At the present time, schools in many places have found themselves in the midst of a culture war. While interest from teachers in having critical conversations with students is growing, they nonetheless face challenges. These tensions reflect a larger world of social and political unrest, where our nation’s schools are often caught in the middle.This work aims to equip educators with tools to facilitate critical conversations with students - to question what they read, consume, and hear. Reading to Belong: Identity, Perspective and Advocacy in the Elementary Grades bridges the gap between research and practice by sharing snapshots of conversations happening in real classrooms. The language of mirrors and windows anchors discussions as students deepen an understanding of themselves, experience different perspectives, and ultimately use this knowledge to change their world for the better.
Alyson Lamont, Ed.D is a district-level instructional specialist. She holds a Doctor of Education degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has been published in several academic journals: Phi Delta Kappan, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, and Berkeley Review of Education.
Pamela Washington is currently serving as an elementary principal, where she provides instructional leadership. She received her Principal Certificate from Danforth (University of Washington) and Master’s Degree in Literacy from Seattle University.
Emilie Hard recently retired as a district Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning. She also served as a district Director of Equity, elementary school principal and classroom teacher. She was a contributing author in Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind (Costa & Kallick, 2008), and holds a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Oregon.
INTRODUCTION: Why This Work?
Chapter 1: Class Communities: Foundations for Safe Conversation Spaces
Chapter 2: Identity & Belonging: Student Understanding of Self
Chapter 3: Knowledge, Perspective & Empathy: Understanding Others
Chapter 4: Advocacy & Action: Now What?
Chapter 5: When Things Don’t Go as Planned
Chapter 6: Leading This Work
Appendix: Leading with an Equity Lens: A Reflection Tool for Educational Leaders
Appendix: Discussion Prompts for Supporting Identity, Empathy and Advocacy
Appendix: Building a Robust, Diverse Classroom Library
Reading to Belong: Identity, Perspective and Advocacy in the Elementary Grades is a gem and makes a valuable addition to help students and teachers know how to respond to some of the controversies and conflicts in our troubled society. It provides myriad strategies for leading and teaching students many of the skills needed to function effectively, not only in school and careers, but also to preserve our democracy: Listening with understanding and empathy, remaining vulnerable and open to continuous learning, sharing gratitude, valuing diversity, inquiring and problem-solving, thinking flexibly and interdependently – are all dispositions that students will need not only today but also to contribute to and be successful in their future. This book should be in every elementary school teacher's professional library.
Reading to Belong beautifully explores the importance of creating classroom spaces that are intentional about focusing on racial equity and cultural humility. Through eloquent storytelling and practical strategies, these authors provide powerful insights on how to do this crucial work. A must read for anyone seeking to understand, advocate and create powerful change in their classroom.
Reading to Belong: Identity, Perspective, and Advocacy in the Elementary Grades is an essential resource for all educators – and particularly for those who serve as elementary teachers, support personnel and administrators. While fully supported by research, the authors are dedicated practitioners who have captured their own experiences in identity development with young children and adults. Beginning with a compelling Why, this resource illustrates what is possible through descriptions of authentic lessons and actual dialogue with elementary students. Through frequent open-ended questions, educators are encouraged to consider how to create the conditions for this work in their own classrooms, schools and organizations. The authors also offer support to navigate the turbulence that critical conversations, advocacy and action intends to create. As a former teacher and principal dedicated to equity for each and every person, this is the book that I needed then – and as a preparation program director, still need now.
Living and working in a community/school district whose diversity has experienced dramatic growth over the last five years, Reading to Belong provides knowledge and tools to support elementary teachers in their quest to celebrate and embrace the different cultures that are represented in their classrooms. It can be used to support the climate of belonging and empathy that all educators want to create, and all parents want for their child. The identification of “teachable moments” and action steps make this a valuable tool.
Reading to Belong is one of those books that moves you to action. While the authors provide you the requisite background and research, more importantly, they discuss tangible and effective strategies that elementary educators can immediately implement to support students in understanding their own identities, connections to others, and feeling a sense of belonging. The authors strike the right balance of humility and reflection but demonstrate how that it is in our actions, and empowering students’ self-advocacy, that we will truly help to improve the lives of our students and families as well as our communities.”