Wednesday, August 26, 2020

First Reading of the New School Year

Reading to End Racism is working to provide links to online readings of appropriate books for the elementary grades we usually work with locally, and will be posting them in the tabs above in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned! 

This is our first taste of the new Online system that will be in place until our volunteers are able to return to classrooms again. We do not own the rights to these books, but are providing links to publicly available videos. We think you should buy these wonderful books for your school or home library!  

For each book, there will be a description of the book with a link to an online reading of the book. Additionally, we will provide some Introduction for the teacher or parent, followed by suggested Activities and/or Discussion opportunities. Click on the book cover or the enlarged title to link to the video reading.


The Day You Begin 

by Jacqueline Woodson, 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and National Book Award Winner/New York Times #1 Bestseller, 2019 Jane Addams Children's Book Award. Illustrated by Rafael López, two-time winner of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award. The book in the video is read by “Miss Linda” of Brightly Books, who sets the story in a friendly context. Words in the story are highlighted as they are read.

What better way to start the new school year than with a picture book about a first day of school experience! Students in your class will quickly identify with the main character who feels she hasn’t done as many exciting things over the summer as the rest of her classmates. This book, written and illustrated by an award winning team, is narrated by a young African-American girl on her first day of school. Everyone else is talking about their exciting summers, but she has spent the summer in her city apartment taking care of her sister and reading books. What will she say when it is her turn? When Angelina (and her classmates) discover how to share their stories, it opens the way up for making new connections. In the words of the author, the other people have “something a little like you, and something else, so fabulously not quite like you at all.”


Discussions about this book might center around whether students have ever been uncomfortable on the first day of school (or in another new setting) because they feel different. Can they tell a story about a time they unexpectedly discovered that they have something in common with another person?

There are many other books by Jacqueline Woodson, and other age-appropriate ones could be shown to students. The Other Side is particularly good for primary students. Each Kindness is better for 3rd grade and up. Jacqueline Woodson herself reads out loud from her book Each Kindness which tells the story of what happened when students did NOT try to find something in common with a classmate, perhaps a book for later in the year. An advanced student might be interested in reading a second book by this author and then comparing the themes of the two different books.

Activity 1: Play a pandemic version of "fruit basket" with the whole class. The students sit in a circle. The student who starts calls out something true of themselves such as “likes the color blue”. All the students who like the color blue stand up. Each student in turn calls out something true of themselves and the others stand up if it applies to them. It is a great way to find out what other students have in common with you, while playing a game.

Activity 2: Students make a web of their connections to other children in the class. In the center of the paper the child makes a bubble with their own name. Around it the child draws other bubbles with the names of other classmates. The child draws lines connecting their own bubble to each of the classmate’s bubbles. On each line, the student writes something shared in common with that classmate (for example: a pet cat).

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Plans for Fall 2020


First, we want to share with you our new banner, designed and provided by Janet Benoit Connor. It was great to have in the first half of the last school year when we went into schools to read!

Alas, we have had to think up new ways to provide Reading to End Racism in local schools because of the pandemic. 

We want to let you know that the steering committee is working on putting together resources to help teachers and parents to continue to engage with this important topic. We are creating links to videos of readings of relevant books for K-2/3 and grades 3-5 along with activities that can be explored after the reading. We expect to have these resources posted here at this site by early October, where they will be available for use by teachers and parents. We'll be sending out information to our volunteers and the schools we've worked with as get ready to launch these new materials. Stay tuned! Keep working on ending racism!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Volunteer Training and Meeting

We're almost finished with our winter recess, and are moving into our spring reading season!

Please come to a gathering for all volunteers—brand new or old timers
Saturday, February 29, 10:00 a.m. to noon
at the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Barre  
It is the big white church diagonally across from City Hall (where the Opera House is), and the entrance is on Church Street, handicapped accessible.There is some parking on the street, and lots of free parking nearby in the town lot behind the Barre Opera House. 

We will discuss classroom experiences, look over our extensive book collection, and learn from demonstrations and discussion  targeted to both the younger and older students. And we will have sign-up sheets for our spring readings.

If you know someone who is interested in volunteering, and/or wants to learn more, they will be warmly welcomed.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Volunteer Get-Together

We're planning a get-together of our volunteers on Saturday, March 9, from noon to 2:00 p.m. at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier. This will be a chance to chat with other volunteers, talk about what's going on in the world, share ideas about what's working well in our readings, look at books, and express appreciation for everyone's work and commitment. There will be finger food and the great synergy of our Reading to End Racism volunteers. We hope to see you there!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Reading at Twinfield

On Thursday, November 15, twelve great readers read to pre-K through 6th grade classes at Twinfield. Here they are waiting for the day's activities to begin!

The whole elementary school was ushered into the auditorium by drummers lining the halls. Very cool!

Here are images of readings in the classrooms, taken by student Riven Madison:

Ellen Halperin in Grade 5

 Bob Fisher in Grade 6.

Melora Kennedy in Grade 2

Janet Van Fleet in Grade 3.

Janet Benoit Connor in Grade 2, where they did this great project:

Paul Erlbaum in Kindergarten

Joseph Gainza in Grade 4.

R.D. Eno in Grade 6.

Emily  Seifert, Pre-K

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Great Reading at Union School in Montpelier

Susan Wilson, our organizer for the reading at Union Elementary School in Montpelier on Thursday, November 8, reports:

"All in all, we read in 24 classrooms with the participation of 21 volunteers, including three Montpelier High School students (seen below) and four parents. I was especially gratified by the enthusiastic support of parents -- even those that reached out but were not able to read in a class today. Thanks so much for your time, support and hospitality. Union is clearly a wonderful and caring learning community. As someone coming in from the outside, I am grateful that I was able to experience your welcoming kindness first hand."

Here's the book table display in the hallway outside the office. The beautiful quilt was made by Janet Burke. Amazing parent volunteer Jenny Sheehan and RER Coordinator Susan Wilson at left:

And here are the Montpelier High School volunteer readers and Susan Wilson. Hurrah for you all!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reading at Doty Memorial Elementary School in Worcester

Today we read in Worcester!

Janet Westervelt read Sneeches in Mr. Larrow's K-1.

Susan Wilson read in Jen Frantz's 1-2.

Janet Van Fleet read in Allison Fayle's 3-4. She started with The Skin I'm in: A First Look at Racism, by Pat Thomas, Lesley Harker (Illustrator). This is a good introduction to the topic of Racism.

Next was a book called Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr. The book was donated to us by the First Church in Barre. The text is in both English and Arabic        

Nizar Ali Badr uses stones from the river near his village in Syria.  He was born and still resides in Latakia, Syria. In his walks along the seashore near the ancient port city of ugarit, he always admired the stones on the beach. Now he gathers these stones and brings them home to his rooftop stocio, where they become the medium for his art. Nizar has never left his hometown or his country, though in his heart he acoompanies the many Syrians who have been forced to flee their homeland because of ongoing violence.

Janet brought a bucket full of river stones and showed the students how to play a cooperative game called Zen Pebble, in which pairs of students silently take turns adding stones to a collaborative sculpture. The teacher wrote, "My team of learners was incredibly engaged by what you did, and they are still talking about including everyone and respecting differences now (during math and recess!).  The game you shared with us was absolutely lovely, and I look forward to borrowing your idea and playing this game with students in the future.  What a magical way to admire nature, practice mindfulness, and build community all at once.  The students and I loved it."

Lynn Rockwell read Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Floyd Cooper (Illustrator) in Lisa Hanna's 5-6 class.

Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family's new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren't treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws... Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth's family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook--and the kindness of strangers--Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma's house in Alabama. Ruth's story is fiction, but The Green Book and its role in helping a generation of African American travelers avoid some of the indignities of Jim Crow are historical fact.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

2018-2019 School Year is Underway

We've already planned and organized two readings in 2018 -- Cabot on October 18  and Doty on October 24.

In November we have two big schools coming up -- Union Elementary School in Montpelier on Thursday, November 8 and Twinfield on Thursday, November 15. 

Susan Wilson, who is organizing the Union School reading, recently spoke with Union's principal, Michael Barry, giving a great overview of what we do. Have a look, and feel free to share with others.

There will be another training for new readers (the last in 2018) on Saturday, November 3 at Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, from 10:00 - noon. Come on over for a refresher, or if you're a new reader!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Reading at Twinfield Elementary School on December 1, 2017

This was our last reading in 2017. We are taking a break during the winter, and will start reading again in April, 2018. There will be another training for people who would like to join us as readers in the spring session, so let us know (email one of the organizers at the right) if you'd like to be notified about the next training! We love having new readers join us.

We had a great morning reading at Twinfield. The school was enthusiastic about having Reading to End Racism, and the wonderful guidance counselor (who was our contact at the school), Anthony Popoli, arranged a great display of some of our books right across from the entrance to the school. It looks like he had some student help making the festive sign!

We realized it was the 62nd anniversary of the arrest of Rosa Parks! We had eleven great volunteer readers in grades K-6. Here are some of the books and readers we haven't profiled before:

Rachel Rudi read Let's Talk About Race, by Julius Lester, illustrated by Karen Barbour, in a first grade class.

This is the first time we've had a former student read at a school -- Rachel graduated from Twinfield!

She said she chose this book because she couldn't remember there ever being a conversation about race when she was a student, and she felt it was really important to talk about. Unless we bring it out and examine it and let people talk about their experiences and thoughts and feelings, it will all still be there in some hidden place, festering under the surface.

Janet Van Fleet Read Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, in a 3-4 grade class.

Mona lives in the United States, but her grandmother, her Sitti, lives in a small Palestinian village on the other side of the earth, Mona says, "When our sky grows dark, the sun is peeking through her [grandmother's] window and brushing the bright lemons on her lemon tree." Once Mona went to visit her. They couldn't speak each other's language (Sitti only speaks Arabic and Mona only speaks English), so sometimes Mona's father translates for them. But mostly they make up their own language of gestures.

Janet told the class that everybody in our country has a family that came from somewhere else in the world if you go back through the generations. Many people wanted to come to the United States because of the opportunities here. Other people were forced to come here, like the slaves who were brought to our country from Africa. But in Janet's family, her sister left the United States and moved to Australia many years ago, moving out rather than in. People have been moving around the planet since there have been people, and it's good to be able to move to a new place and be welcomed.

Leda Schubert read Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, to a 3-4 grade class, in honor of the anniversary of Rosa Parks' arrest. She brought her guitar and taught the class some songs from the civil rights movement -- "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round," "We Shall Not Be Moved," and the chorus of "We Shall Overcome" with the principal, whose father worked polls in the south for decades.

She also shared her own book Trailblazer : The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, illustrated by Theodore Taylor -- coming out in January!  It is the story of
Raven Wilkinson, the first African American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company and an inspiration to Misty Copeland.  From the time she was a little girl, all Raven Wilkinson wanted to do was dance. On her ninth birthday, her uncle gifted her with ballet lessons, and she completely fell in love with dance. While she was a student at Columbia University, Raven auditioned for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and was finally accepted on her third try, even after being told she couldn't dance with them because of her skin color.

Rachel Cogbill read Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, to a 3-4 grade class.

Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family's new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren't treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws...Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth's family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook--and the kindness of strangers--Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma's house in Alabama. Ruth's story is fiction, but The Green Book and its role in helping a generation of African American travelers avoid some of the indignities of Jim Crow are historical fact.

Charlottte Faulstick read parts of CHILDREN Just Like Me: A new celebration of children around the world, to a 5-6 grade class. The book  profiles 44 children and their daily lives,  showing the many ways children are different and the many ways they are the same, no matter where they live.

She also read Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac. In 1838, settlers moving west forced the great Cherokee Nation, and their chief John Ross, to leave their home land and travel 1,200 miles to a new settlement in Oklahoma, a terrible journey known as the Trail of Tears.

 Susan Wilson read The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, by Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, in a 5-6 grade class.

For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.
This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state's laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents' love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court - and won!