Recently, Atlanta students and families had the opportunity to join community leaders, educators and prominent authors to address racism, anti-racism and healing.
Race & Healing: A Community Conversation, kicked off the citywide Race2Read challenge, encouraging students and their families to read 20 minutes a day to reach the goal of 10-million minutes for the 2020-2021 school year. Moderated by CBS46 Anchor Shon Gables, the special Town Hall was hosted by Alston & Bird LLP, Atlanta Public Schools, CBS46, Page Turners Make Great Learners, the Urban League of Greater Atlanta and UPS.
As the first part of our three-part blog series, we are featuring three New York Times best-selling children’s authors who shared insights on how their books help children cope and understand the serious social topics impacting the world today.
While we did our best to capture some of the highlights from the very special event, we encourage everyone to view the thought-provoking Town Hall in its entirety here.
Tiffany Jewell, writer and educator, is the critically acclaimed author of This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work. She wrote the book, she says, so readers would have the opportunity to reflect, grow and move toward working in solidarity with others.
“I wrote the book thinking of everyone from nine- to 14-years-old, to teachers and families and caregivers who are working with the kids. Because I want to give everybody the same language when we talk about racism.
If we all have the same language, if the nine-year-old has the same language as the 45-year-olds, the 89- and 16-year-olds, then we can all work on this together.
A lot of adults are using the book as a way to jumpstart their understanding of anti-racism and making our world a place that our humanity is something everybody cares about.”
Jewell Parker Rhodes is the award-winning author of Ghost Boys, a novel weaving historical context into a story about children and families facing the complexities of equality and justice.
During the broadcast, she shared why the book is an important catalyst for parents and teachers to discuss race and its implications with students.
“Ghost Boys, I think, allows our students to see themselves in the main character Jerome. It recognizes their pain, and that’s very important. Every time someone discriminates or stereotypes a black youth, it’s stealing them of their childhood innocence.
I think the novel allows for empowerment for children to see that they can bear witness, that they can commit to social justice and their actions and words matter.
One of the messages is, if someone can’t see your glory, that’s their problem. And, each and every one of our children of color just need to be themselves. I say, be you, even if others can’t see you.”
Nic Stone’s debut novel Dear Martin was inspired by a series of racially changed incidents. She wrote the novel for her young sons to help them and other children stimulate critical thinking and look at things from a different perspective.
“Kids at a very young age have their eyes open and their minds open to the world around them. As parents and as educators, as the adults in these kids’ lives, we help shape their reality and how they perceive the world they live in.
I think that it’s very important with the books that I am writing and the books that Tiffany and Jewell are writing, that we have the opportunity that we can put into words, into a voice, into a language that kids can understand.
We can show them they are valued. You can do whatever you put your minds to.”
Teachers and parents today are faced with a lot of difficult conversations. With so much uncertainty, it’s critical that children feel included and have an outlet for their questions. Books are one of the best ways to help in this endeavor, as they are not only “the foundation for lifelong learning” but also a “huge predictor of success, overall,” said President and CEO Nancy Flake Johnson, Urban League of Greater Atlanta.
To view the Town Hall in its entirety and hear about more ways to discuss racial inequities with students and how literacy plays a significant role in the conversation, watch Race & Healing: A Community Conversation.
To learn more about the Atlanta Public Schools Race2Read challenge, in partnership with Urban League of Greater Atlanta, and to start logging your leisure reading minutes today, visit Race2Read.org.