What does it look like, sound like, feel like to celebrate Black children in our classrooms? This month, as we celebrate Black History Month, I hear of read alouds highlighting important leaders, I see teachers taking students on trips to iconic places, and I have read children’s informational books on these figures and places.
How can we engage our readers so that this celebration continues across the school year, across the school day, and across children’s lives? In Affirming Diversity (2018), Sonia Nieto discusses the different characteristics of Multicultural Education:
Multicultural education is antiracist education
Multicultural education is basic education
Multicultural education is important for all students
Multicultural education is pervasive
Multicultural education is education for social justice
Multicultural education is a process
I would like to offer this list as a starting point for reading teachers to consider ways to extend Black History Month readings, activities, and discussions. By “basic,” Nieto challenges us to consider this approach as key, as an essential part of our curriculum and not as an add-on. What might this look like?
Maybe it looks like reading books like Hey Black Child during morning meeting. Maybe it looks like reading books like Little Leaders, Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans, and Harlem’s Little Blackbird during informational reading units, biography studies, or when analyzing mentor texts. Maybe it looks like integrating poetry across the day and school year with shared reading practices and art projects. Some of my favorites are Schomburg: The Man Who Build a Library and One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance. Other ways we can keep this going is to have teacher study groups or book clubs that help us process culturally responsive pedagogies, plan them, implement them, and come back together to share. These are some of my favorite texts that I have shared in teacher study groups.With Sonia Nieto’s texts, teachers find the conceptual framework helpful as they develop their own teaching philosophies. Then, they select some of the activities to try in the classrooms.The Rethinking Schools text is a favorite with teachers who would like to see examples in accessible chapters and read about changes beyond the classroom and into school structures.Readings from The Skin We Speak have really impacted teacher study groups when considering the way students’ language practices are interpreted. We revisit language objectives in the curriculum and our own beliefs about language practices.Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies has helped teachers in graduate studies to consider the research, practice, and implications of this kind of approach.
“Leave that for your urban schools,” is what I was told when I did this kind of work in an affluent, white school district during a reading workshop professional development day. I end this blog post with those words to remind us all that this work is for everyone, as Nieto notes, “important for all students.”
Please share your favorite texts and activities below!