Saturday, January 31, 2009

Uptown by Brian Collier

Uptown is a really wonderful story told through the eyes of a young boy who lives in Harlem, NY.  Through vibrant pictures in collage form, this special boy gives the reader a true sense of his pride in his culture and community.  The boy, who name is unknown to the reader, gives us a glance into parts of his community and life that are really important to him.  Special moments include shopping on 125th street, eating chicken and waffles, and passing the legendary Apollo Theatre.
How I Would Use this in the Classroom:
I believe this text is a really great opportunity to allow students to share their culture, family life, home life, and special memories within a classroom community.  This could be done through creative art, poetry, or even journal writing.  Students could begin expressing these ideas by writing their own story with the words, "I'm from..." and expanding upon the Uptown idea.  

Domains of Social Justice:
1) Self-Love and Acceptance: This text will enable children to take a closer look at where they are from from many perspectives.

2) Respect for Others: Uptown and activities related to Uptown, will give the students the chance to look at cultures other than their own and appreciate their unique differences.




Summary: Cendrillon is Caribbean Cinderella and because it is told in one of the Caribbean island the author uses the local fruit and animals in the story. Cendrillon mother was very sickly and she died when she was still a baby. Before she died she asked a washerwoman who works for their family to be Cendrillon godmother. Cendrillon father remarried and had another daughter. As cendrillon grew older her stepmother made her do all the work and treated her badly scarcely giving her any food to eat. One day Cendrillon came to river very sad. She told the washerwoman that there is going to be a birthday dance for Monsieur Thibualt son and everyone is invited and she really would like to go but her stepmother told her that she cannot go to the ball. The washerwoman promised Cendrillon that she would go to the ball. Although she had no idea how she was going to keep her promise to Cendrillon, the washerwoman couldn’t stand to see Cendrillon so unhappy.
How to use this book: It can be used as a comparison to the many ways the Cinderella story can be told. It is also a story of encourage and hope, because although she was treated unfairly, she never acted maliciously. Students can take it from the prospective on how everyone should be treated equally.
Domains of social justice:
1) Self love and acceptance: Students can be encouraged to discuss similar stories in their cultures. They would begin to understand and accept the various cultures within their classroom.
2) Respect for others: Students can learn that despite a person race or culture everyone should be treated equally and fairly. In the book, the character expresses humility and strength and eventually prevails at the end.
3) Exploring issues of social justice: Students can discuss inequality and why it is important to treat everyone the same regardless of their race or culture. Students can also explore what it’s like to be treated differently.
4) Social Movements and social change: This book can be used as a stepping stone to explore other forms of inequality. Students can learn about discrimination and social action and how people have struggled to make a stand.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pink and Say

Title: Pink and Say
Author: Patricia Polacco

This book is about true story that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is a story about two Union soldiers during the Civil War. One of the soldiers was a poor white boy named Say, who was found wounded by Pink, the black soldier. Pink brought Say back to his home where his family used to be enslaved. Pink’s mom, Moe Moe Bay, takes care of Say and nurses him back to health. During this time Pink and Say become friends, bonding over their experiences and struggles of both life and war. Later on, Pink shares with Say how he is worried that they are endangering Moe Moe Bay by being there. So they plan to leave and return to the war and the Union army. However, the day they are set to leave, marauders come by. Moe Moe Bay sends the two boys down into the root cellar to hide. The boys hide for a long time and finally come out to discover Moe Moe Bay shot to death. Upon leaving, they bump into soldiers from the Confederate army and are taken as prisoners to the prison camp in Andersonville. This story of history and camaraderie ends with a description of what happened to the two soldiers.

Uses For Book
What’s really great about this book is that you can approach it at many different angles. The book takes place during the Civil War. This is a great way to give students a taste of what the conflict and life was like at that time. The book talks a lot about racism and the conflict around that, but it also talks about how peace between two different people is also possible. Teachers can take this major themes and concepts and use them as a backdrop for many activities and lessons. From discussion groups to research projects. Overall, this seems like a good book to use as part of a larger curriculum.

Social Justice Education Domains
1. Self-Love and Acceptance:
Say demonstrate self-love and acceptance. One night while Say was staying with Moe Moe Bay, he blurts and explains his fear of returning to the Union army. It turns out that he actually ran away and wasn’t just wounded at battle. Moe Moe Bay encourages Say and assures him that it’s okay to be afraid. She shared and comforted him and helped him to accept his fear. Say realizes that being brave doesn’t mean you can’t be scared.
2. Respect for Others:
This story is all about respecting others. Despite the different colors of their skin, despite their different experiences, despite the war – Pink and Say discover a friendship that was often rare at that time. They learned to respect and accept each other’s differences. I’m not even sure if that was even ever an issue. It’s such a beautiful story of love and respect!!
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice:
This book definitely brings up the concept of racism a lot since it takes place during the Civil War. You can a good sense of what the war was like and how even white people fighting with North were not respected. Both Moe Moe Bay and Pink were also killed due to the conflict of this war. Is this fair? These are the kind of things that come out of this book.
4. Social Movements and Social Change:
The Civil War was a huge movement that really jumpstarted this fight for equality. Of course the war was focused more on the concept of slavery, but it still did set the stage for other social movements like the civil rights movement. During this time in history a lot of changes occurred.

As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson

Summary: This book tells a basic story about MLK Jr. as a child and mirrors it with the childhood of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.  As King grows up amongst "whites only" signs in Alabama, Polish Heschel faces Hilter's "No Jews Allowed" rules as daily life.  Both show a dedication to their education, and when Heschel immigrates to America in search of a more tolerant society, he winds up in the throes of the civil rights movement.  Moved by the work of King, the two become friends and allies.  The book is rich with vivid illustrations, references to actual events and important people such as Rosa Parks, and positive messages of hope, equality, and passion for education and justice for all. 

How I would use this book in the classroom: This book could really be used in any primary classroom.  In a younger grade, it is a way to open up discussions of the various forms of prejudice people face and the idea of allies.  In all grades, it is a way to talk about important events and leaders in the civil rights movement while providing an accessible context, that of childhood.  I think that this book could be integrated in to many different units, from civil rights to immigration.  But finally, I think that this would be an extremely interesting book to use in a upper elementary classroom because it can open up a discussion about religion.  In the book, the two main characters are religious leaders, and they both relate because their main argument is that we are all the same in God's eyes.  Students would be able to discuss why this is their main argument, if they think it is a strong one, and if there are any others besides one that has religious implications.  Are we not all equal just because we are, with or without God?  And if most of the injustices of society are based in laws, then how does this align with the notion of separation of church and state?  What about the religious leaders of today, do you think they would be allies to these two men?  There are so many avenues to explore and rich conversations to be had...

Stages of Social Justice:
1) Self Love and Acceptance: The title of the book, enough said. 

2) Respect for Others: Again, the title says it all.  But really, this is a story about friendship and the acknowledgment of difference and the value of respect.  

3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: This book can really get kid's minds thinking about social justice, but I think the buck stops there.  In fact, it kind of makes it seem like the era of fighting for civil rights is over, confined to the civil rights movement, and now because of these two guys, everything is better now.  I think acknowledging this is the classroom would actually be a great way to elevate this book to the next two levels.  

Let's Talk about Race by Julius Lester


Summary: I chose to read Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester. I love this book!! Julius starts out by saying that we all have a story. He begins to explain what he likes, his hobbies, etc. and then mentions his race. This begins the discussion on race; he explains what races there are and how many people tend to dislike other people simply because of their race. He explains that we are all the same under our skin so we really have no reason to judge anyone based on skin color. There is a hands on little activity where you feel the bone under your eye and then someone else's to prove that we all have the same bones. Julius then talks about how we are so much more than our race and tells some of the things he likes to do. At the end, Julius asks you if you, too, will take your skin off and not judge others. The book is very well written with nice colorful pictures that keep the students engaged. I have no qualms with the book.

How I would use this book in the classroom: I used this book in a 1st grade classroom, but you could really use it in any grade and just adapt the way you read/teach it. I literally broke it down page by page, only reading 1-2 pages a day. Each page can have a lesson and discussion created from it. I had students write about their likes/dislikes and about themselves. I then branched out into a discussion on what is race. The next day the students categorize themselves into a race (s) and find out what their classmates are. Students then do the hands on activity and find out the lesson that we are all the same. Students can write about each page, either with a response or a summary of what they learned, or how it relates to their life. You can also do any other lesson that you want about race in correlation with the book.  It can lead into discussions on racism, as well. There are so many things you can do with this book!

Stages of Social Justice:
1) Self Love and Acceptance: Julius talks about all the different things that make him unique and himself. This includes his race which is an important part of him (though not the thing that defines him). 

2) Respect for Others: Julius talks about how all people are the same on the inside and you shouldn't judge someone solely because of their race. The book has pictures of people of every race and ethnicity and shows them interacting postively.

3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Julius talks about racism and how others judge people just because of their race. He compares this to how people judge other people because of their gender, religion, class, etc. and how none of these would be fair or acceptable.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

The Hundred Dresses is a story based in the true experiences of the author about a girl who is teased by her classmates because she is different. Wanda Petronski, a girl who comes from the poor part of town, is the only student in her class with a 'funny' Polish name. She is always quiet and she always wears the same faded blue dress to school everyday, although she claims she has a hundred dresses at home "all lined up in her close." 
The story is told from the perspective of one of Wanda's classmates, Maddie, who is the best friend of the main player in the daily taunting and teasing. After Wanda is absent for a few days, her classmates learn that her family has moved away to the big city where they will not be mistreated for being different. Maddie begins to wonder about the girl she and her friends used to constantly tease, and realizes that she knows very little about her. She begins to wonder why they started teasing her in the first place and is overcome with guilt for making fun of her simply because she is poor and has a funny name and is different from them. Maddie knows that she should have stood up to her friends and defended Wanda. She feels guilty for not speaking up, for standing by and allowing her friends to tease Wanda.
Maddie and her friends later discover that Wanda is a very talented artist, and that her  drawing of one hundred beautiful dresses has won the school's art contest. The girls realize that they misjudged Wanda, and feel incredibly guilty for never believing her stories of her "one hundred dresses." In the end, the girls write a letter to Wanda, hoping to make amends, and they are pleasantly surprised by her willingness to forgive.

How to use this book: The book The Hundred Dresses could be used in many different ways in the classroom. The message of acceptance and of not teasing someone for being different is a valuable lesson for students of all ages and could be used in upper or lower grades. Another idea that should be introduced in the classroom is that Maddie stood by and did not speak up when she knew that her friends were doing something wrong. Most students have probably had similar experiences and could benefit from a reflective activity such as journal writing.   I would also use this book in the upper grades  to begin discussions getting into the issues raised about economic and cultural differences. 

Social Justice Education: 
2. Respect for others: This book addresses the importance of respect for others by presenting the lessons learned by the characters in the story. First by the characters' lack of respect for others, then later they begin to demonstrate respect for others when they realize that although Wanda is poor and Polish, she is really no different from them.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: The issues of racism and classism are confronted in this book through Wanda's negative experiences in school, and, because we learn that Wanda's whole family moves to the big city to avoid being ostracized, we can understand that the issues are much larger that than just bullies at school.

Teammates - Sara Sepulveda

Title: Teammates
Author: Peter Golenbock

This is a picture story book about Jackie Robinson's beginning moments being the only African American player in a Major League Baseball team. Jackie faced racial discrimination and hate from the American baseball fans even during games. His teammate, Pee Wee Reese sees this injustice and decided to take a stand against the racial injustice and stand by his teammate.

How to use this book:
This book should be used with the upper grades (3-5) because of the level of vocabulary used in the text. It can be used when discussing the civil rights movement and U.S. segregation. One could focus on the signinficance Jackie Robinson's role in the Major League and how it affected the way and access African Americans all over the United States were struggling and striving for. Pee Wee's role in this book is also good to focus on sticking up for : what we believe in, what is right, our friends, etc.

Application to Social Justice Education

1. Self-love and Acceptance
Pee Wee Reese helps Jackie reaffirm his self-love and acceptance in assuring him that he is his teammate and doesn't deserve the negative treatment.

2. Respect for Others
Pee Wee Reese shows that he accepted Jackie as an African American even if the majority of the people of the time looked down upon African Americans.

3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice
This book exemplifies the racist environment of the United States during this time period through the raction and treatment of the audience to Jackie's participation and inclusion in Major League baseball during the game.

4. Social Movement and Social Change
Although Pee Wee only exhibited a minor physical gesture of standing by Jackie and putting his arm around him, it spoke volumes. He stood up for Jackie knowing that it would not present him in a favorable light to his audience but in a positive light to all African Americans . I think it is very important to highlight and emphasize to our students how small actions like Pee Wee's do mean a word of a difference and bring about at least a start to social change/movement.

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, by Walter Dean Myers

Funny book! Love it!

Lately I have been immensely preoccupied of the notion of one's blackness. After reading the book The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Students, by Gloria Ladson Billings during the break, I started a research on the resources that I could use in teaching black students. I stumbled upon Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, last semester at the book fair at my student teaching placement, in the free books box. So of course I grabbed it. And I am glad I did.

Summary: Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff is a book about a group of friends and their everyday life experiences in Harlem (which as a culture of itself). Stuff the narrator of the book, moved to 116th st. when he was 12yrs old. He makes friends pretty easily. He walks the reader through he's life in Harlem telling us story after story of the different events that happened to him and his friends. This book is overall funny--with some sad moments. However it is pretty real and attracting; especially for black students. Recommended for grades the upper grades, starting in the 5th.

How to Use this Book: Something that I really like about this book, is that it covers lots of the typical issues that adolescent go to. From making new friends, to loosing a parent, and to sexuality. Chapter 4 is one of the chapters that I would definitely use in the classroom, in talking and going about community building and peer support. I think Walter Dean Myers does a great job talking about it in a children perspective. The language the author uses is just like how one would hear it in 116th st. in Harlem; which I thought was great. Because it is important for students to find something that represents themselves in books that they read. While Ebonics can be considered as the language of underachieved people, I feel that for students, black students that come from places where Ebonics is spoken this is a good way to get them find reading a book appealing. However it is important for them to also be familiar with standard English. So a teacher could use passages from the book and work with students on how they would go about saying the same things in standard English.

Domains of Social Justice Education:

Self-Love and Acceptance - Respect for Other: Many of the characters, including the narrator, Stuff have these characteristic. They somewhat define themselves through their abilities. For example Sam is called Fast Sam because of his track running skills. The group of friends in this book, while joking around on each other, all do accept each other for who they are and where they are coming from. Whether it's one who might have issues doing well in school or parental issues at home, they find commonalities between them and also ways to help each other out.

Exploring Social Issues: In two chapters in the book the group of friends are put into prison. Although it is for less then 24 hours, what seems to get them there is racial profiling. For example, in chapter 6 the three friends, Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff, stop these two boys from running away with a ladies pocket book. The two boys manage to get away, but they leave the purse behind. In their doing their good dead they get hurt, but cops manage to throw them in jail as if they were the thieves and refused to hear them out when trying to explain what had really happened. Clearly these officers had set ideas of what type of boys they were to be, assuming they had stolen the money they were carrying with them. This is a good way to go about thinking, talking, and exploring the issue of social justice/injustice.

Social Movement and Social Change: As I mentioned before this book portrays really well the notion of community building and peer support. The characters in the book form a support group called The Good People in order to be support their friends in good and bad times. In this group they talk about their issues and discuss different ways to solve them. While this group was somewhat exclusive, its formation made changes as these group of friend were now a bit comfortable about having problems and going to their friends to talk about it.

Pink and Say

Pink and Say
Patricia Polacco

Pink and Say is the true story of two Union soldiers—one black and one white—during the Civil War and how they develop a friendship and stick together at such a challenging time. Say, the poor white soldier, tells this story which is passed on from generation to generation and ends up becoming Pink and Say because Patricia Polacco is Say’s great-great-granddaughter. The story opens with Pink finding Say in the field with a gunshot wound and decides to take Say back to the home where his family members are slaves. Pink’s mom nurses Say back to health and Pink teaches Say to read. The boys bond and share their experiences with one another while supported by Moe Moe Bay, Pink’s mother. One evening, Say tells them how he touched the hand of Abraham Lincoln and he had Pink touch his hand so Pink could say he “touched the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln!” Pink wanted to get back to meet up with his fellow soldiers so as not to put his mother at risk for taking care of them but when they were ready to leave the following day, marauders come. The boys hide in the root cellar and wait for Moe to come get them, but she never does and they hear a gunshot outside—Moe was killed. As the boys try to meet the Union troops they are captured by the Confederate Army and shipped to Andersonville prison where they were separated, but not before they touched hands one last time. The book closes by sharing with the reader what happened next in each boy’s life and how Ms. Polacco is connected to the story.

How to Use this Book
This book would likely be used beginning in the upper grades—probably around the fourth grade—and can be used for a number of different discussions and activities. It could be used to look at the history of America and the Civil War, to look at racism and conflict, slavery, and even in a conversation about camaraderie and respecting/supporting those who are different from ourselves. In our book club conversation my group was saying how it might be valuable to look at the book in pieces rather than read the entire story at once. This would allow for a more thorough discussion and investigation. I also checked out online how some teachers have used the book and one suggestion was for the students to record questions they might have about slavery and then have them write a letter to a slave, a Confederate soldier, a Union soldier, a freed slave, a slave owner, a Confederate child, or a Union child (

Social Justice Education
1. Self-Love and Acceptance: Moe Moe Bay helps Say gain a sense of self-love as she encourages him when he feels as though he is weak and not brave like Pink. She reminds him that you can be afraid even if you are brave and to not think negatively of herself and this conversation is revisited by Say later on. Pink also certainly has a strong sense of self-love and acceptance because he is willing to share his experiences with Say and acknowledge the strengths he has despite his family’s situation.
2. Respect for Others: This story is very profound, I feel, because of the seriousness of the issue treated so positively. The fact that Pink and Say is about the Civil War yet introduces two teenage boys of different racial backgrounds befriending and helping one another is incredible. Pink shares with Say the kind of life he and his family led as slaves in Georgia while Say tells a little about his family as well.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Pink and Say addresses racism and even classism to an extent. Racism is self-explanatory but classism I feel is also mentioned because though Pink is a slave, his wealthy owner educated him and provided him with some opportunities that Say, a white boy, had never received.
4. Social Movements and Social Change: Portrayed within Polacco’s picture book are a number of examples of how people struggled for social change. First, the story is set at the time of the Civil War which demonstrates a need (and movement) for social change and then the fact that Moe Moe Bay was killed and that the boys are separated and imprisoned/killed shows even further how difficult it was (and is) for people as they push for social change.


Uptown, by Bryan Collier

buy it here:

Summary: This story is about a young boy who lives in Harlem, and loves his neighborhood. Written from his perspective, it highlights the many different places he enjoys visiting in Harlem- The Apollo Theater, Holcombe Rucker Playground- and the things he sees around his neighborhood- awnings in the windows and girls going to church. The story is sweet, as the reader realizes by the end that Harlem is almost a character, because of the personification the boys gives it and how close his neighborhood is to his heart. Each page is also accompanied by a beautiful collage.

How I would use this in a classroom: When I shared this book with my book group in class, we brainstormed some excellent ways we could use the book in a lesson plan, and even in a unit. Two ideas that stood out were using the book to drive a lesson on identity, encouraging students to write and talk about their own neighborhoods. This lesson could even be expanded to encompass an art lesson, much like that which we did with Nina this week. Because the artwork in the book is collage work, we could use Nina's lesson to teach our students how to make collages that illustrate their own stories about their neighborhoods. The second idea that stuck out from our conversation was using the book as a hook for a unit on New York City, exploring the numerous classes and races that makes up our city.

Domains of Social Justice: This book only focuses on one domain of social justice- stage 1 children learn about their own culture. The story is one of self-exploration. The boy reveals his own identity by talking about the culture and flavor of Uptown. He is proud of his neighborhood and his family history living there, and this translates as pride in himself for identifying with his home.

The Name Jar

By Yangsook Choi
Summary: This book is about a girl named Unhei who just came to the US from Korea. On her first day of school, she introduced herself to children on the bus and they began making fun of her name because it was different and difficult to pronounce. She then went into her class and when asked her name, she replied that she didn’t have one yet but she would choose and let the class know. The class gave her a name jar where they each put a name that she could take and she could then choose from the selection. Over the course of the book she’s told by her family as well as a friend she made that she should keep her own name because that was part of who she was. The day comes where she was supposed to pick a name and the jar was missing. She then has to present her name to the class and she ends up choosing her own name and teaches the class how it is written in Korean. She later finds out that her friend took the jar because he wanted her to keep her own name.
How I would use it in the classroom: This book could be used during a character study. I think it also could be used when students do the “self” unit because it does send out a message about identity and being proud of who you are.
Social Justice Education:
1. Self-love and Acceptance- Throughout the book, Unhei is learning that she should be proud of her culture and who she is. Finally, she does come to accept that she should keep her Korean name even though she has come to America.
2. Respect for Others- When Unhei presents herself to the class using her name, she also gives them a mini lesson on how it’s written in Korean, as well as what it means and how it is pronounced. By the end, the children seemed more accepting of her culture as they were saying her name correctly.

The Only Boy in Ballet Class


By: Denise Gruska

Summary: This book follows Tucker, a young boy who loves ballet but is often teased by other boys at school and even by his uncle for doing something that "is for girls." But Tucker just cannot hide his love for dance - he never just walks, he is always dancing, and he is most comfortable when he is in ballet class, where no one teases him. After his recital, where he gets to play the prince, he is walking home with his family when the boys ask him to temporarily join their football team so they have enough players and don't have to forfeit an important game. When Tucker impresses them all by jete-ing over the defense, the other boys show up at the next day's ballet class.

In the classroom: This book tackles gender roles in a very clear, easy to understand way that is accessible to young children. It would definitely be a helpful part of a larger unit on gender issues, specifically roles and activities that are seen as "only for girls" or "only for boys." One part that I think would be slightly problematic is that during the game, it seems as if Tucker has found acceptance only when he is playing football and acting like a boy is expected to act. However, I think it is very important to stress that the book ends with Tucker still in ballet class and not playing football - he did not give up what he loves. It is also interesting that Tucker gives football a try and the other boys give ballet a try. I think this shows that we all do not love every hobby or sport, but trying new things can help us appreciate them.

Domains of Social Justice:

1. Self Love and Acceptance: Tucker is very proud of his love for ballet, and he is not afraid to be himself and dance everywhere he goes. He feels most comfortable in ballet class even though he is receiving pressure from his uncle and the other boys not to take ballet.

2. Respect for Others: Tucker shows respect for the other boys' choice to play football by not teasing back. His mother helps reinforce Tucker's pride by telling him she loves that he likes ballet. Also, the other girls in Tucker's ballet class accept him and never tease him. Finally, all the boys come to an appreciation of the others by experiencing both ballet and football.

3. Exploring issues: This book clearly addresses gender issues by tackling the idea of stereotypes and activities associated with masculinity and femininity.

Mr. Lincoln's Way, by Patricia Polacco

Summary: Mr. Lincoln's Way is a book that discusses diversity, acceptance, and tolerance. Mr. Lincoln is a principal who is loved by everyone in the school- everyone except for "mean 'gene" Eugene. Eugene constantly gets in fights, so Mr. Lincoln tries to find a way to get through to him. One day, Mr. Lincoln notices Eugene watching the birds in the tree, and strikes up a conversation with him about the birds. It turns out that Eugene knows a great deal about birds, so Mr. Lincoln gives him a project- to attract birds into the school's atrium! After Eugene is given this project, he completely turns over a new leaf, until one day, he is sent to the principal's office for calling some of the kids in his class various racial slurs. It turns out that Eugene's father didn't like how Eugene was spending so much time with Mr. Lincoln because he was Black. Eugene's father didn't like people who were different than them, and he constantly voiced his opinions to Eugene. Mr. Lincoln then tells Eugene to look into the Atrium, which is now filled with birds, and to notice how the birds were all different shapes and sizes, but they all managed to coexist peacefully in the atrium. Once Eugene understands that he doesn't have to agree with the things his father says, he's happy again!

In the Classroom: This is a great book to use with the younger grades to start conversations about diversity, racism, acceptance, and justice. In the book, Eugene's father was the person teaching him and influencing him to not accept others, and I know that this is an issue that many teachers struggle over. Is it an imposition for us to be teaching values different from those at home? I think this book is a great way to talk about the issues from a distance, and to get students to think about what they consider is right and what they think is wrong. Mr. Lincoln also presents great methods for conflict resolution, and ways to include students who seem to always be on the outskirts.

Domains of Social Justice:
1. Self Love and Acceptance: In this book, we see Eugene struggle with reconciling the things his father tries to teach him and the way he personally feels. With Mr. Lincoln's guidance, he learns to separate himself from what everyone else tells him is right, and follows his own instincts.

2. Respect for Others: At the beginning of the book, Eugene is a mean and vicious character who calls the other students derogatory names. Eventually, we see him reflecting that he knows the name calling was wrong, and that even though everyone looks different on the outside, it's still possible to exist peacefully together.

3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Racism is a huge theme in this book. Mr. Lincoln demonstrates a great approach to talking to someone who says racist comments, and instead of attacking the boy and saying that he's wrong, he engages in a discussion with Eugene that gets to the real intentions behind the racist comments, and gets Eugene to reflect on what he's said. This presents a calm, structured way to talk about racism within the classroom. The discussions should make the students reflect on their past actions or actions of other people, and ways to constructively make them right.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

 Summary: Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman is about a girl named Grace who absolutely LOVES stories. Her favorite thing to do is to act out any story that she comes across. She's been Joan of Arc, Hiawatha, a pirate, and Mowgli to name a few. One day her teacher informs her class that they will be performing a play about Peter Pan. Grace was so excited! She wants to be Peter Pan! However, some of her peers tell her that she can't be Peter because she doesn't look like Peter. But, she didn't look like Mowgli, Hiawatha, or Joan of Arc either. How can her classmates say this to her? How does this make Grace feel? Does she get to play Peter? Distraught by her classmates reactions, Grace returns home and tells her mother and grandmother about what happened. With a little encouragement from her family and inspiration from an actress who plays characters that don't "look like her", Grace overcomes the doubts of her peers and fulfills her desire to play Peter.

How I would use this in a classroom: I would most definitely use this book to encourage students to follow their dreams, regardless of what people tell them. I also found this great lesson plan on that encourages students to think critically and grapple with ideas in the book. This lesson can be found here:

I found another lesson plan that focuses more on the family encouragement that happens in the book. This is great for younger students to make text to self connections between the characters in the book and their lives. This lesson also looks into philanthropy and how Grace, in some senses of the word, is a philanthropist by giving her talents for the common good. This lesson is found at

Domains of Social Justice:
2. Respect for Others: Strengthens intercultural competence. Students gain insight into how our words about the way someone looks or where they come from can impact another person. Grace is told by her classmates that she can not be Peter because she is black and she is a girl. However, by the end of the story, they see that Grace is an amazing actress and plays Peter wonderfully. This shows students that we are all capable of doing amazing things regardless of gender, race, culture, etc. 

3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Racism, classism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression are confronted. As mentioned above, Grace is told she can not do soemthing because she is black and she is a girl. This opens itself up to a wider discussion on what those kind of comments mean. It's also demonstrates how people can be unintentionally racist or sexist when they discourage someone from doing something based on race or gender.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Name is Bilal

My Name is Bilal
Author: Asma Mobin-Uddin

Summary: Bilal is a Muslim who moves to a new town with her sister. On the first day of the school, they encounter racism. One day, Bilal sees her sister getting mocked by wearing the headscarf. As she gets mocked by these white kids, Bilal feels that the school is a cold place to be in. Because of this fear, he changes his name to Bill so that people won’t look at him as a foreigner. Then, his teacher who is also a Muslim, gives him the book called, Bilal Ibn Rabah, Friend and Helper of the Prophet. By reading the book, he becomes aware of his identity and eventually accepts his Muslim name. The next day, when students mock at his sister, he defends her by saying proudly that they are Muslim.

How I would use this in the classroom: I would use this book in a classroom to introduce topics in social studies. I would use this book to introduce the topics on racism and cultural difference. I would also use this book in a literacy lesson to introduce about identity, friendship, and acceptance.

Domains of Social Justice:
1.) Self-Love and Acceptance: Like the main character in the story, students will learn to accept and appreciate who they are and find importance in their own identity.
2.) Respect for Others: This book is a great example for teaching respect for others. As Bilal accepts his identity and nationality, he shares his cultural background to other students. Therefore, his friends eventually realize and accept him as a friend.
3.) Exploring Issues of Social Injustice: This book shows how racism and cultural difference could hurt and influence Bilal and his sister.
4.) Social Movements and Social Change: When Bilal accepts himself, his friends also become open-minded about his identity. Later, his friends change their perspectives on racism and they become great friends.

Be Boy Buzz

Be Boy BuzzBe Boy Buzz by Bell Hooks and Chris Raschka
This is a wonderful book about an energetic little boy who has a deep appreciation for all aspects of himself. The language used in the book is beautifully arranged in a poetic manner, which makes the story both easier to read for younger kids and able to be interpreted on different levels depending on the reader. There is a natural rhythm to the text - you can feel the energy coming out of this boy. The book does not follow a typical story line (there is no conflict or resolution), however it does drive home a major point: love yourself and be proud of who you are. This boy in particular is VERY proud of being a boy. He loves to run and jump, talk and be quiet. He knows that he is beautiful. He is loved by someone and does not want to be let down by that person. He loves to dream big. He doesn't mind being alone. The language used in the book is definitely not perfect english, which allows for different interpretations of the text. I also think that it is important for kids to see that not EVERYthing they write must be written in the traditional way - sometimes it's best to write "freestyle" - which is very much what this book is. The illustrations match the text - simple and somewhat abstract yet easy to understand. Overall, Be Boy Buzz is a poem about a little boy who is proud to be himself and through reading this book, he encourages others to be proud of themselves, too. 

How to use it in the classroom:
1. This book is perfect for modeling a type of writing used mostly in poetry: free style. I think it would be a great tool to use in a poetry unit when discussing different types. Kids often think that poetry means certain things: it has to rhyme, look a certain way, follow a certain pattern, etc. It's important for kids to see that poetry does not have to be any of those things - it can be words that flow from your mind that convey a certain meaning written down on paper. 
2. This book could also be used when students are working on their self-portraits. The text in this book acts as a sort of self-portrait through words, while the illustrations depict the actual image of the boy. Students could model this book by pairing their illustrated self-portrait with a written self-portrait (possibly in the style of this book). 
3. This book also would be a great tool to use in order to promote self-love and respect for one another. 

Domains of Social Justice:
1. Self-Love and Acceptance: The character in this book loves himself and everything about himself, and it is very obvious. This is the strongest aspect of the book.
2. Respect for Others: Through respect for oneself, we can learn about having respect for others. This book certainly speaks to that and could act as a platform from which to jump into a discussion on respecting others.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: I actually just realized this now, but this book could actually be used to have a conversation about the "typical" gender roles that boys and girls notice in our society and how they feel about them. The boy in this book is a typical boy in many ways (he runs, jumps, has a lot of energy, etc.) Students could explore issues of sexism through this book (why isn't this boy shown playing with dolls, is it fair that this book is just about boys, etc.).

The Other Side

Summary The Other Side
By: Jacqueline Woodson

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson is a narrative told from the perspective of a young African American girl named Clover. In the story, the existence of a fence that extends across town remains a focus throughout the entire story. The fence is indicative of an unseen boundary that is not to be crossed – according to her mother, that is, because it isn’t safe. As the story progresses, Clover’s curiosity is sparked by a young girl named Annie, who is seen sitting on the fence. Annie’s first interaction with Clover and her friends is marked by rejection as she finds herself unwelcomed to join in a game of jump rope. Clover questions her mother as to why people and things on the other side of the fence seemed distant. To this she replies that things have always been this way. One day, Clover gathers up the courage to speak to Annie – courage that is accompanied by a feeling of freedom. Clover and Annie’s interaction is rather pleasant as they spend the summer sitting on the fence. As their friendship continues to build, Annie breaks the barrier and climbs over to Clover’s side, and soon even Clover’s friends welcome her in.
How the book would be used in the classroom.

The issues touched upon in The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson are segregation, racial discrimination, and friendships. With regards to segregation, the story of Clover and Annie bring to light the impact of segregation in society as it trickles down to young children who have yet to grasp a complete understanding of the situation. This book would be appropriate to use in a unit on the Civil Rights Movement. Additionally, students can use the example of Clover and Annie’s experience to discuss and explore symbolism – the symbol behind the fence and any ‘fences’ that they have built around themselves as well as ‘fences’ that have been by society that still stand today.
Domains of Social Justice Education

♦ Exploring Issues of Social Injustice – The town in which Clover and Annie live is separated by a fence. Clover and Annie’s parents do not acknowledge one another even while passing in the streets and the girls are reminded to stay on their side of the fence. The fence represents the existence of segregation and racial discrimination.

♦ Social Movements and Social Change – In the story, Clover’s brave act of approaching Annie is met with a feeling of freedom. Change for Clover and Annie start small. Both girls go against their parents’ wishes and their curiosity leads them to interact with each other. Gradually, their encounter develops into a friendship, which eventually develops into multiple friendships with the rest of Clover’s friends.

♦ Taking Social Action – Using Clover and Annie’s friendship as an example, students may examine their own relationships/interactions with different people around them. Social action can be taken within the classroom, starting small, by creating a positive community. Explore personal fences they may have put up.
Useful Links:
Where to Purchase this book:
The Breadwinner
By Deborah Ellis

Summary: The Breadwinner tells the story of a young girl Parvana who lives with her family in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule. Parvana lives with her parents and three siblings in a one room apartment. Parvana's father is captured by the Taliban for being an educated man. After he is sent off to prison the family is left with no one to provide for them since women are not allowed to work or be in public without a man. Parvana must cut her hair and dress as a boy in order to work in the market to help her family survive. The story shows the struggles and difficulties that Parvana must face as well as the frustrations of her family and other Afghans. 

How would you use this book?
This book provides for many activities in the classroom. The story can be used to research RAWA the women's right organization in Afghanistan. Students can then create their own campaigns to support the organization. The students could share what they learn with other classes in the school as well as send their campaign posters to RAWA. The book can also be used to look at the stereotypes that are placed on Afghans due to the Taliban. In other words, students can examine how the media's discussion of the Taliban affected views of Afghans by others.  

Domains of Social Justice Education
2) Respect for Others: The Breadwinner takes a deep look at Afghan's lives and shows how to embrace your culture and identity. The book will show students a different point of view of Afghanistan. For so many students, Afghanistan is associated with the Taliban and terrorists. Through this book students will see what it was like to live in the country during the terrible time and be able to respect the Afghan culture. 
3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: The Breadwinner allows students to look at their own stereotypes of Afghan culture as well as see how unfair and unjust the Taliban was towards women. 
4) Social Movements and Social Change: Students will see through this book how the people of Aghanistan worked to resist the Taliban. Parvana and her friend Shauzia are examples of how some citizens used disguise to work against the Taliban. Parvana's mother and friend Mrs. Wooria start a women's rights magazine and also begin a secret school for girls. These are just a few of the ways that Parvana and her family show how to achieve social change. 
5) Taking Social Action: Through this book students can find ways to reach out to communities outside of America that are suffering from oppression and look into ways to reach out to these communities. 

Miriam's Cup

Miriam's Cup
By Fran Manushkin

This story is about Miriam who was a prophet and the sister of Moses. The story beings in the Pinsky household where they are getting ready to celebrate the Jewish holiday Passover. Miriam(named after the prophet) is jealous that her brother Elijah gets his own special cup and wants one of her own. Her mother then presents her with a gift, but tells her that she can't open it until she tells her a story about why she has her name. Miriam's mother then goes into the story as to why Miriam is so important to the story of passover and to the history of Jewish people. At the end of the story Miriam opens the gift that her mother had given her, and sees that it is her very own special cup, Miriam's Cup.
In the classroom I would use it a couple of different ways. The first way that I would use this in the classroom is to do a read a loud with the students. Since this book focuses on a specific Jewish holiday, I would read it closer to that time. Otherwise, I feel that it would loose its significance. The other way that I would use this book in the classroom is to do a social studies lesson with the students. Even if there are not any students in the class that are Jewish, I still think that it is important that the students understand the story of Passover. The book gives an extensive history as to what the story of Passover was, and it would be easy for students in the younger grades to understand.
Reading the book, I found that it showed three different levels of Social Justice. The first aspect of Social Justice that it touched upon was Self-Love and Acceptance. I think that students that are Jewish and read this book or have this book read to them, will feel a sense of accomplishment because of what Miriam did for them. The second level of Social Justice that this book presents is Respect for Others. Because of the way that Moses fought for the Jews to be respected, it will cause the students to think about how they treat other people. The last one was, Exploring Issues of Social Justice. The book talks about how Moses fought for the rights of the Jews, and what he did until he got what he wanted.

Miriam's Cup

Isla by Arthur Dorros

Isla, by Arthur Dorros

Isla is a story of a young girl who loves to hear stories of "la isla" or the island Puerto Rico where her grandmother grew up. Through her abuela's stories, she travels to Puerto Rico and sees the place her family came from. She goes to the house where her mother and uncle grew up and sees photographs and paintings by her grandmother. They also see the rain forest and the harbor among other places. The girl and her abuela return to New York and plan to take another visit through storytelling soon. The book uses some Spanish words and phrases and introduces new vocabulary throughout the story. The illustrations are colorful and fun, making this book great for a read aloud.

How I would use this book:
I feel this book is most appropriate for students in grades K-2. In these grades, students focus is on themselves, their families, and their communities, so this book could be a read aloud in conjunction with an activity in which students explore their own ancestry and heritage. If possible, I would ask parents or grandparents who are immigrants to come in and speak about their experience so we could "travel" to those places like the girl and abuela did.

This book could also be used to teach Spanish, and to teach appreciation for other languages. If there are native Spanish speakers in the classroom, seeing their home language in print and read aloud during school will validate them and make them feel that their language and culture is valued.

Domains of Social Justice:

1. Self-Love and Acceptance: Children learn about their own culture: This book will help students who identify with Puerto Rico learn about their culture, but will also inspire activities where all students in the classroom can explore their cultural identity.

2. Respect for Others: Strengthens inter-cultural competence: Students who do not identify with Puerto Rican culture will have a chance to learn about it through this book. Also students can share with each other their various backgrounds and educate each other, building respect and appreciation for diversity.
One Hungry Child by Carol Dunitz

Summary: Every chapter in this book (there are ten) shares a different story with the reader, each with its' very own character - how they helped those in need, how they searched for help, and/or how they were then able to help others.  One chapter in particular tells of a young boy, Jovan, living in a household where food was at a minimum.  His older brothers often got into trouble with the law (and eventually went to jail for murder) because they would, essentially, kill for food.  Because of this, Jovan's mother expected him to follow the same route and while at one point in his life it looked as though he might, he eventually turned his life around with the aide of his Aunt and the Youth Enrichment Program offered by the local Boys and Girls Club.  

How I would use this in the classroom: This book is a powerful tool that can be used as a supplement (or even as a launch!) to a Social Studies and Literacy unit on personal narrative, speech writing (e.g., what would you like to see change in the world around you?), and/or activism.  Children are able to see what others have done to make a difference and this book can inspire us to do the same.         

Domains of Social Justice:
1.) Self-Love and Acceptance: Students are exposed to several characters who may be just like them - who may not have enough food, who may be living in severe conditions.  Acknowledging that such types of environment exist allows a more comfortable environment where such issues can be addressed. 
2.) Respect for Others: Just by reading this book, students are taught and then expected to be respectful of others who may not be as fortunate as they are.  
3.) Exploring Issues of Social Injustice: This book does the job. It explores ten stories of social injustice as pertaining to hungry children. 
4.) Social Movements and Social Change: Each story also tells of various people and organizations that furnished such circumstances.   

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Uptown Cover
Uptown, by Bryan Collier

The book is about a little boy, name unknown, and all the things he loves about Harlem (or Uptown). We learn about Chicken and Waffles, the Metro North Station, and shopping on 125th St. The book is done in almost a cut and paste/collage style, and is very visually appealing.
I would use this book in several different ways. I would definitely use it as a Read Aloud. One activity I would do is have the students write about all the things they love about their neighborhood (this could be Downtown, South Side, East Harlem, etc). They could cut and paste pictures from places around their neighborhood or cut and paste other forms of art.
Then the kids could share their stories with each other. This project could also be done in the same art form around different cultures in the classroom. THe students could talk about different things they love
This story could also launch a research project about Harlem. This could encourage students to research Harlem's history; for example, shopping on 125th St today is far different than it was when this book is probably set. Gentrification has set in.
This book revolves around the first two levels of social justice education, depending on the audience. Self love and acceptance is addressed in a classroom set in Harlem because children learn about their own culture. Respect for Others is addressed if the book is read to a class outside of Harlem or predominately white students, because is strengthens intercultural competence about the Harlem neighborhood.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Kathleen Krull's Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Illustrations by Yuyi Morales

To purchase this text--

Summary: One of Krull's many biographies, this is the story of Cesar Chavez. He came from a ranch in Arizona and loved to spend time with his family. When a drought came in 1937 (during the Great Depression), his family was forced to give up their ranch and move to California to look for employment. His family worked on a farm in hopes of saving money to buy their ranch back, but their dreams quickly faded. After eighth grade, Chavez dropped out of school to work in the fields full-time to help feed his family. Migrant workers were mistreated by the landowners -- sometimes killed for complaining about poor conditions. In his early twenties, Chavez dedicated his life to fighting for a change in the conditions of migrant workers in a nonviolent manner, as inspired by his mother who taught him to use his mind and imagination in dealing with conflict. Chavez taught that truth was a better weapon than violence. He organized a march from Delano to Sacremento to ask for help for La Causa from the government. When the march reached Sacremento, it was 10,000 people strong. Chavez led the fight to victory and signed the first contract for farm workers in American history. Over the course of this gorgeous picture book, the reader marches with Chavez as he grows up from a shy, little boy in school who gets in trouble for speaking Spanish, to a leader whose voice carried a message of hope in winning a battle for human rights.

Reflection: I bought this book last summer at a book sale for a dollar (incredible) and was initially drawn to the beautiful illustrations and the focal Latino protagonist, Chavez. This single children's book could be the starting point for several classroom investigations -- American heroes (culminating in a "Live Museum"), a study of immigration/migration - comparing the timeline covered in the book with the more recent Mexican-American relations of 2000s, thematic connections to people and history (courage, family, social power, hope, and prejudice), how the Great Depression affected various groups of people, a scientific study of plant growth and farming technology, the use of music and storytelling throughout social movements (i.e., corrido: the carrier of news to places without media access), art integration (portrait, mural of field work), oral history project (interviewing family and friends about their first jobs), and a character/ in-depth study with research of Chavez's life. This book is appropriate for all grades, considering various modifications, that promotes fighting for change with words -- "Si se puede!"

Domains of Social Justice Education:
  • Self-love and Acceptance: Chavez's strong pride in his roots, cultural upbringing, family
  • Respect for Others: Chavez's influence on others in non-coercive ways (similar to Gandhi and MLK as referenced in the Author's Note)
  • Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Treatment of field-workers, Human rights (connected to various forms of oppression--classism, racism, languism)
  • Social Movements and Social Change: Labor movement - National Farm Workers Association
  • Taking Social Action: Emotions of reader (hope, empowerment, inspired) to find their own "la causa" and create a plan (a march, contract, etc.)
If you are interested in viewing the author and an interview about all of her works, check out Krull on YouTube: