Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice resources 28.2

Elementary and Middle School



IndyKids! is a lively and imaginative free newspaper that “aims to inform children on current news and world events from a progressive perspective, and to inspire in children a passion for social justice and learning.” Published in print five times a year and on the web monthly, IndyKids! features stories by kids, for kids, about things in the world that matter: the social and environmental impact of cell phones; “What is a refugee?” the collapse of bee colonies; kids working against school closures; and “The Age of the Whistleblower.” Issues also include games and puzzles with a conscience.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

By Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrated by
Theodore Taylor III
(Roaring Brook Press, 2013)
32 pp., $17.99

When the Beat Was Born introduces children to the “father” of hip hop: Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool Herc. Enlivened by Theodore Taylor III’s colorful illustrations, this story is part history lesson and part earth-toned landscape, capturing the wildness and the warmth of a culture that flourished in the Bronx’s housing projects and community recreation centers. Hill explores the elements of hip hop and shows how it brought opposing gangs together in an atmosphere of peace that eventually transformed them into famous hip hop crews. Grades 1-5.

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal

By Margarita Engle
(HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014)
272 pp., $17.99

Using her trademark style multiple voices in free verse to share untold historical events Margarita Engle introduces young readers to the builders of the Panama Canal. The protagonist is Mateo, a young boy from the Caribbean, lured with promises of good pay and work. Instead, he finds an apartheid system where people of color are subjected to treacherous working conditions and paid in silver; the whites are paid in gold. Mateo learns how horrific life in Panama will be when he and the other new workers are measured, on their arrival, for coffins. Engle includes the voices of plants and animals to chronicle the devastating impact of the canal on the environment. Grades 7 and up.


The Power of the Story: The Voice of Witness Teacher’s Guide to Oral History (Second Edition)

Edited by Cliff Mayotte

(Voice of Witness, 2013)
145 pp., $20

This guide, which begins with the aspiration to allow “those who are ignored, marginalized, and stripped of their humanity to finally tell their stories,” is a valuable collection of teaching strategies to help students work with the extraordinary oral testimonies included in the Voice of Witness books. These include Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives, Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice, Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons, and Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated. Teachers will find the lessons in this teacher’s guide to be a rich source of provocations to engage with human rights dramas throughout the world.

The Lincoln Brigade: A Picture History

By William Loren Katz and Marc Crawford
(WIPF and STOCK Publishers, 2013)
94 pp., $12

This book should be a core text for any study of World War II. It shines a light on a vital aspect of the war left out of most textbooks. As professor Robin Kelley writes in the preface: “If we understand WWII as a global struggle against fascism, then the conflict begins in Spain in 1936,” with Franco. The U.S. government stood by while the democratically elected government of Spain came under attack. Meanwhile, a brigade of 35,000 volunteers from around the globe came to the defense of the republic, including 3,000 from the United States in the Abraham Lincoln Brigades. Through photos and stories, readers learn that the Lincoln Brigades were integrated, with African Americans in leadership roles at a time when the U.S. military was segregated. The book also focuses on the grassroots campaign in the United States to support the Lincoln Brigades and how the U.S. government blocked and punished the brigadistas. This is a third edition with additional images.

How Maps Change Things: A Conversation About the Maps We Choose and the World We Want

By Ward L. Kaiser
(Wood Lake, 2013)
Distributed by ODTMaps.com

160 pp.

Too often in school, we regard maps as neutral representations of the world tools to show students “where things are.” But, as Ward L. Kaiser points out in this valuable resource, maps are political they don’t merely represent the world, they shape how we think about it. For example, the Mercator projection, commonly found in schools, dramatically understates the size of the Global South and gives about two-thirds of the map space to the Northern Hemisphere. Africa is 14 1/2 times as large as Greenland, and yet they appear about equal in size on a Mercator projection. Written in a conversational tone, How Maps Change Things can be used directly with high school students or by teachers to rethink our curriculum.


Growing Fairness: Building Community & Resisting the School-to-Prison Pipeline with Restorative Justice in Schools

Produced by Teachers Unite
(teachersunite.net/documentary, $15)
2013, 44 minutes

This short documentary film begins with youth, parents, and teachers talking about the need for alternatives to punitive discipline in schools. Because it shows how several different approaches to restorative justice are being developed at schools in New York and California, it would make an excellent discussion starter for a school community thinking about alternatives. Youth, teacher, parent, and administrator voices are all represented.

Early Childhood

Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age

By Diane Levin
(National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2013)
162 pp., $28

Anyone who works with young children, or is a parent or grandparent, knows the magnetic attraction of screens. They are ubiquitous, compelling, and often obnoxious in ways that range from annoying to profoundly disturbing. For decades, Diane Levin has brought a social justice lens to the issue of the media’s impact on young children and how the adults in children’s lives can play a positive role. In this volume, Levin blends research, personal story, anecdote, teacher experience, and concrete curricular and action suggestions. We don’t know of any other resource that is so astute and so practical.

This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration

By Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by James Ransome
(Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013)
29 pp., $16.99

This beautifully illustrated picture book opens with a young African American girl skipping rope under a tree in South Carolina. Then the rope is used to tie luggage atop the family car when they drive north to New York City. In one guise after another, it follows their participation in the Great Migration and links together three generations. This is only the most recent example of Jacqueline Woodson’s excellent books for elementary and middle school students, always accessible, elegantly written, and focused on social justice.