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  • Writer's pictureKarima Hastings

Books That Inspire

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Celebrating Diversity

Reading aloud to our kids is a good thing right? We all know this, and in order to continue to wake up and evolve, we have a choice. Many teachers and parents are choosing books that teach social awareness. This is wonderful and we can take this opportunity to start conversations to model and celebrate diversity. We have found these three questions invaluable when choosing stories for children in order to catch ourselves from falling into old, and comfortable, (and oppressive) patterns:

1) Who writes the story?

2) Who benefits from the story?

3) Who is missing from the story?

Recently these three questions came in handy when I was about to teach the same old covered wagon lesson last spring, which include reading stories to my second graders. I asked myself, Who is writing this narrative? Answer: White people. Who benefits? Answer: White people. Who is missing from the story? Answer: Everyone else!

So, I took an extra step and did some research and found the most wonderful articles that supported a narrative I had never even taken the time to consider before. Seriously, what took me so long? I learned that Black families migrated to the North West territories and successfully established farms and communities. It was so satisfying to break the old narrative and include people. It made for a better and more truthful story!

Here are some special books I read to the class this summer.

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book that demonstrates the dedication and social activism of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai. We were swept up by the beauty of the Kenyan countryside and strengthened by her example!

This is a very rare book and only 75 were made, but even reading the cover and thinking about the title makes us pause for thought. What do you think it means to see with your heart?

This is the most informative book about Black inventors with few words. You will learn that our Black brothers created objects and comforts that we rely on every day. Ever stop at a stop light? Of course you have! Well, you'll learn who invented it. Do you have an air conditioner? How about a refrigerator? Read this with your children to teach them to honor the incredible Black people who invested in America with little recognition, until now!

This was my favorite because my son has been into Nerf guns since he was a wee lad; it was fun to learn who invented the Super Soaker! Lonnie Johnson was a super genius Black inventor and was finally recognized for his amazing idea and became very successful.

Every year we pull out our Langston Hughes books during our poetry unit. This summer I opened and read a lovely book about the early life of Langston Hughes. It was wonderful to share with the children.

Kofi and His Magic, by Maya Angelou gave us an opportunity to start teaching Black history beginning in Africa, not with the enslavement of Africans in 1616. This book gave us the space to explore the beauty of Africa and to highlight the royalty and beautiful social structures. The bold colors, the brilliant patterns, and lovely cities, charming villages, and this amazing young boy named, Kofi.

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