With the Black Lives Matter movement front and center in the news this summer, it is heartbreakingly evident we still have a great deal of work to do to heal racial issues in our society. Our students are absorbing what the media is saying about these events and will have many questions and concerns when they return to school in the fall. As school librarians, it is critical for us to prepare to address these questions and concerns by educating ourselves on the issues and ensuring we can point our teachers and students to quality resources to teach and understand the current and historic racial justice debates.
- Collection development – No matter what our student populations look like, it is imperative that we provide both mirrors and windows to all our students in our school library collections. The We Need Diverse Books organization and the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California have been doing great work around increasing awareness of the need for more diversity in children’s literature and have compiled many resources for choosing and reviewing diverse books. To help build your collection specifically to reflect Black Lives Matter, here are a few booklists:
- Children – While not specific to the BLM movement, this list by the San Francisco Public Library features books for young readers about the African-American experience.
- Teens – A BLM list from Chelsea Couillard-Smith, a librarian for Hennepin County (MN) Library, which was also featured on SLJ.
- All Ages – Teaching for Change has an extensive list of books about the Civil Rights movement divided by grade levels, fiction and nonfiction.
- Curated online resources – Teachers and students will most certainly be looking for quality information on teaching and researching the movement. Plan ahead and have some ready. A group of SFUSD teacher librarians did just this in response to Ferguson by creating a Black Lives Matter LibGuide last year that includes lesson plans, activities, book lists, student news sources and primary sources.
- Project-Based Learning – Begin to brainstorm inquiry-based service-learning projects that could allow students to develop their own meaningful questions around what is happening, research the issues and take steps to help make a difference. Find the connection points in the curriculum, reach out to potential guest authors, speakers and community organizations and be ready to discuss the possibilities with your teachers. Some websites to help you begin thinking about how to teach these difficult topics include Teaching Tolerance and Teaching for Change.
What are your ideas for being a resource at your school around this important topic?
Author: Cassy Lee
Cassy Lee is the Middle School Learning Center Coordinator at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco.