Addressing Race and Racism with Readers

This week and throughout the coming month, the United States marks several notable anniversaries: The 2nd anniversary of George Floyd’s death on May 25, the 101st anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on May 30, and Juneteenth on June 19 commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in Texas.

These events are emblematic of a long and continuing reckoning with racism in the US. While educators, librarians, and parents recognize the importance of discussing these distant and not-so-distant histories with readers of all ages, approaching these topics requires care, nuance, and consideration for students’ own experiences.

Below is a selection of books—both fiction and nonfiction—that offer historical context and provide foundations for discussions about race. We’ve also included links to downloadable teaching guides where available to help further facilitate discussions with readers.

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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.

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