Students have headed back to school this fall with the weight of social and political unrest in the air. As a microcosm of society, what happens external to our schools impacts how students make sense of and experience the world. Whether your students have returned virtual or face to face, it is critical that educators strive to create an affirming and inclusive environment that supports equity and inclusion. Sparking students’ curiosity and engagement around history, current events, and diversity with engaging books provides school librarians and their collaborating educators an opportunity to lead the way.
AASL recently joined the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Project THRIVE, and we wanted to introduce resources from HRC’s Welcoming Schools. Welcoming Schools offers free lesson plans, book lists, and resources designed specifically for Pre K-8 educators with a focus on preventing bias-based bullying, embracing family diversity, and creating LGBTQ and gender-inclusive schools. Lists are intentionally vetted to meet Welcoming Schools’ rigorous benchmarks, are compiled by grade-level appropriateness and topic, and chosen to provide windows and mirrors into the diversity that our communities represent. These lists and lesson plans are shared in collaboration with the National Education Association (NEA) and offer school librarians a resource for building a rich collection of broadly representative literature and guidance on how to engage students in exploring the content presented.
Welcoming Schools is also offering a monthly lesson prompt on the last Wednesday of each month that delves into education on anti-Black racism, Black history, and skin color and racism experienced by Asian, Indigenous peoples, and Latinx people. Books selected are chosen from Welcoming School’s freshly curated Understanding Racism Book List, spanning grade levels and genres, all written by authors of color. With a new title released on the last Wednesday of every month, the series kicked off in July with March (Trilogy) by John Lewis.
Welcoming Schools offers virtual and on-site professional development training modules that offer practical and interactive professional development to create gender and LGBTQ inclusive schools. Expert trainers provide interactive trainings that increase participants’ understanding of the critical need for supportive school environments, give practical suggestions for inclusive school practices, provide answers to challenging questions, and strategies for increasing ally behaviors among students and staff. Schools that complete each of the modules also have the opportunity to earn the Welcoming Schools Seal of Excellence. Get started by watching our newest video to hear directly from kids about what they need to succeed at school and checking out one of Welcoming Schools’ most popular handouts, “What Do You Say to ‘That’s So Gay’ & Other Anti-LGBTQ* Comments?”