Equality Issues

Digital Guide Helps Set Up Multigenerational Social Justice Reading Groups

A new free digital guide from the National Education Policy Center and Teaching Tolerance provides a blueprint for how educators and families can start a multigenerational social justice reading group to counterbalance negative political rhetoric around immigrants, people of color and other historically disenfranchised groups. NEPC does peer-reviewed research to inform education policy decisions. Teaching Tolerance is a nonprofit that produces and distributes free classroom resources that emphasize social justice and anti-bias.

"Reading for Social Justice: A Guide for Families and Educators" grew out of a monthly reading group convened in the wake of the 2016 presidential election by Kevin Welner, who directs the NEPC out of the University of Colorado Boulder, where he's also a professor, and Michelle Renée Valladares, NEPC associate director. Once a month parents and children get to together to read and discuss children's books about the civil rights movement, women's suffrage, the Holocaust and immigration. The kids are an important part of the effort; they choose the topics and lead or co-lead the sessions.

The new guide, considered a "beta" version, includes recommendations for developing a group framework, inviting student input and organizing meetings "where children and adults read, talk, teach and learn together."

A section specifically for educators laid out how to engage families and possibly the larger community in such an effort. Among the topics: how to encourage families to join, how to "share the spotlight" to make sure participants understand that "everyone is both a teacher and a learner," how to choose an appropriate meeting place, and how to "step back" during discussions to make sure families learn to rely on each other for answers.

"I hope to see this guide contributing to the development of authentic school-community relationships as families, students, and teachers collaborate to build knowledge together and create transformational spaces," said Ana Contreras, co-author of the guide and a U Colorado Boulder doctoral student in the School of Education, in a statement.

The guide is openly available on the Teaching Tolerance website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.