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According to the work of Gloria Ladson-Billings, culturally relevant teaching "empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural references to impart knowledge, skills and attitudes."

The books selected for the Rooted and Reading initiative are designed to build cultural awareness and boost social emotional learning. By reading books where African American students can see themselves positively represented, we can begin to create a bridge between students' home and school lives that celebrates, who they are, acknowledges their lived experiences, while reinforcing their cultural values. 
We believe that the 5 competencies of Social Emotional Learning are best understood in both a child development and cultural context; as children do not develop these skills and abilities in a vacuum.

Understanding Social Emotional Learning from a child developmental perspective helps us understand the skills that children should be able to learn and demonstrate at each developmental level. Additionally we must ensure that children are able to learn these skills in age appropriate ways. Not only that, but when we consider a child development perspective, it gives us clues and indicators of a child's capacity to grasp concepts and demonstrate skills. Failing to consider a child's developmental level can impose a set of unrealistic expectations on children that may be impossible for them to meet.

If teachers, therapist and social service professionals set the benchmarks too high, then they may feel that that programs and strategies are not working  and if they set the benchmarks too low, then they may not be appropriately preparing the students to use their skills to navigate difficult social situations they are likely to encounter.

Often left out of the conversation of Social Emotional Learning is the vital role that culture plays in shaping and developing relational expectations, values around decision making, and ideas about identity, connection to self and spirit. Building upon these concepts at an early age is very important for a child's social expression and emotional regulation.

This is why it is imperative to infuse within our understanding of Social Emotional Learning, the knowledge of self as well as a high degree of African American cultural awareness and appreciation.

Robin's Gift | By: Kenya Baker




"Robin's Gift is here. Children will read this delightfully colored text and learn the joys of being a giver. In a world, where "taking" has become second nature, Robin shows the world that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive." -kenyabakerbooks.com

"Robin's Gift" is about never allowing someone to make you stoop their level or feed into negativity. It is always important to never stop being who you are and to show kindness, even when you have the opportunity to be unkind to others. Robin had a chance to treat the flock of birds how they treated her, but she made a choice to treat others how she wants to be treated.

"Robin's Gift" is an exceptional children's book that is packed with lessons. It demonstrates that not everyone in the world is going to be kind to you, but that does not mean you have to do to others what has been done to you. It teaches children that you can always show people something different by displaying acts of kindness.



Social Emotional Learning Domains from the book:
  • Social awareness
  • Self-awareness
  • Relationship skills

One of the domains that are evident in the book " Robin's Gift" is social awareness, "the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others." The other flock of birds was not kind to Robin. Although Robin did not like how the other birds treated her, she was still compassionate towards them. She demonstrated empathy, respect for others, and perspective-taking, which are all key elements of social awareness. The other birds were sad because it was getting cold outside, and they were not prepared for the winter. Robin was able to take the perspective of the other birds. She knew that the other birds would struggle throughout the winter if they did not have the proper supplies. Robin had more than enough, so she gave them some of her supplies. Instead of treating the birds like they treated her, she empathized with them and still helped them. It would have been much easier to be unkind to them, just as they were to her. But she still treated them with dignity and respect. 

Another Social Emotional Learning Domain that was taught in the book was self-awareness, "the ability to recognize one's own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior." Although the other birds were unkind, Robin chose not to focus on them. She decided to focus on herself, which made her feel good about who she was. Robin demonstrates self-confidence and accurate self-perception. The last Social Emotional Learning Domain skill that is taught is relationship skills. Robin demonstrates the ability to resolve conflict and offer help when needed. She also used her communication skills when she saw the other birds in distress.


We love the messages in the book and rate it 5/5 afro puffs! 

Dancing in the Wings | By: Debbie Allen







 "Sassy is a long-legged girl who always has something to say. She wants to be a ballerina more than anything, but she worries that her too-large feet, too-long legs, and even her big mouth will keep her from her dream. When a famous director comes to visit her class, Sassy does her best to get his attention with her high jumps and bright leotard. Her first attempts are definitely not appreciated, but with Sassy's persistence, she just might be able to win him over. Dancing in the Wings is loosely based on actress/choreographer Debbie Allen's own experiences as a young dancer." - Amazon.com

 "Dancing in the Wings" is about confidence and believing yourself despite the negative opinions of others. Although we can have a negative outlook on our flaws, our flaws are what makes us stand out.  It was difficult for Sassy to be confident and to notice the beauty in her height, long legs, and big feet. But she eventually learned to be bold and tell herself, yes, even when the world told her no.

"Dancing in the Wings" by Debbie Allen is a beneficial book for children to read because it demonstrates how to stay encouraged, even when others try to tear you down or break your confidence. This book shows children to always keep your head held high and be confident in who you are, and your abilities.



Social Emotional Learning domains from the Book:
  • Self-management
  • Self-awareness

Self-management, " the ability to successfully regulate one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations" was taught in the book "Dancing in the Wings." Sassy was the tallest dancer out of all the students in her dance class. She also had long legs and big feet. The other girls in her dance class always made rude remarks towards her, which made her begin to feel bad about herself. The mean comments from the other girls caused a lack confidence in Sassy. It was difficult for Sassy to regulate her emotions and thoughts, but she soon realizes that her height, long legs, and big feet made her unique. She was able to demonstrate self-motivation and goal-setting. Sassy began to motivate herself, even when the other dancers counted her out. She also had a goal to be selected for the dance festival, which she achieved. Sassy could have let the mean comments defeat her, but she decided to motivate and push herself instead. 

Another Social Emotional Learning domain that was taught was self-awareness. Sassy was able to identify her emotions and noticed how they influenced her behavior. But she soon began to realize that she had to be confident in her abilities and who she is. Sassy was also able to recognize her strengths. She saw that her height, long legs, and big feet were actually her strengths when it came to dance, and not a weakness.

We love the messages in the book and rate it 5/5 afro puffs! 

Not Quite Snow White By Ashley Franklin | Book Review


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We rated this book 5/5 Afropuffs!


"Tameika is a girl who belongs on the stage. She loves to act, sing, and dance—and she’s pretty good at it, too. So when her school announces their Snow White musical, Tameika auditions for the lead princess role.
But the other kids think she’s “not quite” right to play the role. They whisper, they snicker, and they glare. Will Tameika let their harsh words be her final curtain call?


Not Quite Snow White is a delightful and inspiring picture book that highlights the importance of self-confidence while taking an earnest look at what happens when that confidence is shaken or lost. Tameika encourages us all to let our magic shine."  -Amazon.com

We are always on the lookout for books that build cultural competence and boost social emotional learning. When we came across this book at Target we knew this would be the perfect read-a-loud! 

As parents of black and brown girls we understand that you long to see your child's hair texture and skin color reflected in images that represent beauty, power, success and happiness. This is often times due to the fact that as parents, you have the troubling task of explaining to your young daughters that despite the prominent images they see...that they are still beautiful. When black girls are not able to see themselves represented in these ways they can begin to internalize feelings of inferiority or exhibit a level resentment and hatred around the ways in which they show up in the world. Not Quite Snow White written by Ashley Franklin and Illustrated by Ebony Glenn demonstrates, through soft visual imagery and affirming statements, that despite what others may think, you have to belief in yourself! For young girls, this does not mean that the words of others will not hurt, because they will! But Tameika showed how to rise above the criticism of others and still reach for your goals. 

We are happy that Ashley Franklin was able to capture the self-doubt, sadness, and pain that can sometimes exist for black and brown girls who dare to be different and challenge social norms. 

Because of that...we rated this book 5/5 Afro Puffs!

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Social Emotional Learning Domains from the Book: 

  • Self Management
  • Relationship Skills
One of the Social Emotional Learning Domains taught in the book Not Quite Snow White is Self Management, "managing one's emotions and behaviors to achieve one's goals." Tameika displayed sadness, hurt feelings, and confusion in the book. These are often big emotions for children that can turn into anger, rage, or lashing out at others. Children can also become withdrawn or may shut down. Tameika was able to overcome these feelings and discover the positive side of her situation. 

The other Social Emotional Learning Domain taught is Relationship Skills, "dealing effectively with conflict." Tameika could have let the scoffs and remarks of her peers stop her or get her down. She could have yelled at them and called them names. She decided to work even harder to reach her goal. 

We are so excited to feature this book as one of our July Read-a-louds. Be sure to check out our activities link to download our supplemental worksheets. They are designed to help teach these critical Social Emotional Learning skills to your child. 

I Love My Hair | By: Natasha Anastaisa Tarpley



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"In this imaginative evocative story, a girl named Keyana discovers the beauty and magic of her special hair, encouraging black children to be proud of their heritage and enhancing self-confidence." -Amazon.com

"I Love My Hair" is about fully accepting who you are, although it can be a challenging journey. The journey was difficult for Keyana, but eventually, she was able to see the beauty in her authentic self. This book is important because it teaches young girls the importance of embracing themselves, to be proud of who they are and where they come from.

"I Love My Hair" by Natasha Anastaisa Tarpley is a good read because it teaches young girls about self-acceptance and fully embracing who they are. It shows young girls that your hair can be their crown no matter the length, style, or texture. What matters the most is that they love who you are, even when others do not.

We love the messages in the book and rate it 5/5 afro puffs! 

Queen of the Scene| By Queen Latifah



"This little ruler of the playground has got game. Basketball, stickball, jump–rope, soccer–there's nothing she won't try. And watch out, boys, because she's representing all the ladies and has girl power to the max." -Amazon.com

Being "Queen of the Scene" means to always walk tall, and be confident and fearless. It is important always to have a positive mindset in all that you do because you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.

"Queen of the Scene" is a good read because it shows young girls not to place any limitations on themselves because they can do anything they put their minds to. It also teaches young girls that nothing is too big to be accomplished. 




This worksheet is a great tool to use after reading the book. It can help children explore their own abilities and areas where they are highly  confident.  It also helps young girls know, that they can do anything and don't have to be limited by gender roles.  


Coretta Scott

The celebrated poetry of Ntozake Shange and the beautiful illustrations of Kadir Nelson captures the spirit of the civil rights era.


"Walking many miles to school in the dusty road, young Coretta Scott knew the unfairness of life in the segregated south. A yearning for equality began to grow. Together with Martin Luther King, Jr., she gave birth to a vision of change through nonviolent protest. It was the beginning of a journey—with dreams of freedom for all." -Amazon.com