Celebrating Juneteenth

All across the United States, people celebrate our country’s independence on the fourth of July. Yet, signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776 did not make everyone free and independent. In fact, it was legal to enslave people for another 86 years until President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Even then slavery did not end in the U.S. until June 19, 1865 when slaves in Texas were finally freed, almost 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

Juneteenth, just like July 4th, should be celebrated by all. This day is the unofficial holiday marking the abolition of slavery and freedom for African Americans. The end of legal slavery in The United States of America should be a day celebrated by all people, not just the African American community.  

Although slavery was abolished on June 19, 1865, racism did not end. We do not live in a post-racist society as is evident by the ongoing oppression and systemic racism against African Americans in this country. With the most recent killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Amaud Arbery in Georgia our country has seen increased awareness and tensions. While marching in protests and posting on social media is a good start, it is not enough. There is much more work to be done. We must understand the long history of oppression and the rich contributions of African Americans to our country. 

To get started, we recommend these children’s books and further reading about Juneteenth and African American history and heritage. Let this be the year that you join in the celebration if you haven’t already! 

 

See the source imageJuneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper

Mazie learns about Juneteenth from her father who encourages her to remember and celebrate. 

See the source imageAll is Different Now: Juneteenth, The First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson 

Written in free verse poetry, this book tells the story of a family in Texas who upon learning about their freedom go and celebrate with the community. 

See the source imageDave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill

Set in South Carolina in the 1800s, this book tells the story of a slave who was an artist, poet, and potter who conveyed messages of peace and hope in his work.

See the source image

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

This book tells the story of Henry Brown, who literally mails himself in a box to escape slavery and obtain freedom in Philadelphia.

The Undefeated by Kwame AlexanderSee the source image

This beautiful poem is a tribute to the resilience of black life and history in the U.S. The back matter provides powerful historical context and information about many inspiring African Americans. 

See the source image

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson 

Told through the perspective of a 100 year old African American woman, this book tells the rich history and contributions of African Americans through the dark history in the U.S. Beginning with the birth of the nation, the story of African Americans is told chronologically through the Civil Rights Movement. 

See the source imageThis Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell 

This book helps the reader explore issues around race including the history behind it and ways to be an anti-racist through the exploration of social identities, privilege and the power to speak up and take action for social justice.

See the source image


Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X Kendi

This powerful middle grades and young adult book explores the history of racism in the United States. 

Further reading: 

An Educator’s Guide to “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You”

How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books and Resources That Can Help 

Why All Americans Should Celebrate Juneteenth 

7 Black LGBTQ leaders in honor of Juneteenth and Pride month 

Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day (Smithsonian) 

So You Want to Learn about Juneteenth?

 

Reading to Make a Difference AT HOME!

Thanks to Covid-19 we are all quarantined at home  and learning to adjust to this new normal. We are aware that this pandemic brings on a variety of challenges from family to family. Thus, this is not a time for a packet of worksheets (whether paper or digital). This is not a time for endless clicking through hyperlinks and tasking of online activities. This is a time when we need to honor Maslow over Bloom. We must first begin by checking in on our children, their families, and our neighbors.

Ask: How are you doing? What do you need?

Consider engaging children in reading (and writing) to make a difference at home. In our book, Reading to Make a Difference: Helping Children to Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action, we offer a framework to help SELECT books for children to see themselves and others (using Rudine Sims Bishop’s notion of books as mirrors, windows, and doors). We then move children through a collection of intentionally selected books to engage them in rich conversation as they CONNECT and REFLECT on how their thinking has changed now that they’ve read the books. From there, children consider ways they can take ACTION to make a difference.

framework image

This is more important than ever before! Let’s engage children in meaningful reading experiences to make a difference. Reading to make a difference at home can also move through this framework. Consider the selection of books such as “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Pena. In fact, like many authors, he has taken to social media to connect with his readers and in a recent post he asks readers to consider the line when CJ’s Nana tells him: “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”

Matt de la Pena asks us to consider: “What is something beautiful that you now see, that you couldn’t see before?”

To see the full post visit: Author Matt de la Pena on Facebook

Other books to read that may inspire action in the home and in the community by considering “Something Beautiful” and acts of kindness during Covid-19 include:

For many lists of suggested books take a look at our book, “Reading to Make a Difference: Helping Children Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action”.

There are many available resources to help with access to books. Here’s a few resources  to get you started:

Access to Books

Free digital text – Pinterest

Creating a virtual class library – Clare Landrigan blog

What’s in Your Stack Google Template (see Clare Landigram’s blog for more info)

Lee & Low Books on YouTube (for read aloud)

Storyline Online (for read aloud)

 

Access to Informational Articles

News ELA

Time for Kids 

Scholastic News

Wonderopolis

Please share your favorite resources and we will update the blog with your suggestions. Thank you for making a difference! – Lester and Katie

 

 

Celebrating Our Book Birthday with a FREE Book Giveaway!

Especially in these times where we are practicing social distancing and spending more time at home, reading can make a difference. Reading can take us to far away places. Reading can expand our views and perspectives. And reading can validate and honor our stories. In our book, Reading to Make a Difference, learn how books can serve as springboards for critical conversations and lead children towards action to make a difference in the world!

We can’t believe it has already been one year since our book, Reading to Make a Difference was published! To celebrate the book’s first birthday, we are giving away a FREE copy! You can enter to win three times: (1) fill out this form, (2) retweet this post, and (3) post on Facebook and tag us.

Don’t forget to join our Reading to Make a Difference group on Facebook! And once you read the book please write a review on Amazon and GoodReads!

Be well and happy reading!
Love,
Lester and Katie

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Honoring African American Language

with guest blogger Nozsa Tinsley, 2/3 teacher, Center for Inquiry, Columbia, SC

As educators, we strive to create learning environments where children feel safe to explore identity, diversity, justice and activism throughout the curriculum. Foundational to all of our work is providing students with rich literature and learning experiences that allow all identities, cultures, and languages to be affirmed. If we are not cautious, our curriculum and literature can quickly become a representation of the majority culture, completely dismissing other cultures, including those within our own classrooms.

It is vital for kids to see and feel themselves in books in order to have their cultures, languages, and identities acknowledged (Bishop, 1990). We can promote these healthy and inclusive practices through literature, pictures, videos and curriculum that we choose. However, although our classrooms are microcosms of our larger diverse community, the dominant culture tends to be the only cultured centered in in many classrooms. For example, students are taught Standard American English (SAE), which for students of color, may sound and feel much different from that of their own home language. Students who come from households that speak SAE are always affirmed within the classroom, but what about our students who speak African American Language (AAL) or the many other languages that make up our country and our classrooms? Oftentimes Black students who are raised speaking AAL are told to “speak English”. Instead of seeing the home language of our students as a deficit, what if we make the conscious effort to affirm and build upon their culture?

In my classroom, we did a language study including African American Language to better understand the value and importance it represents. As we began our study of AAL, I was careful to choose books with Black characters that spoke the language, but that did so outside of slavery. This was in hopes of breaking the misconception that AAL is an uneducated language and to move beyond this as the only narrative presenting African American Language. The few picture books that I found included legends and fables. It was a challenge to find modern books including Black Americans who spoke AAL. When selecting books with AAL, I considered the following three questions:

  1. Does the book showcase Black families/people in a way that my kids can relate to (culture, customs, everyday life activities)?
  2. Does the book showcase Black families/people enjoying themselves?
  3. Does the book show Black families/people in a positive way?

Books featuring African American Language (AAL)

Picture Books

  1. Nettie Jo’s Friends by Patricia McKissack 
  2. Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia McKissack 
  3. Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack 
  4. Honey I love by Eloise Greenfield
  5. The Barber’s Cutting Edge by Gwendolyn Battle-Levert
  6. The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton 

Chapter Books

  1. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper 
  2. One Crazy Summer by Rita WIlliams-Garcia
  3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson
  4. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Through the use of carefully selected literature, the kids recognized that African American Language (AAL) had patterns and rules just like that of Standard American English (see Figure 1). Taking a close look at the language allowed some students to gain new insights, while allowing others to unlearn some of the misconceptions they previously held (it’s wrong, improper, or just slang). By taking a close look at AAL, a language that is often dismissed, my AAL speakers were able to have their culture valued. Non AAL speakers experienced a new culture outside of their own. All of my students gained the knowledge and appreciation for a beautiful language.

Figure 1. Moving Between Languages (Translating) Anchor Chart

African American Language

Standard American English

scr- (scring) str- (string)
-in’ (weddin’) -ing (wedding)
gonna going to
past=present -ed (past tense)
-an’ (stan’) -and (stand)
‘cause because
d- (dat) th- (that)
be (She be sick a lot.) is (She is sick a lot.)

“It would be good if teachers could genuinely understand that Black English is not mistakes, it’s just different English, and that what you want to do is add an additional dialect to black students’ repertoire rather than teaching them out of what’s thought of as a bad habit, like sloppy posture or chewing with your mouth open.” – John McWhorter

Additional resources:

https://africanamericanlanguage.weebly.com

https://daily.jstor.org/black-english-matters/

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15th – October 15th in commemoration of the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens and immigrants that have ancestral ties to Latin American and Hispanic countries located in North, South, and Central America. Countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile celebrate their anniversary of independence from Spanish colonization and rule. Celebrations include parades, festivals, concerts, and posts on social media wherever people who are tied to these countries are located, whether it is in the countries themselves or in spaces where descendants have immigrated to. Designating a month to bring attention to any group of people helps to raise the consciousness of all people. These designations are one step in the right direction, but only a small step toward the notion of full inclusion for all people. There is much work to be done if we are ever to see all groups being honored and celebrated every month, every day, all year. Let us work toward daily celebrations of our diverse and complex identities in our common humanity. 

In this month’s post, we invited Kelsey Milian, one of Katie’s students at Furman University to share her poem, Buenos Días Niña to honor own voice stories from the Latinx community. We then share how Alyssa Cameron’s fourth graders become inspired by the true story of Latina role model, Sylvia Mendez. 

Buenos Dias Nina is Spanish for “Good morning little girl”. When I was 19 years old I would take the Miami metro mover and buses to a very affluent part of the city for a summer internship. Every morning, I would sit at a bus stop around 6:15am and be greeted with “good morning little girl” from small Latinx women who reminded me of my mother. It was this very bus stop that I write my poem and made connections to a life opportunity my family made sacrifices for and one in which I would never stop working for. 

My poem “Buenos Dias Nina” celebrates the family members that have made sacrifices in order for their children to have a different life and many more opportunities than they had. 

Buenos Días Niña by Kelsey Milian

17 stops.
Palmetto Station to Douglas Road and
30 minutes of music that seem to cloud
my thoughts with summer plans.

The city is hot and humid.
Today more than ever before.

I sit down next to large handbags,
cheap flats, and petite women.

They remind me of an alternate universe.
My life.
And my mother’s life.

Those women stand here as early as 6:15am.
Conversation after conversation.
Bus after bus taking them to Hialeah.
Taking them home.

A new brown skinned woman approaches
the bench every 15 minutes.
Besos, names, and preguntas about how their families is doing
Are the normal intros exchanged. 

I sat there and listened to their conversations.
Some would realize they had forgotten their laundry at the bus stop once reaching Hialeah.
And some would begin working at a new home in Coral Gables.

But it hit me.
To the point that I began to taste
the salty drops of my subtle tears.

They were the maids.
Las que take care of
someone else’s children.
Las que spend hours cleaning
the homes they wish to own one day.

My mother was one, a time before I appeared and
a life we would have continued if opportunity was not earned. 

But,
my destiny was different. 

I sat on that bus stop bench waiting to take
the next route to a future mis papas
dreamed for me.

Lo que soñaron para us.

Those women represent a culture and people
I refuse to forget.
Respecting what they do,
their sacrifice and ganas
goes noticed. 

I hope mis sueños go noticed too. 

I was born in Eastridge, TN, but was only there for 15 days until my family moved to Mexico and Guatemala, where they are from. After I turned 6, my family moved to Miami, FL where I was raised in a hub of Latinx an Carribean diversity. I am a Sociology and Educational Studies major at Furman University. Along with my many aspirations, I hope to attend graduate school and receive a PhD in Ethnomusicology or Sociology of Education. At the same time I hope to publish my first poetry book that speaks on what it means to be the daughter of Latinx immigrants and my own journey to make my dreams a reality. –Kelsey Milian

Kelsey’s story is a reminder that racism and classism are still a very present part of contemporary life in America.  Many of our students know this reality, yet some of them have no experience, no point of reference that will allow them to recognize the injustice and inequity of it. Carefully selected literature read aloud and followed by open conversation can part the curtains on windows they never knew existed. In chapter five of Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action, we introduce Alyssa Cameron’s fourth graders in South Carolina. Using the instructional framework (see introduction), Alyssa moved her students from reading an intentionally selected text to thoughtful conversations and student-driven action. When reading the book, Separate is Not Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, the students learned about the discrimination including school segregation that Sylvia Mendez and her family faced as Mexican Americans living in California. This true story was eye opening as the students began to deepen their understanding of the racism that permeates through the United States in the past and into the present. The students were so moved by Sylvia’s story that they wanted to take action to inform others of the life and the actions of Sylvia Mendez and her family. They created a play for younger children, a presentation with slides for administration, and a letter to the editor of the “Who Was?” series requesting a book be written about Sylvia Mendez. This example demonstrates one way we can honor the contributions of Hispanic Americans. The graphic below illustrates the process these students followed in moving toward action. It begins with a small set of texts carefully selected to validate the experiences of some students while exposing others to information that may be new to them. Guided conversations typically lead to insights and connections and further reading. Time for reflection and writing often brings up the urge to take a stance and take action.

framework image.png
image from Reading to Make a Difference by Lester L. Laminack & Katie Kelly

For more information about this project and many others, you may want to read our book: Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Think Deeply, Speak Freely, and Take Action.

For a list of additional books featuring Latinas, check out 60 Empowering Books Starring Latina Mighty Girls and 20 Latinx Children’s Books That Should Be On Your Shelf.  

Other resources: