See How the new Read Woke™ Books Series Utilizes Primary Sources

In the series American Slavery and the Fight for Freedom, new in January 2022 from the Read Woke™ Books collection, readers are shown the history of slavery and its lasting legacy in the United States. Like all Read Woke™ Books, this six-book series was created in partnership with Cicely Lewis, the Read Woke librarian. In this post, see examples of the ways primary sources are utilized in the books (including audio clips you can preview yourself). Plus, keep reading to learn about the Read Woke™ teaching guide, available now to all educators.

The use of primary sources is a major part of the American Slavery and the Fight for Freedom series. These sources highlight the experiences of enslaved people and the lives of Black people beyond the aftermath of the Civil War (1861–­1865). In each book, readers will find two voices quotes. In the example below from Resistance to Slavery: From Escape to Everyday Rebellion, the quote expands on the information given in this text by allowing readers to see an enslaved person’s reflection of their time in slavery.

Following the running text, readers will find a Primary Source Voices spread. This spread expands on the voices quotes and uses QR codes to bring readers to primary source audio recordings from the Library of Congress. Many of the recordings, part of the collection Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories, include transcripts so readers can follow along with the audio.

Each Primary Source Voices spread includes three QR codes. In Resistance to Slavery, the Primary Source Voices recordings introduce readers to spirituals. Enslaved people used spirituals for many reasons, including communicating hidden messages that would help guide enslaved people in running away to freedom. One of the QR codes brings readers to a recording of a quote from a newly freed enslaved person, while the other two QR codes bring readers to recordings of spirituals being sung. See for yourself by scanning one of the QR codes below with a phone or other device:

To learn more about this series, check out our previous blog post introducing American Slavery and the Fight for Freedom. Also, check out Read Woke™ Books’ debut series, Issues in Action, and be on the lookout for the next series, History in Pictures, coming in Fall 2022.

Get the Read Woke™ Teaching Guide

To help prepare for having conversations around race and racism, parents and educators can download our free Read Woke Teaching Guide. It was created by Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul, educator, author, co-founder of the Institute for Racial Equity in Literacy, and Director of Diversity and Equity at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. The guide gives instructions on how to evaluate books according to Five Pillars of Read Woke. It also has discussion questions and learning opportunities to help students unpack the content of Read Woke™ Books and empower them to take action.

Coming soon is a second edition of the Read Woke Teaching Guide, updated to include the new series. Click here to sign up to be notified when the guide becomes available.

American Slavery and the Fight for Freedom (Read Woke ™ Books)

  • 6 Book Series
  • Interest Level: Grades 4 – 8
  • Reading Level: Grades 4 – 5

Visit to learn more about Read Woke Books or read more about Read Woke™ Books on the Lerner blog.

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