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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.

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. 


Purchase on Amazon

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

Portraits of African American Heros | Martin Luther King Jr.

"Here, ideal for African-American History Month, is a stunningly beautiful book consisting of portraits-in pictures and words-of twenty outstanding African-Americans. The individuals range from historical to contemporary figures, such as the dancer Judith Jamison, and represent diverse fields of endeavor, from the law (Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall) to athletics, science, and more. For each individual, there is a three-page biography by the noted author Tonya Bolden and a striking black-and-white portrait that captures not only the subject's likeness but is a work of art in itself. A book to inspire, to teach, or to display, with its large trim size and striking design, it is as handsome as it is important." -Amazon.com

My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris

"Long before he became a world-famous dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr. was a little boy who played jokes and practiced the piano and made friends without considering race. But growing up in the segregated south of the 1930s taught young Martin a bitter lesson -- little white children and little black children were not to play with one another. Martin decided then and there that something had to be done. And so he began the journey that would change the course of American history." - Amazon.com

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