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Exploring Social Justice in Children's Books

This page is a collaboration between the Fresno State Library’s Teacher Resource Center and the FALL 2022 Sanger Residency: Culturally and Linguistically Sustaining Pedagogy (CLSP) through Diverse Children’s Literature class. Items are available in the Teacher Resource Center or Fresno County Public Library, click on book covers for more info.

Migrant Farm Workers Text Set A text set for teachers interested in integrating migrant farm workers into the classroom.
Amelia’s Road Written by Linda Jacobs Altman, Illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez. Amelia is a young girl who works with her family in the fields. They are constantly on the road moving from one place to another to work. Amelia hates it especially when her father pulls out the map. She doesn’t like the roads because they always lead her to work. As a migrant farm worker, there is no stability and a sense of belonging. During her stay in the season of apples, she goes to school and compares her new teacher to the teacher from the previous year. Amelia’s teacher makes her a name tag and picks her to share her picture. There was much involvement going on for Amelia and it made her feel like she belonged in that class. On her way home, Amelia found a road where it led her to a big tree that reminded her of her drawing she did in class. She had a connection to the road and tree, so later in the story she buried a treasure box so she could come back to it.
Class Connection: Creating an activity where students draw their home or where they like to be that represents home or a sense of belonging. Writing down their hopes, dreams or wishes, gathering them and putting them in a treasure box where the teacher can keep it.
Dolores Huerta Written by Sarah Warren, Illustrated by Robert Castilla. Dolores is a teacher who notices that her students cannot concentrate or learn during class. Students were showing up to school barefoot, hungry and sick on a daily basis. One day Dolores decided to follow her students after school, she then asked her students' parents why their kids had no shoes. The parents explained that they did not have enough money and they worked all day. Doloes decided to make a change; she told the workers' bosses to pay them enough money to buy shoes, clothes and medicine. The bosses respond with a no, that if they give the workers more money they would have to raise the price on the grapes and no one would buy them. Dolores says that it's not an excuse that the kids still need shoes, food and medicine. So she fights, she asks the workers to strike and not work until the bosses listen. When Doloris noticed that the boss's mind did not change she spoke up and told stories on how the farms are not healthy places to work on. Since Dolores is a woman many people ask her to have the men speak up, but instead she speaks louder. Dolores tells the bosses that if they don't raise the pay that the workers will stop picking the grapes and they will rot. The strikes begin, the bosses tell the workers that when they return they will have rest breaks, they will have better pay, and the workers will have enough pay to buy their kids what they need. Class Connection: Creating activities where students write how they can treat others fairly and how it can affect their family if they are being discriminated against.
Book Talk: Lado a Lado Performed by Maria M.
Immigration Text Set A text set for teachers interested in integrating immigration into the classroom.
Areli Es Una Dreamer Written by Areli Morales, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe. Areli Es Una Dreamer celebrates the themes of identity and immigration. When Areli’s parents migrated to New York, she was left in Mexico with her grandmother. She didn’t want to move to New York but she longed to be reunited with her family. When Areli migrates to New York to she is conflicted. She gets bullied by her classmates who tell her she is illegal, doesn’t know how to read, and is very behind. Year after year Areli begins to find herself in the big city of New York. She finds a sense of belonging despite everything she has been through.
Class Connection: Students will complete a writing assignment on the prompt: Have you ever felt like you belonged to two different worlds? Students will complete a research project on DACA and Dreamers.
Dreamers Written by Yuyi Morales, Illustrated by Yuyi Morales. The book Dreamers celebrates immigration. The author Yuyi Morales tells the story of how she came to a new country with her son and only a backpack. Her backpack included her dreams, hopes, and aspirations of finding new opportunities in the United States. When she came to the US, she was unable to understand or speak English, therefore, creating a barrier for them. The theme of identity is uncovered when Yuyi finds a new world inside of books and literature. The books become her shelter and reading opened doors of possibilities.
Class Connection: Students complete an assignment about symbolism: What are the symbols in the book Dreamers? Activity: What would you put in your backpack if you moved to a new country?
Islandborn Written by Junot Diaz, Illustrated by Leo Espinoza. Islandborn celebrates the themes of identity and immigration. When Lola is given the assignment to draw a picture of where they are originally from, she is stuck on what to draw. Lola left the island, the Dominican Republic when she was born so she doesn’t remember what life was like while her classmates remember everything about where they’re from. Lola embarks on a journey to ask her neighborhood family what life was like on the island and what they remember. Her family tells her of all the wonderful things, but then she wonders why did her family leave their home. Lola then learns about the “monster” that ultimately forced them to leave their island.
Class Connection: Students can create an identity project answering the questions: who are you? Where do you come from?
Islandborn Activity An activity to compliment the book Islandborn by Junot Diaz.
Environmental Activism Text Set A text set for teachers interested in integrating environmental activism into the classroom.
Greta and the Giants Written by Zoe Tucker Illustrated by Zoe Persico. A young girl is approached by the animals of the forests because they needed help, as giants were cutting down trees in the forests and destroying their homes. In the story, everyone is afraid of the giants , so no one had the corage to confront them, but Greta was not afraid of them and decided to take a stance and confront the giants. She began to protesst and her voice inspired others to express their voice and join in on the fight to protect the forest. The giants are then forced to listen and reflect on all the damage they did to the forest around them.
Seeds of Change: Wangari's gift to the world Written by Jen Cullerton Johnson, Illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler. This story follows the journey of Wangari. Once a young Kenyan girl who lived in a community in which it was rare for girls to go to school. With the support of her family, she goes to school and after graduating, moves to the United states to study Biology. Once she came back to her country, she saw how much deforestation had been caused by large international companies that cut down the trees for their own economic gain. She decided to combat this deforestation, she began to plant tree across her village and in the neighboring villages. This cause anger in those who were still trying to exploit the land and she was arrested. But her community rallied in her support and was able to e released. She then left Kenya and began to spread this knowledge to the rest of the world. She was later elected for parliament in Kenya and continue to plant trees and fight for environmental justice.
Book Talk: We are Water Protectors Performed by Carolina R.
We are water protectors Written by Carole Lindstrom, Illustrated by Michaela Goade. A little girl learns from her grandmother of her and her communities connection with the water in the earth. SHe realizes that there is something that is threatening the safety of the water for her people and has potential to harm the habitats and the animals around her. The author presents a black snake that is the cause of the havoc to come, but of course this a metaphor for the Dakota acces pipeline. Th character goes on to unite with her people and pledge to protect and demand their water is accessible and safe
One plastic Bag:Isatou Cessay and the recycling women of gambia Written by Miranda Paul, Illustrated by Melissa Zunon. A young girl is walking home from the market when her woven basket breaks, dropping all the contents of her items, but as she is picking them uo she notices a shiny black object and realizes it is a bag and it can be used to carry things. Because this was her first time seeing a bag she was quite amaed, but when she showed her grandmother, her grandmother was saddened and told her their was so many plastic bags and they were polluting her town. Later, Isatou grows up and becomes very aware o just how much pollution is in her village and how many plastic bags are just thrown out, so she decides to pick them up and begins to pull them apart. Soon she taught herselg and other women in her village how to make purse out of these plastic bags. So they continue to clean their village and go on to sell their purses made from recycled plastic bags.
Book Talk: My Forever Dress Performed by Maria C.
Recycling Text Set A text set for teachers interested in integrating recycling into instruction.
My Forever Dress Written by Harriet Ziefert, Illustrated by Liz Murphy. This text brings light to recycling, reusing, and creativity. It is about a girl and the dress that has followed her throughout the years of her life. Not only did the dress demonstrate the importance of saving but being creative with what you have so that you can maximize the life of something you hold dearly to your heart. In this story, that item was a party dress that was made by her grandmother and the changes it has endured to adapt to the growing girl.
What Matters Written by Alison Hughes, Illustrated by Holly Hatam. This book demonstrates the power that one person may have on the environment and how one action matters to many living creators. This book helps readers understand the importance of protecting the planet by eliminating the pollution that may destroy the habitat.
The Topsy-Turvy Bus Written by Anita Fitch Pazner, Illustrated by Carolina Farias. This text follows young children through an educational journey about how they can heal the planet one step at a time. They are given a tour around town finding the areas that help change waste into something useful. The book is filled with fun, interesting, and creative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle everyday material.
Empathy Text Set A text set for teachers interested in integrating empathy instruction into the classroom.
Ben & Emmas's Big Hit Written by Gavin Newsom with Ruby Shamir, Illustrated by Alexandra Thompson. This book shows students empathy by sharing that two students have the same struggle in class. Ben is struggling in reading and is frustrated because he wants to be great like emma. Emma confesses to ben that she is not good at reading and she has been hiding that struggle form him and the class. Letting the students read that two different students can have the same struggle in academics could really show them that they aren't alone in some of their struggles. It can push them to show empathy when a fellow classmate is struggling with a lesson instead of making fun of them or laughing at them.
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! Written by Maria Dismondy, Illustrated by Donna Farrell. This book gives a great example of empathy, it shows one boy saying that he knows how another student must have felt. The story talks about Gabe, a new students that doesn't speak any english and how Johnny saw him crying on his first day. Throughout the book Johnny doesn't like Gabe and refers to him as a crybaby, constantly pointing out his differences. Gabe went to teach Johnny a soccer trick that Johnny had been trying to master for days, because of Gabe he was finally able to do it, and realized that the feeling of frustration of not being able to do the trick was probably the frustration Gabe felt the first day of a new school with not knowing english. The author shows us that even with our differences we can find empathy and make a connection to an emotion that someone else might be feeling with an emotion we have felt in our lives.
Book Talk: Those Shoes Performed by Joseph M.
Those Shoes Written by Maribeth Bolets, Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. This book shows empathy by the readers seeing that Jeremy gives away the shoes he has been wanting to his friend Antonio. The book shows us that Jeremy has been wanting this certain pair of shoes that everyone has, it goes through his struggle trying to get them, and we find out that he lives with his grandmother and they cant afford new shoes. So they find them at a thrift shop but they don't fit, they are small. Jeremy notices that Antonios shoes are torn and held with thape, so in a way he can tell that Antonio's family can't just buy him new shoes wither, he makes a connection with him. So jeremy decides to give antonio his new shoes, and he says it made him happy to see how happy Antonio was. Teaching our students thats it okay not to have it all is so important, but to be able to show empathy and give to others is more important. It doesn't have to be shoes like in the story, but let them know that you can make others happy in other ways, it's the thought that counts. It shows students that even through our own struggles, their just might be someone going through the same thing.
Identity Text Set A text set for teachers interested in integrating identity into instruction.
Book Talk: Alma and How She Got Her Name Performed by Leslie E.
Alma and How She Got Her Name Written by Juana Martinez-Neal, Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. Alma and How She Got Her Name is about a little girl whose full name is Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. One day Alma starts to think about her six names, and asks her father why she has so many names. Her father then begins to explain the special meaning behind each one of her names, which takes Alma on a long journey where she is able to learn about the richness of her name through her ancestors. As Alma listens to the stories, she realizes that all her names are a perfect fit, and thinks maybe one day she will be able to set a significant meaning to her name “Alma” and pass it on to the next generation.
My Name is Yoon Written by Helen Recorvits, Illustrated by Recorvits - Świątkowska. My Name is Yoon is a children's multimodal book about a young girl named Yoon. Yoon left her home country, Korea, and moved to the U.S with her family. She is struggling with her cultural identity when living in the U.S, and trying to figure out her sense of belonging. At school, Yoon is provided a different way of writing her name, which is in English. Yoon, meaning “shining wisdom”. The way her name is spelled in Korean is seen as more fun and unique in the eyes of Yoon, while in English she feels like the fun and meaning of her name is being taken away. The way the letters are written in English stand alone, and this is how it makes Yoon feel being in a foreign country. Through her struggle of accepting to print her name in English, she is finally able to do so along with finding her place in a foreign country.
Your Name is a Song Written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe . Your Name is a Song is about a young girl named Kora who grows frustrated that her classmates and teachers are not able to pronounce her name correctly. This makes her not want to return to school again. When sharing this growing frustration with her mother, her mother encourages her to bring light to the situation in an empowering way. Her mother tells her to find the musical lyricism in her name, and sing it to share with others so they are able to properly pronounce her name.
The Giver Written by Lois Lowry. Jonas, a boy who lives within a compounded community that has strict rules and specific family units takes readers on a journey of they mystery and stress of Jonas coming “of age” and the celebration. This curiosity takes the reader to a new climax of realization that this community is not only specific to household units, but job duties chosen specifically for each individual. Jonas world is not all that it seems for he is the chosen one. Class Connection: This book can be used in the classroom as a Literature read that would give students the curriculum standards for Literature. (theme, events, character). Students can make their own short story giver book in which they can change the ending of the story, or implement the idea of sameness in the classroom. (no one is different.) What would it look like? What would we all look like? How would this affect our learning ? (especially if everyone learned the same way, how could we think and learn for ourselves? )
Gathering Blue Written by Lois Lowry. Kira a born cripple, lives in a community which do not have others like her. In fact the weak never survive and those born like Kira are killed at birth. After the passing of her mother who was her sole protector, women in the community tell Kira to go die in the fields and that she is no help to the community because of her crooked leg. Through the arrangement of the community council, Kira repairs the singers robe in which she showcases her ability to weave and create beauty through her sewing. This shows the community that kira although crippled has purpose. Class Connection: Like Kira, many students have disabilities, inabilities, and struggles. The classroom will participate in an anonymous padlet questionnaire that allows them to express their struggles in the classroom, but be able to talk about what they are good at. They will go home and create either a drawing, painting, sewing, anything of their choosing that show cases their creativity and what they are good at. We will put these in the classroom to remind ourselves that although we are different, we have many contributions in the classroom that benefit each other making us a community that embraces and promotes diversity.
The Danger of a Single Story By .Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Creating a single story in which you show people, a culture as the same thing. Adichie explains that listening to one story of a culture creates stereotypes making one story of a culture the only story and only knowledge and assumptions of a culture. Robbing people of their identities, dignity, and emphasises how we are different, rather than how similar we all are. Class Connection: This TedTalk would be utilized in the classroom in hopes of enhancing student relationships. This TedTalk would be played and pair shared with students as to how they interpreted the moral of this video. They will then complete a classroom 4 corners task in which they will answer four questions around the room that help unify themselves seeing that although they come from different backgrounds, they share many similarities. (Questions such as: family traditions during christmas, my favorite cartoon, I can __ ) we will then come back as a class and see how many similarities we share with one another. This shows that although we seem different, and we can express our diversities,we have similar backgrounds.
Diversity Text Set A text set for teachers interested in integrating diversity into instruction.