Monday, October 11, 2021

Video from Boulder, Colorado YWCA Group

 We have recently connected with Reading to End Racism groups in Charlotte and Burlington, Vermont. The Charlotte Central School's webpage linked to this video from a YWCA initiative in Boulder, Colorado that is very useful. Have a look HERE

We will soon be putting up new video readings of books in the grades K-3 and 3-5 tabs above. Stay tuned!

 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Training Materials Coming

 

The Reading to End Racism Steering Committee met today to update training materials for Volunteers and Coordinators. (Left to right: Cassie Major, Rachel Cogbill, Ellen Halperin, Janet Van Fleet, Beth Wade, and Lynn Rockwell) 

We have posted these excellent materials here on a new tab (above) called TRAINING. You can also find them HERE. Rachel Cogbill and Hannah Morvan will be giving a presentation to the International Convention of ADK on July 6.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Recent Article About Reading to End Racism Program and Plans

This was published in the Times-Argus on February 8, 2021, with some good information about the program and our plans for the fall.

FROM THE TIMES-ARGUS

Reading group hoping to get back into schools in the fall

By Eric Blaisdell, February 8, 202l

MONTPELIER – A group of volunteers is hoping to return to classrooms this fall to continue reading to students about inclusion and diversity.

In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the group called Central Vermont Reading to End Racism has made videos available where children can have books read to them.

The group has been working in the area for more than 20 years. It was founded by Vermont educator and activist Paij Wadley-Bailey, who died in 2016.

The volunteers go into elementary school classrooms in Central Vermont on the same day once a year and read children’s literature that relates to racism and bullying. They also engage students in activities and discussion of the issues and thoughts the books raise.

Janet Van Fleet is one of the members of the group’s steering committee. Van Fleet, who taught elementary school students for about 10 years in Montpelier, said years ago she was looking for something to do in relation to racial justice.

She said racism is something this country has struggled with since its founding. “Until we deal with that, things aren’t going to be right,” she said.

Then she heard about this reading group. Van Fleet said the group’s work sounded like what she was looking for.

“Children are our most important resource,” she said.

Van Fleet said this group helps children with questions about fairness and justice at an early age, and helps them feel comfortable asking those questions.

Rachel Cogbill is another member of the group’s steering committee. Cogbill worked as a teacher for 39 years and joined the group after she retired about five years ago.

“I have been a teacher all of my life,” she said. “And I believe that children are the most important key to our future, and working with them is key in helping our society become a better and better place.”

She said the volunteers work alongside the teachers to find the right books for their students. She said if a book is addressing someone in the class in particular, like a student of color, the teacher will reach out to that student’s parents and get their thoughts on whether the book is appropriate.

“So we’re trying to be sensitive to the different backgrounds of the children in the class through collaboration with the teacher because the teacher is the one who really knows the students,” she said.

But those in-person reading sessions couldn’t happen this year because of the pandemic. Instead, the group has collected some publicly available videos of people reading certain children’s books and made them available at the group’s website: cvreadingtoendracism.blogspot.com

The videos are broken up into two categories, one for kindergartners through third-graders; and the other for third- through fifth-graders.

The videos for the younger students are broken up into topics which include what race is, multiculturalism and taking action. Videos for the older students focus on biographies, civil rights and racism and taking action.

The website gets about 100 hits a month, and Cogbill said people from outside Vermont have discovered the videos and are using them.

While the videos can help for now, Van Fleet said the volunteers want to get back into classrooms to have in-person interactions with students.

“The reason we do it the way we do it, where all the classrooms in the schools are having it at the same time, is that the children are then having a collective experience and we’re all learning about this.”

She said the pandemic has shown remote learning can be more difficult than in-person learning and the idea of the group is to have face-to-face discussions about these issues in the community.

She said the group is trying to help the students become good people. “I hope that when children are coming up in an environment of trust and kindness and justice and equal opportunity then maybe we can put this stuff to bed a little bit,” she said.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

New Books Added in K-3 and 3-5 Sections

We've added new books to the grade level pages (accessed in the tabs above). Have a look and enjoy! Here are some of the newly posted books:











Thursday, February 4, 2021

New Books, Discussion Topics, and Activities Coming Soon

 We will be putting up new books in the coming month, which you can access through the tabs above. Stay tuned!

 


Reprint of Letter to Orleans Central Supervisory Union Board

 This letter was written by a parent of a student in the Orleans Central Supervisory Union addressing school board push back against diversity and inclusivity work in the district. We think it makes excellent points about the importance of working to end racism, and is a model of civil and respectful discourse. Reading to End Racism is a signatory to the letter:

 This letter is respectfully submitted to you, a group of parents and community members who have stepped up to the difficult, elected, but essentially unpaid task of helping to guide decision making for the OCSU district. We honor and respect your work. We appreciate your commitment to serve the community and to help oversee education in the district. We are writing to you as parents, community members and educators, teachers, and administrators also highly concerned with our schools, to ask that you respectfully consider the following.


Honest discussion of school climate requires education, bravery and a number of factors, which do include issues of race and racism within our predominantly white schools. In a Chronicle article covering a LRUHS Board meeting in January, members of our board are quoted dismissing conversations of race with such comments as “Racism is like ketchup. People have a tendency of putting it on everything;” and  “If you say ‘anti-racist,’ you know, you’re just pointing fingers at people” We feel it important to analyze these comments, not to point fingers, but to inform while building a bridge toward best practices and to mitigated harm for all in our community.


These comments reflect sentiments widely held in our community, and it is educational, important, and positive for us to address them. As co-signers, we again thank members of the Board in advance for the additional work and attention in hearing this response. The statements are troubling because they are dismissive  of the vast documentation that exists of both collective and individual manifestations of racism that permeate our society, which affect us all in different ways. 


In November 2020, the American Medical Association declared racism to be a public health threat, one that “negatively impacts and exacerbates health inequities among historically marginalized communities.” A year earlier, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a July 2019 policy statement on racism, stated, “Racism is defined here as a ‘system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call ‘race’) that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources,’ as described by Camara Phyllis Jones, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.” The statement continues, “Racism is a social determinant of health that has a profound impact on the health status of children, adolescents, emerging adults, and their families.

We concur with the extensive research that shows racism has deadly consequences for people of color, is harmful to all, and deprives many white students of the right to develop into empathetic and engaged members of our increasingly multiracial society. This, in turn, impacts how we all  work together more effectively on common goals and for the betterment of community and the country as a whole.


We lack the space here to scratch the surface of documentation, well-researched resources, and individual testimonies, on the pervasiveness of racism and how it plays out in our society and communities. We invite everyone to further study this history and we are glad to make reading and content recommendations. 


We respectfully ask that the school board reflect on the roles and responsibilities of school board members, as outlined by the Vermont Agency of Education, to take racism, school climate, and a commitment to equity seriously. This will be especially important in light of likely curriculum and school content changes under Act 1, also known as “the Ethnic Studies Bill," signed by Vermont’s Governor in March 2019. Act 1 established an Ethnic and Social Equity Standards Advisory Working Group, to make recommendations to the state Board of Education for implementing ethnic, social, and equity standards for grades k-12 into Vermont schools. We need School Board members and everyone involved willing to see this as an opportunity for progress, rather than as a poke that triggers personal defenses. Racism is real, so analyzing it could spare us from its harmful effects. Not one of us signing this letter is perfect and all of us are strengthened by each other. We will work and ask and hope for growth. We look to explore these issues further and to possibly hear a correction of statements that upholds this critical work for our children. Thank you again for your service to the community.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

New Books Added in K-3 and 3-5 Sections

 We've added new books to the grade level pages (accessed in the tabs above). Have a look and enjoy! Here are some of the books:





 



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.”

DISCUSSION/ACTIVITY

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).