Every year we come upon something that makes us not proud about living in America. Whether it be police brutality or having incidents where protests have to take place because of an injustice, and we have to deal with the consequence of people’s actions.
Unfortunately it happens to continuously be African American men and white police officers and many of us have no idea what to do or how to stop this and this is where rioting comes in.
I was recently asked, “What is justice?” Honestly, that is a really tough question to answer. I really have no idea what the answer is! Does anyone really? What is the justice for death of a fellow American? Who really knows? There is no justice. And as someone who loves our country and values other’s lives, I am not a rioter and don’t partake in violent protests, but I am not helpless, so where does that leave me? How can I help?
This is a question that I am not alone in asking myself. As a teacher, I feel that I have a duty that I can do to help in the long run. Although there is not really a quick and easy short term answer, but thinking long term, as teachers, we are raising and educating the future of our country. That is something big. So, how can we make a dent in this injustice that seems to rise up year after year? By teaching equity and educating students on race and equality.
In the words of an incredibly intelligent man, Martin Luther King, Jr., “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” We as teachers need to put these ideas into the world. We need to stand up and show children how to be humans. We need to show them that we are equal, no matter the color of our skin. No matter where you live or what your career is, we are equal and deserve the same. This is something that a parent may or may not instill in their child at a young age but the more a child hear’s the SAME message, the more they will remember this thought and act upon it in their future for the greater good and not against the greater good.
What this means is, don’t go out and burn down a police van and throw things at police officers in city after city. Not all police officers are the bad guys; ignorance can come in all shapes, sizes, careers and colors. But we need to START YOUNG. Start young and continue pushing, DEMANDING this message be taught to our youth as they grow up, no matter WHERE they grow up.
Teachers, we need to start with us. We need to be the change. Be the change that our youth needs and be the role model they need to see that equity IS equality and everyone, no matter the color of their skin, is the same. The best way for teachers to do this is through literature. In this article we have compiled a list of books that you can read to your class, or even for parents to read with their children, that teaches about families of color and about race. Be the change. Here is the list with easy access to Amazon to purchase. Get on a zoom meeting, start reading them, make a YouTube video for families to listen to over the summer. Start now.
Loving Lion Books
So, how can you integrate books for families of color into your classroom? Well, to start you should build a book. Having at least one book is a great place to start. Then you start searching through Scholastic, Amazon, and Barnes and Nobles for these books. Understand that these books are not so easy to find, so you will most likely not see them at a thrift shop or on the dollar sale items at Scholastic. However, it is worth the money to invest in a few books that you can share with your students who are biracial and show that you are looking to make connections with them.
We’re Different, We’re The Same
Another great book to read to children about teaching us that we may all look different on the outside but on the inside we are all alike.
Sesame Street’s lesson is important all the way through. It is enduring, colorful and has many great illustrations.
Teach Your Dragon About Diversity
A cute book for younger kids about diversity. In the story it teaches kids that the characters in the story teach their dragon about celebrating differences, that appearance does not separate us, and that differences make the world a beautiful place!
Separate is Never Equal
Separate is Never Equal describes a time before the Brown vs. Board of Education where students went to segregated schools in California. The family in the book took action and worked to end segregation in California. Read about their journey.
Blended is a book that is about a girl who’s dad is black and her mom is white. They get divorced and she is living in a world where people keep asking her why she looks so unusual. The main character feels so divided, going through many traumatic events in her life until something even worse happens involving Isabella and a man getting stopped by the police.
My Hair is a Garden
What a great book to talk about being different.
After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie cant take any more and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural black hair is beautiful.
Freedom in Congo Square
This books was chosen as Best Illustrated in 2016. It is a nonfiction book about African American history that talks about the finding the joy and hope in difficult circumstances.
Last Stop on Market Street
Last Stop on Market Street is a favorite book of mine. CJ and his grandma ride the bus and he starts to notice that he doesn’t have some things that his friends have. Why don’t they have this or that and his Grandma has an encouraging answer. This helps CJ see the beauty in their world around them.
Red: A Crayon’s Story
A blue crayon is labeled as a red crayon and this story talks about being true to your inner self and following your own path no matter what gets in the way.
Last but not least, We March takes place ins 1963 when more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. to march for jobs and freedom where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech”. Labeled as Best Children’s Books in 2012, this story shares about an important historic event about African American civil rights movement.
Not sure how to get a hold of your students right now to teach about race and give them books to read? This is an awesome bitmoji classroom with awesome books to click on and it is really easy to use. If you want to create yours, just type into YouTube virtual bitmoji classroom and you will get a TON of videos of how to set yours up! I used the video below and it was really easy to do!
I full heartedly believe that in order to love reading, there has to be something that you can relate to. Whether it be the pictures, the characters, the setting, the scenario, etc.. it still needs to be something that you can think about that you loved when reading the book. For students of color and bilingual, there are less options for students to relate to and even harder to find picture books that can be read to a class of student who are a multi-race class. If you need even more books, check out here.
Being able to provide items in their classroom that relate to their culture shows that you want to bond with them and are understanding of their backgrounds. This quality right there makes you an amazing teacher. It is not just a book, this is a connection. A connection in a classroom goes so much farther, and can stick with a student for the rest of their lives.