Middle Grades Social Justice Novels
One of the required novels for my 8th grade students is The Secret Life of Bees. I thought it would be good to look at this novel through a social (in)justice lens, specifically focusing on race, gender, and social class. But I didn’t want to stop at just the novel. Students dissected poems, read picture books, and annotated newspaper articles all focusing on injustice. While solving or complaining of these problems wasn’t the focus with this unit, I did want students to develop a larger context of what social justice is. The main goal of reading the core text was to develop empathy and understanding of those who feel marginalized. It’s difficult to walk alongside someone when you don’t get where he or she is coming from. Students are now finishing up this unit with book club books. A few weeks ago, they speed dated 10 books that dealt with at least one of the three injustices.
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