Get Anti-Racism Books Into Your Community

A MiddleWeb Blog

To begin this post, I want to thank the protesters who are out in the streets. I believe in the power of civil protest as a lever for catapulting systemic change. I believe those protesting George Floyd’s murder and the racism that allowed it to happen are changing hearts and minds and I am so grateful.

Since the first days of the protest, the internet has been flooded with lists and suggestions for people to join the fight against racism and I am grateful for that too.

I want to offer one more suggestion:

Read Together

Get anti-racism books into your community. Help people understand White privilege and systemic racism one story at a time.

The day after George Floyd was murdered I cried all day and wondered what I could do to help people see that his death was born of racism. That is it. That is all. I wanted to help people learn to not explain away the violence done to Floyd with any other rhetoric because I truly believe that we must “get” that as a nation before we can work toward a better future for all.

You can’t really fight racism until the tipping point of people who believe it still exists is reached, right?

Here is the post I wrote on Facebook, speaking first and foremost to the communities served by our school:

The List

I chose books to share that I had read, loved, and felt would be compelling reads to my community. I also wanted them, for the most part, to be contemporary stories. While I believe a solid understanding of history is important to understanding racism, I wanted readers to hear convincing voices from today.

The books are a mix of young adult fiction (which I believe are just as good for not-so-young adults), adult fiction, and nonfiction. There are many other titles that would be great, but these are the ones that I chose.

  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  2. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
  3. The Other Wes Moore: One Name Two Fates by Wes Moore
  4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  5. Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult
  6. Dear Martin by Nic Stone
  7. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  8. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Almost immediately after I posted, I was inundated with requests and quickly filled my online shopping cart. I also quickly ran into my $200 limit (the amount I initially donated to the project). Then something wonderful happened. People from the community quietly private messaged me and offered to donate money for more books. Within 24 hours, I had doubled the funds!

More Books

In addition to the requests for books and monetary donations, I fielded a lot of questions about good books to share with children on antiracism.

Here is the post I shared on Facebook:

There are many wonderful books written by #IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, and People of Color) authors. But, for this project I wanted books that were boldly, honestly, and directly focused on helping children learn about White privilege and anti-racism. I found a few and ordered them quickly, which was good, because they are now sold out almost everywhere! Below are the titles I chose.

  1. Race Cars: A Children’s Book About White Privilege by Jenny Devenny
  2. Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester

I really wanted to read and share Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Ann Hazzard and A Kid’s Book About Racism by Jelani Memory, but both were listed as “unavailable” or “out of stock” from my first click. I was just recently able to order the first, and the second won’t be available for shipping until July. But, the minute I get them, I’ll get them into the hands of my community.

These Books and Beyond

As the books I ordered started filling my mailbox, I tagged folks in Facebook posts and left them to be picked up in a basket near my front door (I live in a small town, everyone knows where the principal lives).

There are no expectations associated with the books. No book clubs, no discussions, no “homework.” I just want to share stories to help my community to learn. That said, there has been some organic chatter on Facebook about sharing titles with each other and talking about them. Our town has a great many Little Free Libraries scattered around, and many readers have told with me that they will pass the books on through them. That makes me happy.

I reached out to two prominent local churches to see if their congregations might be interested in a more formal book club kind of thing and hope to hear that they are. In the meantime, I’ll keep sharing books one reader at a time.

Additionally, next year, as every year, our wonderful school librarian and I will promote the Books Without Borders Reading Challenge and add the newer titles to the many choices we offer our students.

I Am NOT Proud

Friends, I hope that no one who reads this sees me as patting myself on the back. In fact, I thought long and hard about whether I should even share this idea for fear that people would see me as being proud and self-congratulatory. I am not.

I am a principal. I make more money than teachers and most of the parents I serve. Contributing some dollars to this project is not a budget breaker. I am kicking myself for not having thought of it earlier. Why did I wait to get these books in the hands of families until now? I don’t know, but I am bothered that it took me so long.

If an idea like this would benefit your local community, please let me know if I can help in any way.

Rita Platt

Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a National Board Certified Teacher and a self-proclaimed #edudork with master’s degrees in reading, library, and leadership. Her experience includes teaching learners in remote Alaskan villages, inner cities, and rural communities. She currently is a school principal, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute and writes for We Teach We Learn. Rita's first book,Working Hard, Working Happy: Cultivating a Culture of Effort and Joy in the Classroom (Routledge/MiddleWeb), was published in July 2019.

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