book can also be used for an author study on Tomie dePaolo. Students can compare different Tomie dePaolo books and develop their inferencing skills by coming up with conclusions about Tomie dePaolo’s writing style and/or his personality as a child, as Tomie dePaolo’s books are often about past events in his life.

Domains of Social Justice:

1) Self-Love and Acceptance: Students learn to accept themselves the way they are, which also includes accepting the interests they have and pursuing them, even if their interests are contrary to what is perceived as appropriate for their gender.

2) Respect for Others: Students learn about each other’s interests which may end up being different from theirs. Despite these differences, students should still learn to accept others for the way they are.

3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will learn about the issue of gender stereotypes and whether they accurately represent people.

5) Taking Social Action: Students will make active efforts to get to know other students and also participate in helping others look beyond gender stereotypes.

How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story

By: Eve Bunting Illustrated by: Beth Peck

SUMMARY: This story follows a boy and his family on a journey from the Caribbean to America. Soldiers had entered the town and people from the town were forced to leave and find safety in America. The family leaves all of their possessions in their home and secretly board a boat. The boat travels for several days while coming across many obstacles in the ocean such as bad weather and thieves. Eventually the boat makes it to America on Thanksgiving day.

I liked this book because it gave a different/modern perspective of immigration and the meaning of Thanksgiving. This book portrays some of the current realities and hardships people from other countries are faced with. I also liked this book because I have not seen many books that focus on issues regarding people from the Caribbean.

HOW WOULD I USE THIS BOOK/CURRICULUM UNITS: I would use this book for a discussion about immigration/ the multiple meanings for Thanksgiving/ why people immigrate. Students can also compare and contrast this immigration story to that of the Pilgrims or any other immigration story. Another way to use this book would be for the students to imagine themselves in a similar situation of being forced to leave their home to express their feelings and reactions. I would also use this book to explain what refugees are. This book could also be used for social studies in regards democracy, freedom and human rights since these were the reasons the characters in the story chose to come to America. I would also tie in geography by having students chart the journey of the boat on a map.

DOMAINS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE: 1) Self love and acceptance- Students learn about and acknowledge the obstacles that the Caribbean people overcame. 2) Respect for others- Students learn about different forms of oppression and how people from other cultures escape oppression. 3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice- oppression, democracy 4) Social MOvements & Social Change- Students learn why and how people immigrate 5) Taking Social Action- Students learn about current immigration policies and measures people take to immigrate to America



By Kevin Henkes

Link to where you can purchase book:


Chrysanthemum loves her name — until she starts kindergarten, which is an unfamiliar world full of short names like Sue, Bill, Max, Sam, and Joe. But it's Victoria who really makes Chrysanthemum wilt, offering that she was named after her grandmother, which is much more important than being named after a flower. Not only that, but who has ever heard of a name 13 letters long? "That's half the letters in the alphabet!" Victoria points out indignantly. Though Chrysanthemum's parents try to soothe her wounded soul with "hugs, kisses, and Parcheesi," it's not easy to find solace (and regain lost self-esteem) with all the girls on the playground threatening to "pluck" and "smell" you. Then the children meet their music teacher, charismatic Mrs. Twinkle. Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle, that is. When Mrs. Twinkle announces that she wants to name her baby the prettiest name she has ever heard, and that that name is Chrysanthemum, all the kids wish they had flower names, too. For her part, Chrysanthemum blooms once again. In this award-winning picture book, favorite author/illustrator Henkes once again demonstrates his talent for capturing the difficult dramas of childhood in simple text and cartoon-like illustrations. His mouse characters — depicted in energetic pen-and-ink and watercolor pictures — have all the depth and dimension of real kids (and parents). Especially appropriate for any child with a difficult or unusual name, this perceptive picture book will charm a wider audience with its wit and wisdom.Reflection:

This was a great book because ti shows how people can appreciate and learn to appreciate their names, how they got their names, the uniqueness of names, and the history of their names. It also teaches people to accept others for not being exactly like them.

Book Use/Activities/Curricular Units:

This book lends itself easily into discussion about how you got your name, why you were named that, if you were named after someone and the importance of you name. You could also integrate this into math and count the number of letters in your name. You could create art projects around your name as well.


Domain of Social Justice Education:

1) Self Love and Acceptance- Chrysanthemum learns to love her name and appreciate her unique name.

2.) Respect for Others- Strengthens intercultural competence. The students in the class learn to appreciate Chrysanthemum's name and the other students soon wanted to have names like chrysanthemum.

5.) Taking Social Action- Students explore their own context and develop tools to work for change. The teacher tells students that she has a flower name also, soon the students want to take action and change their names to flower names and appreciatea Chrysanthemum unique name.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Grandfather's Journey

title: Grandfather's Journey

Author: Allen Say

Illustrator: Allen Say

Summary: The story is about a boy's grandfather and his journey from Japan to America. His grandfather loved America but missed his homeland of Japan. He returned to Japan to marry his first love. However, he begins to miss America and returns, where he and his wife raise their daughter. Grandfather begins to miss Japan once more and returns. When Say is born his favorite memories are those spent with his grandfather and hearing tales of California. When Say is old enough he travels to America and realizes why his father was so torn between which country he would like to call home. The illustrations are done in watercolors.

How would I use the book/curriculum units: This is a great story to teach children about history. This book is recommended for 3rd and 4th grade levels. This is a great book that can be integrated into a social studies curriculum such as immigration. This is a good book to use in the classroom especially considering the number of students who immigrate from other countries. This book depicts how a person could make a new home in another country yet still miss their old country.

Domains of Social Justice:1. Self love and acceptance: This book displays a character who is interested in his culture and wants to explore it more. We should love and accept ourselves for who we are and embrace our culture. 2. Respect for others: We learn through this book the importance to respect others and their cultures. When the character went from Japan to America their culture was respected. 3. Exploring issues of social justice: The book definitely opens doors to a discussion on immigration and the different people that compose NYC and our classroom. 4. Social movements and social change: The book depicts the story of a grandfather who is torn between is home country Japan and the new country America. This is a struggle that many people face.
5. Taking social action: The grandson feels closer to his father once he experiences the same emotions, being torn between two countries. This book can lead to a discussion on how to maintain your own culture in America.

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

My Name Is Yoon is a moving story depicting a seven-year-old Korean girl’s difficult adjustment to her new life in America. With a name “Yoon” meaning “shining wisdom”, the main character thinks that her name looks much happier written in Korean than in English. She struggles to please her parents by learning an unfamiliar language while surrounded by strangers. Although her teacher encourages her to practice writing “Yoon”, the child substitutes other words for her name, words that better express her inner fears and hopes such as “cat” that can hide in a corner and cuddle with her mother, “bird” that can fly back to Korea, and finally, “cupcake” that is loved by her classmates. In fact, she yearns for gaining the acceptance of her peers. In the end, she realizes that she is actually accepted by people surrounded her. She comes to accept both her English name and her new American self, recognizing that however it is written, she is still Yoon.

This is a great book because it conveys to youngsters a positive message of respect and acceptance to different cultures and self-recognition and value. In a simple and straightforward way, it shows children how to accept and integrate others from different cultures that they might not have encountered before. In the meantime, Yoon’s story may relate to millions of immigrant children who tend to be overwhelmed and struggle in a completely new environment. Therefore, it can be helpful to have the youngsters learn an abstract concept of empathy at this point. Moreover, through showing Yoon’s bewilderment and sense of dislocation, the book may help the children to develop an awareness of their unique identities and appreciation of their own cultures as immigrants.

How would I use the book:
This book would be used in the beginning of a unit about Immigration in a second/third-grade classroom. I would first introduce the book through read aloud and then have the class think aloud and discuss what they would do to appreciate and accept people from other cultures. Relating to students’ own lives, I would ask them to think if they have known somebody from other countries and share what it is like interacting with that particular person. If there are certain students with other cultural backgrounds, I would have them share their own cultures and traditions in class. In addition, carrying out a role-play activity in which students act out different characters in the book may be a good idea to reinforce the concepts.

Domains of Social Justice:

Domains of self-love and acceptance:
Students learn to love themselves for who they are. In this story, Yoon gets to accept her “new identity” as a Korean immigrant in America, and tries to involve herself in the classroom and community.

Respect for others:
Students learn to accept, respect, and love one another, and moreover, cultures and traditions of others. In this case, Yoon’s peers get to accept and love this new class member, and vice versa.

Social Movements and Social Change
Students may get to learn that most people tend to face barriers and difficulties when transitioning to a new life, and most of all, how to resolve the problem such as saying something nice to that person, helping out with homework, being a learning buddy, and etc.

Taking Social Action
Students learn to encourage and persuade people to accept other people from other cultures.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Freedom River by Doreen Rappaport

Title: Freedom River
Author: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrator: Bryan Collier

Link to book:

Freedom River is based on a true story about John Parker, an ex-slave, and his persistence and courage in repeatedly taking the dangerous journey of helping slaves escape. In this story, Parker helps Isaac, Sarah and their baby (a family of 3) escape from Master Shrofe. At his first attempt, they were caught and as a result, their baby had been taken away from them. Parker felt responsible for the baby's separation from her parents and was determined to help reunite them and set them free, despite their repeated rejection of him trying to help.

Reflection: When I read this book, I realized that so many different lessons can be created from reading this one book. Although the story line is relatively simple, this book is packed with meaningful concepts and ideas that teachers can use to teach in different subjects. The illustrations does a really great job conveying to the readers the emotions and feelings that John Parker and the slaves may be experiencing during time like that...the dark colors used during scenes of danger and enslavement, and light colors during scenes of freedom.

How I would use this book: As mentioned above, many lessons can be created from this book and can be integrated into different subjects. Following are some ideas:
Literacy: This book can be incorporated into the unit of character study, where students can analyze John Parker as a character. John Parker can be viewed in a variety of perspectives: in the eyes of slave owners, slaves, and ex-slaves (freed slaves). Students can be split up into groups where they will take role as one of these characters. This can also be an introduction to a unit on slavery and/or racism.
Math: Units of distance can be taught her, as well as addition and subtraction word problems. Maps of the Underground Railroad can be created and appropriate scales will be learned during this time.
Social Studies: Students can research more on who John Parker is and his life. Questions like: What caused him develop such courage and determination to help families escape?

Depending on the direction that the unit goes, different culminating projects can be designed:
-writing a story on how they helped someone and why; a time when they were treated unfairly and whether or not someone helped them; taking the role as John Parker (or other characters) and writing a diary about their journeys; pretending that they were students traveling back in time and can speak to the slave owners.

Domains of Social Justice:
Self Love and Acceptance: Students can talk about how Isaac and John are different because while Isaac, a slave, doesn't really have a voice of his own, John who is freed, does. This can link to students learning that it is important to accept themselves with their own identity and not as someone else's property. They should be proud of who they are.

Respect for others/Exploring issues of social justice: Although this book does not directly talk about this idea, discussion about how people do not respect others of a different race during the slavery time will spark the idea of respecting others while also exploring the idea of social justice.

Taking Social Action: Using their own voice and perspective, students will write letters to slave owners telling them why owning slaves is unfair and give suggestions as to what they can do instead. There will be a day when the class will "travel back in time" and read these letters to a slave owner (role played by teacher)