Heading Back to School!

The summer is almost over, and so it’s time to head back to school! A lot has happened in the world over the past few months – many events that have worn on our minds as parents, and possibly for our kids, too. That said, the prospect of getting back to the grind for our kids may be – while hopefully exciting – more than a little daunting, too.

Just as we change over the course of the school year, summers add new experiences, new friends, and lots to share and think about for the coming year. This can mean big changes, too, and that can be especially scary for kids nurturing marginalized identities, and that can be further compounded by things we and our kids have heard or experienced over the summer.

That said, there will be a lot coming soon here at Collage, both digitally and on the ground here in our home city of Denver. On the site, expect to see articles coming soon with strategies to discuss recent issues such as the imprisonment of migrant children. Locally, Collage will begin offering social awareness classes at Denver’s Odyssey School, set to start Friday, September 21st, 2018 (with a Parent Q&A the week before, on Friday, September 14th).

Click here for more details!

10 Grown-Up Books for a More Woke Summer

Recently, we posted a list of 10 Books to Inspire Kids for the Summer, but parents deserve some reading love during break, too; besides, it’s just as important for us adults to push our minds and our limits as it is for our kids. With that in mind, the following is a list of books that should push your thinking, stretch your comfort zone a bit, and (at least for white parents and educators) challenge some of your conceptions of privilege, race, education, and access to systems.

1.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates’ seminal work is simultaneously a powerful personal narrative, and at the same time a scathing indictment of systemic racism as it is practiced in the United States. It shines a light on this institution and its many facets that is frequently painfully, brutally bright, but always necessarily so. The book is not easy to read, but Coates’ voice and presentation make it both emotionally and literarily accessible.

2.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow forces us to face the reality of racially-biased mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, and the modern extension of slavery (at present, most states ban uncompensated work in all cases except as punishment for a crime). Alexander’s work is powerful, painful, and still utterly salient six years after its original publication. (If this work speaks to you, we also highly recommend the Netflix documentary 13th).

3.

The Skin We Speak, Edited by Lisa Delpit

The Skin We Speak is a collection of essays and reflections from teachers and teacher educators who have worked (and are working) to push back against the numerous structural iniquities facing students of color, queer students, and students of other marginalized identities in the United States. The book explores a variety of perspectives, and attempts to offer some broad solutions as to how to address these incredibly important issues. Delpit is a must-read author for educators and parents alike.

4.

Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children, by Lisa Delpit

Every teacher will attest: students strive for the bar you set for them. Unfortunately, institutionalized racism has built a system wherein students of color are frequently held to the lowest possible standard. As a result, many educators and administrators ultimately then see what they expect (whether there or not), and students of color then bear that weight, only increasing their struggle to grow.

5.

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We really feel that this title of this book speaks for itself (and should be common sense to everyone anyway), but if it doesn’t, or you’re looking to feel really inspired, we highly recommend that you watch Adichie’s TED Talk. Adichie’s book is a direct extension of her Talk, exploring why feminism is so important across all boundaries. Adichie does a wonderful job of meshing personal narratives with extensive research to frame the tremendous importance of practical feminism.

6.

White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race, by Ian Haney López

We commonly think of race as a social construction, and in large part it is, but the reality is that race, and whiteness in particular, has been hotly contested from a legal perspective for more than a century in this country. White By Law explores this through a series of case studies that ultimately illustrate that whiteness has nothing to do with fairness of skin, and everything to do with a narrow set of ill-defined rules and designations that revealed whiteness to be, in essence, the absence of culture.

7.

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, by Melissa V. Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry is perhaps best known for her long running show on MSNBC (now sadly cancelled), but she has also been a longtime professor at Tulane University, and an author. In Sister Citizen, Harris-Perry explores the intersection of Blackness and femininity, and how those combined identities can lead to both a tremendous amount of strength and leadership, and equally a deep well of pain. Moreover, she explores the many frameworks through which Black women have been framed in American culture. At the end of the day, this is a phenomenal book, and no words can do justice to how beautifully MHP delivers the ideas inside.

8.

Feeling White: Whiteness, Emotionality, and Education, by Cheryl Matias

Dr. Cheryl Matias is a brilliant, invested, and engaging motherscholar, single parent to three wonderful children, and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. She is formerly a classroom teacher and a long-time teacher educator. As a result of her many roles, Dr. Matias has a unique perspective on the state of education, and this is exceptionally evident in her book. Feeling White is a deep and largely academic exploration of the impact of whiteness on education and the typical classroom in the United States.

9.

Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage, by Paulo Freire

Freire is a staple of critical race theory (CRT) and post-colonial philosophy; he is best known for his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Pedagogy of Freedom is an extension of that work, looking at the developments and changes that have happened in education and CRT. It is a short book, but incredibly powerful, and still relevant decades on.

10.

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, by Tim Wise

Wise is a well-known standout in social justice circles. He is a bit of a standout in pop culture – a cisgender white man who openly owns his whiteness, and is willing to stand up to institutional racism. Wise’s book White Like Me is a foundational piece, exploring his journey from privileged, ignorant white man to ally and activist. It was not an easy journey – it never is – but Wise presents it in a way that is incredibly accessible. For those just beginning to explore social justice as more than an abstract, this is a fantastic place to start.

Are there any other books you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!

10 Books to Inspire Kids for the Summer

Summertime is coming fast – it’s already May, and that means for many kids, the school year will be over in just a month or so. That means all sorts of fun – family vacations, camping, hiking, swimming… lots of exciting stuff! It also means the dreaded “summer slide” – the tendency for kids to lose a bit of what they’ve learned over the past school year as they spend a few months away from the classroom.

Now, nobody wants to push their kids to spend their summer – which rightly should be full of fun and play – digging into academics; it takes the fun out of summer break, and it’s a lot of work for parents, too! Fortunately, it doesn’t take much at all to fight back against the summer slide, and to keep kids engaged in critical thinking (and social justice!) One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to make sure your kids keep reading all summer, and for that, we’ve compiled this list of fantastic, engaging books that will keep them thinking.

1.

A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara

This is a fantastic book for budding activist, for your littles that aren’t quite reading yet but are already super fierce! A may be for “activist”, but there’s a lot more beyond that.

2.

Cinnamon, by Neil Gaiman (illustrated by Divya Srinivasan)

Cinnamon is an original tale by Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline. It’s a wonderful story of a blind Indian princess who doesn’t speak. The story is simple, the art is gorgeous, and the message will delight kids from 4 to 10.

3.

Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story, by Reem Faruqi (illustrated by Lea Lyon)

As I write this list, the month of Ramadan is fast approaching, and this story provides non-Muslim and Muslim kids alike with a fantastic introduction to the concept, the ritual, and the roots of Ramadan.

4.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

It should come as no surprise that women of color have played an integral role in the building of the United States, and the advancement of science, technology, math, philosophy and more over the past 200 years. This book presents the stories of many of those women, in a quick and concise format that is accessible and interesting to readers from 6 to 12. It even makes for a great book of bedtime stories, complete with delightful illustrations.

5.

March (Trilogy), by John Lewis

March is the story of Congressman John Lewis’s early days in the Civil Rights Movement. It is presented in graphic novel format, and aimed at kids in their early to mid teens, though it is perfectly engaging for adults as well. The material is at times brutal, as was the time, but the language is absolutely appropriate for teens, and violence is presented carefully and is never gory or extreme.

6.

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History, by Chelsea Clinton (illustrated by Alexandra Boiger)

An extension of Clinton’s first book, She Persisted Around the World extends the exploration of powerful women internationally. It is a great partner book to Little Leaders, though aimed at a slightly younger age range.

7.

Wandering Son (v.1 through v.8), by Shimura Takako

Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son is a masterpiece of gender exploration from a culture that is substantially less open to trans identities than many other parts of the world. The series follows to main characters, Shiuchi (a trans girl) and Yoshino (a trans boy) as they struggle to simultaneously navigate their expanding gender identities, puberty, and starting middle school. It is as beautifully awkward as it sounds, and is full of poignant moments that will feel incredibly familiar to any teen, and especially powerful for the many tweens and teens just beginning to explore their sense of self.

8.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (v.1 through v.3), by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This series is a contemporary reworking of the story of Black Panther (a character originally introduced in 1966). That this version is written by the incredible Ta-Nehisi Coates is incredibly significant, as he explores institutional racism, inequality, and (in a tribute to Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica,) the impact that an idyllic, advanced African nation untouched by centuries of European colonialism, all in a format that will be exciting and approachable for teens and adults 14 and older.

9.

Children of Blood and Bone: Legacy of Orisha, by Tomi Adeyemi

Adeyemi’s debut work is masterful fiction; a young adult novel full of real Black Girl Magic, following the adventures of two teens, Inan and Amari, and weaving in the Orishas, West African demigods that influence nature and the lives of people in a variety of ways. The story is epic, the characters rich and relatable, and the setting incredibly dynamic. This book is a fantastic summer read!

10.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (v.1 through v.3), by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan has long been known for his series (and now movies) centering on the character of Percy Jackson, and the gods of Ancient Greece. The Magnus Chase trilogy expands that universe, instead focusing on a character by the same name, and his ties to the Norse pantheon. Given this premise, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this series was likely to be woefully generic, but in fact it belies an incredibly deep collection of teen novels, that ultimately explore race and racism, gender identity, and sexuality. The fact that Magnus Chase is (presently) a trilogy means plenty to read for the summer!

This list is by no means extensive; there are dozens of other wonderful books that make for fantastic, engaging summer reading. Let me know what your favorites are in the comments below! Also, remember, the best way to reinforce your kids’ learning (and support their budding activism) is to discuss the books they read; the more context you give them, the more they’ll get out of their reading, and you might learn something from it, too!