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The novel coronavirus has awakened a new normal for all of us even after schools let out. As we attempt to unite against this unseen enemy, inequalities and prejudices continue to be revealed. From COVID-19 being labelled the “Chinese” virus to the unprecedented racism toward Asian American students due to the coronavirus, it’s clear that we still have a lot of work to do to combat racism and xenophobia in our society.

But this time has also presented us an opportunity to gain deeper understanding and empathy for those who may be different from ourselves. It is my belief that while we have this time, we should use it to be better than before.

It is with this thought in mind that the SERC Library Blog continues its “From Here to Diversity” series dedicated to providing 18 exciting book recommendations for children, preteens, and young adults that recognize the importance of diverse representation in reading materials.

This month, we are shedding some more light on diverse representation by choosing 18 novels that feature protagonists and other characters from an Asian or Pacific Islander cultural background. With the acknowledgment that only 7 percent of all children’s books published in 2018 featured characters of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage, it remains important to provide exposure to these stories so that all young readers can feel seen and heard*.

In the list below, there are three sections of books: Picture Books, Middle Grade Novels, and High School Reads. The six books in each section feature predominantly #ownvoices stories and have been published within the last few years. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather a taste of the variety of stories that provide representation to these communities, appreciate an underrepresented perspective of experience, acknowledge histories, and celebrate #ownvoices authors and stories.

Enjoy!

Image of an open book

Elementary Reads

Nadia’s Hands by Karen English and Jonathan Weiner

Nadia is chosen to be part of her aunt’s traditional Pakistani wedding. Readers will follow along as Nadia learns about her culture through the decoration of her hands with traditional mehindi.

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe and Richard Waldrep

Surfer of the Century provides a look at the life of native Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimming champion and “father of modern surfing.” Though he struggled due to racism and other issues, Duke Kahanamoku overcame much to become a six-time Olympic medalist.

Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin

Discover all the tasty foods as a Chinese American family enjoys a traditional dim sum meal. Readers will learn about the origins and practice of dim sum from the beautiful artwork and educational author’s note.

Role Models Who Look Like Me: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Who Made History by Jasmine M. Cho

Explore this inspiring selection of stories about a variety of influential Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from history. The beautiful watercolor illustrations and rhyming stories will capture the imagination of young readers and show them the many things they can achieve.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee; illustrated by Man One

Follow the story of real Korean-American and Los Angeles-based chef Roy Choi in a story experience that blends the appreciation of street food and street art.  To Chef Roy Choi, food is love and culture. It is with this idea that he has brought his love of Korean cuisine to the people by remixing and serving it in a food truck on the streets. Follow his story as he learns to make people smile with his delicious food.

Tiny Feet Between the Mountains by Hanna Cha

Soe-In may be small in stature, but she’s big in enthusiasm and bravery. Though she often has trouble with chores due to her size, she doesn’t hesitate to help out when members of her community decide to travel into the mountains to investigate why the sun has gone dark. They soon learn that a spirit tiger has swallowed the sun by mistake. Soe-In must come up with a clever idea to help the spirit tiger and her community, and return the sun to the sky.

Pictures of the book covers of Nadia’s Hands by Karen English and Jonathan Weiner, Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe and Richard Waldrep, Dim Sum for Everyone! By Grace Lin, Role Models Who Look Like Me: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Who Made History by Jasmine M. Cho, hef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee; illustrated by Man One, and Tiny Feet Between the Mountains by Hanna Cha.

Middle School Reads

Dumpling Days (Pacy Lin series, Book 3) by Grace Lin

Pacy and her family are going to Taiwan for one month to celebrate her grandmother’s 60th birthday. She is very excited to travel, eat lots of dumplings, and attend the Chinese painting class her parents signed her up for. But things are not as she expected them to be. The language makes it difficult for her to make friends and understand her art teacher. Yet the more time Pacy spends in Taiwan, the more she learns about her own identity and what it means to be both American and Taiwanese.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

Notable actor George Takei details his childhood and upbringing as a Japanese-American in this poignant autobiographical graphic novel. Takei recounts his experiences as his entire family is forced into an American concentration camp which imprisoned thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. Read about Takei’s journey as he discusses the fear, courage, loyalty, and family that made him the activist he is today.

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Mai had plans of spending her summer at the beach, but her parents have other plans: Mai is forced to travel with her grandmother to Vietnam. To Mai, Vietnam is not part of her culture. It is so different from where she grew up in California, where the environment is not constantly hot and smelly, and the customs and language are not confusing. To be able to get through her trip, Mai must discover how to achieve the balance between the two cultures she is now a part of.

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Aru Shah series, Book 1) by Roshani Chokshi

Aru Shah has a habit of lying in order to fit in. But when classmates come to her home at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture to catch her in her fib that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, she feels compelled to prove them wrong by lighting the lamp. But by doing so she has unwittingly frozen time and awakened the God of Destruction. Aru must find the 5 Pandavas to save the world and right the wrong she started.

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook

Chaya is a thief who steals from the wealthy to give to the poor people in her community. But when she steals jewelry from the Queen, even she has to agree that it probably wasn’t her best idea. She flees with some friends and a stolen elephant into the Sri Lankan jungle to avoid her crimes but ends up confronting dangers around every corner.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

The story of Suraya and her pelesit is based on a Malayasian folktale. Given to her by her witch grandmother, Suraya has grown up with her pelesit as a constant companion. Even so, Suraya doesn’t know that, while being ghostly companions, pelesits can also have a powerful, dark side that can be vicious and dangerous. When Suraya’s pelesit turns dark, she must find light in her friendships to survive.

Pictures of the book covers of Dumpling Days by Grace Lin, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi, The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook, and The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf.

High School Reads

Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata

Aiko Cassidy is the teenage artist behind the popular manga Gadget Girl—not that anyone knows it. Aiko has cerebral palsy, and she prefers to stay invisible even as she tries to break away from being her mother’s muse for her award-winning sculptures. When her mother is invited to go to Paris for an art exhibition, Aiko is invited to come along too even though she would much rather visit Tokyo so she could finally meet her father. But being in Paris leads to new experiences and connections that make her wonder if being invisible is really what she wants after all.

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Taiwanese-American student Mei has her life planned out for her by her parents. Though she is on track to get a degree at MIT, become a doctor, and eventually marry a suitable Taiwanese man, Mei hates biology and has a crush on a Japanese classmate. How can she stay true to herself when she knows that going against her parents’ wishes means estrangement from her family, just like what happened to her brother?

Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

Reshma Kapoor has her eyes set on going to Stanford. She’s got the grades, the extracurriculars, and even has a book deal and literary agent just for the purpose of securing her an acceptance letter. But Reshma is pretty sure that no one would want to read a book by her overly studious self. So she sets out to make herself a more likeable protagonist by making friends, getting a boyfriend, and letting go of her perfectionism. But is it enough to get her the awesome ending she has worked so hard for?

Flame in the Mist (Series, Book 1) by Renee Ahdieh

Clever and accomplished Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden in a political marriage that will increase her family’s prominence and social standing. But before Mariko can reach the imperial city where her marriage will take place, a well-known and dangerous gang of bandits attacks and tries to kill her. After narrowly escaping with her life, Mariko attempts to sneak into the bandits’ camp dressed as a boy to find out their plans. Yet she soon finds acceptance and love within the gang’s ranks which will make her question everything she thinks she knows.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel have been arranged to be together—not that Dimple knows that. Dimple believes her mother is respecting her wishes to wait for marriage by supporting her enrollment at a summer web developer program. Meanwhile, Rishi is a romantic who believes in tradition and hopes to woo Dimple at the summer program they are attending. With such very different people, hilarity is bound to ensue.

Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Danny Cheng is a talented artist with a bright future and plans to go to RISD for college. But this means leaving everything he has ever known: his home in California, his family, and his best friend Harry with whom he is secretly in love.  Among these upcoming changes, Danny discovers a mysterious box in the closet of his parents’ house that will uncover a family secret and change his world forever.

Pictures of the book covers of Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata,  American Panda by Gloria Chao, Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia, Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, and Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert.

References:

* Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic. 

Disclaimer: Resources and listings in this blog post do not indicate approval or endorsement by SERC or the Connecticut State Department of Education.  The listings are provided solely as a resource of general information.

The SERC Library Blog continues its “From Here to Diversity” series dedicated to providing 18 exciting book recommendations for children, preteens, and young adults that recognize the importance of diverse representation in reading materials.

This week, we are shedding some more light on diverse representation by choosing 18 novels that feature protagonists and other characters from a Latinx cultural background. With the acknowledgement that only 5 percent of all children’s books published in 2018 featured characters of Latinx heritage, it remains important to provide exposure to these stories so that all young readers can feel seen and heard.

In the list below, there are three sections of books: Picture Books, Middle Grade Novels, and High School Reads. The six books in each section feature predominantly #ownvoices stories and have been published within the last few years. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather a taste of the variety of stories that provide representation to these communities, appreciate an underrepresented perspective of experience, acknowledge histories, and celebrate #ownvoices authors and stories.

Enjoy!

Image of an open book

Picture Books

Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales

In celebration of Mexican culture and the celebration of Dia de los Muertos, this brightly illustrated counting book tells the story of Grandma Beetle, who enchants Mr. Calavera, a skeleton, while he is waiting for her to finish her chores for her party. This trickster tale counts in both English and Spanish as it weaves math skills together with an appreciation of traditions.

La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya  (Author), Juana Martinez-Neal (Illustrator)

This Pura Belpré Medal winner for Illustration retells the classic Princess and the Pea story with some Peruvian flair. With a sprinkling of humor, both author and illustrator weave the story of the prince who wants to marry and his mother who puts forth some tricks to test which lady is the most worthy.

Islandborn by Junot Diaz (author) and Leo Espinosa (Illustrator)

Lola is tasked by her teacher to draw a picture of her first home, but she can’t remember what it looks like. She was too young when she and her family left the Dominican Republic.  So Lola spends the afternoon asking all her family members their memories, both bad and good, and learning about their beautiful island home.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Yuyi tells her own story in this Pura Belpré award-winning book for illustration. Not knowing the language or what may wait for her on the other side, Yuyi makes her way to the United States with her infant son with the dream of a better life.  With the strength of the public library to support them, Yuyi and her son learn a strange new language and create a new home to build their dreams upon.

Lucia the Luchadora (series) by Cynthia Leonor Garza (Author) and Alyssa Bermudez (Illustrator)

Lucia loves pretending to be a superhero on the playground. Even though she can do all the flips and crazy jumps, the boys still tell her that a girl could never be a superhero.  Upset, Lola tells her Abuela about what the boys on the playground said. Little does Lola know that she comes from a long line of female superheroes, luchadoras, or female fighters from the Mexican tradition of lucha libre. With her Abuela’s story to inspire her and a flashy costume, she must return to the playground to stop injustice in its tracks.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise (Author), Paola Escobar (Illustrator)

This picture book tells the biography of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. Through her support of folk tales and stories, she was able to create beloved books and a legacy that continues to support bilingual literature today. Young readers will learn about this influential Latinx lady and be inspired by her work.

Pictures of the book covers of Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales, La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal, Islandborn by Junot Diaz and Leo Espinosa, Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, Lucia the Luchadora (series) by Cynthia Leonor Garza and Alyssa Bermudez, and Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar

Middle School Novels

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Arturo loves his life with its mango smoothies, basketball games, shifts at Abuela’s restaurant, and his cute new neighbor Carmen. He is so busy spending his summer with his crush that he doesn’t notice how his neighborhood is starting to change and the creepy land developer behind it all. Arturo and Carmen must come up with a scheme that will halt the developer in his tracks, and in the process they will learn about themselves and the power of protest.

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez

Malu (that is short for Maria Luisa O’Neill-Morales) is a punk-rock lover. From the zines she makes to her favorite Chuck Taylors, Malu strives to stay true to herself. But living the punk-rock way of life, like her father, is already proving to be a problem at her new school in Chicago. Her first day there, Malu gets called a “coconut” (that is, brown on the outside and white on the inside) by the popular Selena and ends up making her an enemy. But Malu is not easily swayed. With the help of some new “misfit” friends at school, Malu puts together a band to play a punk-rock song for a school event. Through her illustrated adventures, Malu will learn to balance both being Mexican and punk rock.

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Max Cordoba has many questions about the future: Will he make it on the futbol team? Will he ever meet his missing mother? What happened to her? What was she like? If only the stories Buelo told him about were true – then he would be able to find the mysterious gatekeeper who guides people to tomorrow and find out what his future might hold. But when Max discovers that some of the legends just might be true, he sets out to see if he can find the future for himself.

Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows (Book 1) by Ryan Calejo 

Proud of his Latin American heritage, Charlie Hernandez is an expert on all the classic myths, thanks to his grandmother and her stories of monsters and other scary things that wait in the dark. As fun as these stories are, he’s never believed in them – that is, until one day his body starts changing into something that is very close to one of his favorite legends. Charlie is suddenly thrust into a battle to protect the Land of the Living from a group of evil spirits that want to rule mankind. He must figure out what is happening to himself if he is going to save the world from ending.

Lety, Out Loud by Angela Cervantes

Lety Munoz loves volunteering at the Furry Friends Animal Shelter. The animals are adorable and they don’t judge her when she takes her time finding the right words in English from her first language, Spanish. When the shelter assigns Lety and classmate Hunter to write profiles for the pets, Lety is excited to help out. Hunter, on the other hand, does not want to work as a team. Hunter makes a deal with Lety that whoever writes the most profiles for the pets that get adopted will get to be the main writer and the loser will pick a different job to do in the shelter. Will Lety get the chance to prove herself and how awesome a writer she can be?

Lowriders in Space (Lowriders in Space series) by Raul Gonzalez

This graphic novel tells the story of three friends, Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria, and their love of lowrider cars. By chance they come upon a contest promising a trunkful of cash to the person who enters with the best lowrider car. The team agrees that winning this prize will allow them to open up the garage of their dreams. Readers can come along on this crazy adventure to create the best car in the universe.

Pictures of the book covers of The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya, The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez, Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan,  Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo, Lety, Out Loud by Angela Cervantes, and Lowriders in Space by Raul Gonzalez

High School Reads

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This Pura Belpré award winner tells the story of Xiomara Battista, a feisty girl with so much to say. Xiomara pours her words and feelings into poetry in a leather-bound journal — and she knows her poems must stay there. If her strict, religious mother ever found out about them, life as she knows it – her relationship with the boy in her class named Aman, her involvement at a slam poetry club at school, and her avoidance of religious Confirmation classes – would come to an end. But with words as powerful as Xiomara’s, it is only a matter of time before her truth is set free.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Dante and Ari could not be more different. Yet somehow when they meet at the local swimming pool, they become instant friends. Both boys have challenges to overcome – Ari is angry over the loss of his father and brother, and Dante is struggling to find a way to tell his family about his sexuality. Yet in each other, the boys find ways to accept themselves and become the people they want to be.

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas Series) by Zoraida Cordova

This supernatural fantasy tale inspired by Latin American culture follows Alexandra Mortiz, a bruja (or witch) who wants nothing to do with her magical powers. While her family plans her Deathday celebration, which will unleash her powers completely, Alex casts a canto that will instead strip herself of magic and unintentionally sends her entire family to the underworld. Alex, her friend Rishi, and brujo boy Nova must travel to the center of Los Lagos to free them all before it is too late.

An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder

Francisco has a simple life in Bolivia – school, friends, family, and soccer make up his life. Then suddenly Francisco’s father is unjustly arrested on false charges, and the entire family must move into the prison with their father. The prison’s conditions are terrible, and Francisco is faced with a terrible decision: stay with his father in dangerous conditions or make the trek with his sister to their grandparents in the countryside.

Iron River by Daniel Acosta

In 1958, Manny Maldonado spends his days being the mischievous misfit of his San Gabriel valley neighborhood. Manny, aka Man-On-Fire, and his friends are obsessed with the Iron River, a train that passes by his home. From listening to it chug through his neighborhood to catching a ride on its caboose to throwing old fruit at its cars, the Iron River is a central part of their everyday lives. However, the boys’ innocent misdeeds come at a cost when a homeless person is found murdered nearby and a local cop believes they are guilty of the crime.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erica L Sanchez

Julia is nothing close to being a perfect Mexican daughter. That title always belonged to Olga, Julia’s older sister. Now that Olga is dead, her absence has left a gaping hole in Julia’s and her family’s life. But how perfect was Olga, really? When she discovers some information about Olga that alters her perspective about her “perfect” older sister, Julia, with the help of her friends, becomes dedicated to finding out the truth at any cost.

Pictures of the book covers of The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova, An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder, Iron River by Daniel Acosta, and I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erica L Sanchez

References:

* Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic. 

Disclaimer: Resources and listings in this blog post do not indicate approval or endorsement by SERC or the Connecticut State Department of Education.  The listings are provided solely as a resource of general information.

According to a 2018 study on diversity in children’s books, only 10 percent of all published children’s books depicted characters of African American or African descent.* We are missing chances to have students authentically connect to stories, gain a greater understanding of themselves and others, and provide opportunities of self-affirmation. Understandably, this can make it increasingly difficult to add diverse perspectives to the books presented in the classroom.

But have no fear, the SERC Library blog is here!

Every few weeks, the SERC Library blog will post a list of 18 book recommendations that feature protagonists and others characters from a nonwhite background.  This week, in honor of Black History Month, we are focusing on books that feature characters from an African American or African cultural background.

In this list, we have included some great suggestions in picture books, middle grade novels, and high school reads.  Most of these selected books are #ownvoices stories and have been published within the last few years. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather a taste of the variety of stories that provide representation to these communities, appreciate an underrepresented perspective or experience, and celebrate #ownvoices authors and stories.

Enjoy!

An open book with a green background

Picture Books

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James

This multiple award-winning book is a poetic and engaging celebration of black boys and the tradition of going to the barbershop.  Author Derrick Barnes will imbue readers with confidence and pride as he affirms the limitless possibilities they are worthy of.

Little Leaders Series (Bold Women in Black History and Exceptional Men in Black History) written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison

This picture book series provides an inspiring look at the many Black men and women who broke down barriers and trailblazed new paths.  Each book contains more than 35 short biographies and illustrations that will encourage young readers to shoot for their dreams.

Firebird by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers 

American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland encourages a young dancer of color to be confident in herself, be dedicated to her goals, and conquer her doubts.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Sulwe tells the story of a little girl who doubts herself and is jealous of the beauty of the rest of her family—that is until she learns about the power of her own beauty.  This wonderful book by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o fosters self-esteem in young girls of color with its beautiful and evocative illustrations by author and filmmaker Vashti Harrison.

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews and Bill Taylor illustrated by Bryan Collier

This autobiographical picture book tells the story of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, a young boy from New Orleans with a gift for music.  By the age of 6, he was leading his own band and eventually achieved international recognition for his gifts.  This Caldecott award-winner is a celebration of determination and the life-empowering effect of music.

Princess Hair by Sharee Miller

This engaging picture book shows all the different hairstyles a princess can wear.  From Afros to Twists, all different representations of princesses and their hair are beautifully illustrated and described.

Pictures of the book covers of Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, the Little Leaders series, Firebird, Sulwe, Trombone Shorty, and Princess Hair.

Middle Grade Novels

The Track Series by Jason Reynolds

Reynolds’ Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu) follows the individual lives of four students on a middle school track team.  Each character has many hurdles to jump over in their lives, and not all of them are on the track field. They each have their problems, but they overcome them by remembering their team, their friends, and who they really are.

The Jumbies (The Jumbies series) by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne is on her way to sell oranges at the market when she sees the town witch talking to a beautiful woman in green, and she knows instinctively this mysterious woman is a Jumbie.  All this time she thought Jumbies, trickster creatures whose goal is to take back their island home from people, were made up.  When the beautiful Jumbie she saw earlier starts to bewitch her dad as the first step of her evil plan, Corinne and her friends must set up a plan to defeat the Jumbies and save her father and her home.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Jordan Banks is a kid who loves to draw cartoons and wants nothing more than to go to art school. But when his parents enroll him in a fancy private school instead, Jordan struggles to fit in with the rest of the students there and feels increasingly separate from his old friends in his Washington Heights neighborhood.  Jordan must figure out a way to stay true to himself in a world that wants to tear him apart.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Tristan Strong is a 7th grader grieving the loss of his best friend.  Though he is sent away to his grandparents’ farm in Alabama to recover, Tristan is soon entangled in a world where black American folk heroes are gods trying to fight against the destruction of their world.  Their only chance to save this magical world is to find and convince the god Anansi to weave closed the hole in the sky. Will Tristan be able to save the world before it is too late?

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

This Coretta Scott King honor book follows brothers Caleb and Bobby. The brothers dream of exciting adventures in the woods of their backyard and find their excitement fulfilled in Styx Malone, their cool new neighbor.  Styx convinces the brothers to participate in a scheme where the goal is to trade enough items to be able to get a shiny green scooter the boys have their eye on.  But there is more to Styx than meets the eye, and his secrets just might ruin things for all of them.

It All Comes Down To This by Karen English

Readers of this historical fiction novel will follow Sophie, a young girl living in suburban Los Angeles in 1965, during a life-changing summer.  Between friendship difficulties, a housekeeper who seems out to get her, her older sister moving away for college, and the tense relationship of her parents, Sophie has a lot to handle. But when riots break out in the nearby neighborhood of Watts and people she knows are caught in the chaos, Sophie must reevaluate who she is and her place in her community.

An image of the book covers of Ghost, The Jumbies, New Kid, Tristan Strong Punches the Sky, The Season of Styx Malone, and If It All Comes Down To This.

High School Reads

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

In the wake of his mother’s death, nothing seems right in Matt’s life.  But when he steps up to help out his dad by getting a job at a local funeral home, Matt meets Lovey. She may have a strange name and be the toughest person he knows, but Matt and Lovey find understanding with each other. It’s a story of grief, loneliness, love, and acceptance that will pull you in and leave you with a bittersweet feeling.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Jade is an artist with the desire to make it out of her neighborhood and become successful.  She takes all the opportunities she can, but when one of those opportunities chooses her to participate based on her race, she decides to grin and bear it in the hopes that she will be accepted to the college of her choosing.  But Jade is a force of her own and she just might show everyone that she has the real talent to make an impact on the world.

After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

Bunny and Nasir were the best of friends—at least until Bunny accepts a scholarship to an elite private school, leaving Nasir all alone.  Bunny struggles to adjust to his new school while Nasir ends up spending more and more time with his cousin, Wallace. But when Wallace makes a bet against Bunny, Nasir will have to choose between friendship and family.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

The difficulties surrounding race relations and law enforcement are discussed in this book through the story of Justyce McAllister, a great student on track to go to an Ivy League school. But this bright future is shattered when a police officer puts him in handcuffs. In the confusion that follows, Justyce starts studying and writing journal entries to Martin Luther King, Jr., in the hopes that he can understand and seek answers. But when tragedy strikes, he might find the strength to stand up for what’s right.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of the Orisha series) by Tomi Adeyemi

This Yoruba-inspired, immersive fantasy tells the story of Zelie, one of the Orisha, a group of people who had their magic ripped away from them by a merciless monarchy afraid of their powerful magical abilities. Years later, Zelie discovers a mysterious document that might allow the Orisha to regain their powers. Though she has help on her side, enemies come from all sides to fight against Zelie’s goal.  But the most difficult battle she will have to wage might be with herself.

Akata Witch (The Akata Witch series) by Nnedi Okorafor

All Sunny wants to do is be normal: Play football outside in the Nigerian sun, get through a day without bullying, and not be albino. But Sunny soon learns that the things that make her different also make her powerful beyond measure.  Sunny, along with her friends, are witches, and together they make the Oha Coven.  When they are not studying magic, they are tasked with catching a magically gifted criminal who is harming children.  Will their powers be enough to stop him from fulfilling his evil goal?

Image of the book covers of The Boy in the Black Suit, Piecing Me Together, After The Shot Drops, Children of Blood and Bone, and Akata Witch.

References:

* Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/. 

Disclaimer: Resources and listings in this blog post do not indicate approval or endorsement by SERC or the Connecticut State Department of Education.  The listings are provided solely as a resource of general information.

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” – Rudine Sims Bishop*

Think back to your favorite book as a child. Were these windows into other lives sliding glass doors or mirrors for you?

Reflecting back on my favorite childhood storybook, I can remember that it inspired me to become interested in the planets and constellations. While it may have been my favorite book, it was certainly not the only reading material in my collection that featured an innately curious white girl who went on explorations and adventures. It was these books that made me think that I could explore the universe because the main character was able to. I felt that I could explore the universe because those characters looked like me.

When we reflect on how much representation matters in self-development, we must remember our first cultural interactions with people. Other than family and friends, children absorb images of representation from the first books we read with them and are reinforced every year a child is in school with the stories and histories taught in the classroom.

This is not inherently a problem. But the lack of diversity in the children’s and young adult book publishing industry is. 

Infographic image describing the diversity in children's books in 2018.

In 2018, American Indian/First Nations, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, African, and African American characters, combined, were represented in just 23 percent of children’s books.  So we can reasonably say that children who are nonwhite are often not seeing a diverse representation of their cultural background. If Rudine Sims Bishop is correct and reading is a means of self-affirmation, then only limited ideas of the self for certain diverse groups are presented as possible options for the future for these students.  These limitations negatively affect not only those from diverse backgrounds; they also limit the opportunity for other students to see a perspective that allows them to empathize and understand others who are different from themselves. This limited amount of cultural representation in children’s books trickles down to schools and presents a restricted view of the world as “normal.” In a world already brimming with dissension and sometimes outright hate, we, as education professionals, need to make it a priority to include these lenses in the work we do with our students.  Regardless of our content area or specialization, we can all work within our schools and classrooms to help effect a change for all students.

But how do we accomplish this in the classroom? And how do we know which diverse books to include?     Here are a few things to consider when adding diverse books to your classroom:

A flower-like design of diverse faces.

Consider Own Voices

“Own voices” is a label applied to books that feature a character from a particular background that is written by an author who shares the same background as the main character. For example, a book with an Asian American male lead character would be written by an author who is an Asian American male.

Own-voices books provide an inside look at the lives of characters from the perspective of the author who has personally experienced it.  By using and promoting books that are own-voices stories, we are not supporting a potentially stereotyped or cartoonish representation while also providing visibility to those with diverse backgrounds.  If nothing else, stories are best when they are deeply felt and conveyed authentically. What could be more authentic than a story written from the perspective of one who has personally experienced it?

An image of social media app icons with unfocused images of people in the background.

Follow Diversity Influencers

Own-voices books have their own Twitter following at #ownvoices so that educators and others can follow to discover new and upcoming books that have that label. But we don’t have to stop there.

Reaching out to others in the diverse books community opens up new avenues of interest and allows us to consider critical perspectives on diverse books that we perhaps did not consider before. Diversity in Children’s and Young Adult books (and in our culture as well) is an ongoing discussion.  In order for us to support it in our classrooms, we need to engage in the conversation as well.

The blog “We Need Diverse Books” (also on Twitter @diversebooks) is another great resource to visit to see what options are available for books as well as to get an inside look at the authors through interviews.  WNDB periodically has book giveaways for low-income schools in the United States. 

Another helpful resource is “American Indians in Children’s Literature.” This blog, founded by Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Indian woman, seeks to provide critical analysis on both older and recent works of fiction that specifically involve American Indian characters. While the topic of the blog is restricted to a specific racial group, it provides excellent insight into how American Indians are portrayed in American culture, how this understanding presents itself in children’s literature, and why it is problematic.

Some other Twitter pages and events on this topic include:

ReadYourWorld (@MCChildsBookDay)

Diversity in YA (@diversityinya)

#DVPit (A Twitter event to showcase marginalized authors and illustrators only)

An image of a stack of books with one open book.

Consider Companion Texts

Not every educator has the opportunity to mix fiction into their curriculum, but that shouldn’t stop them from finding ways to incorporate diverse stories into their lesson plans.

Companion texts that provide diverse representation are a great way to provide more representation in the classroom environment and can potentially deepen student understanding of a topic through discussion. Social studies and history teachers might learn the perspective of Asian Americans during lessons on World War II through a book like George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy. Mathematics teachers might wish to explore the Middle Eastern origins of algebra with their students or simply highlight a biography of a mathematician from a diverse background.

The options for linking diversity and books to a content area are endless.

Promote Diverse Books in the Classroom

Promoting diverse books in the classroom doesn’t have to be a costly, intensive exercise. Classroom libraries are great for featuring diverse books, but they don’t necessarily work for every classroom.  We understand that classroom space, monetary restrictions, and limited time all present challenges to promoting diverse stories, but there are even easier ways to advocate for them within the school environment.

Advertising diverse books could look like taking the time to read an #ownvoices book in front of your students during silent reading time. It could look like featuring a diverse author or book-of-the-month on your whiteboard.  It could look like giving out or recommending a diverse book you loved to a student who might appreciate it. 

Each of these circumstances is an opportunity to show your students that diversity matters to you.  Every small step we take to support diversity in books and in schools speaks volumes about who we are as teachers and all the possibilities we believe they are capable of as students.

Please stay tuned for our series on diversity representation in Children’s and Young Adult books, where I will provide specific suggestions for racially diverse books that you can add to your school, classroom, or personal library.

References:

*Bishop, R.S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives, 6(3), ix

Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/

Disclaimer: Resources and listings in this blog post do not indicate approval or endorsement by SERC or the Connecticut State Department of Education.  The listings are provided solely as a resource of general information.

New Year, New Opportunities:

Championing Cultural Diversity and Racial Equity in Everyday Life

How did you start your New Year? Did you have any ambitious or creative New Year resolutions? Many of us take this time to pause and think about things we want to change and we often focus on self-optimization. Healthier, stronger, more efficient – as individuals we are continuously working on becoming better versions of ourselves. But what if we took this year to become a better version of society – together? What if we worked on what we could do for each other as part of a community, if we flipped the first letter and envisioned a stronger “We” instead of a better “Me”?

Becoming a stronger ‘We’

sign with multiple lines spelling the phrase 'together we have force' in red

The first step in becoming a strong community is always getting to know one another. Who is our neighbor, what are their living situations like, what things do we have in common, how we can we support each other, what are their (hi-) stories? Living in an America of the 21st century, we will encounter members of our communities who do not share the same cultural or racial background as we do. Maybe we are the new family on the street who have fled from Syria as refugees. Maybe my parents emigrated from Israel and my African-American husband and I have kids of mixed race. Maybe I am a PhD student from Malaysia and am still getting used to the American way of life. In order to build a strong community in which everyone feels supported and respected, we all need to reevaluate our own cultural and racial identities and histories. What is our comfort zone and why is that so? What preconceived ideas might we have about people who do not share the same background that we do?
This week’s blog post presents a few ideas on how we can champion racial equity in our everyday lives. Although SERC does a lot of systemic, long-term work on racial equity, these suggestions are for anyone who wants to do little things every day: when we socialize with friends, when we go grocery shopping, plan our travel or holidays, watch another show online, spend time on social media… Imagine if every little act of kindness, of self-critical evaluation, of honest listening, of stepping out of our comfort zone had a spiral effect and sent waves of change through our society!

Harvard Implicit Bias Project

harvard university subway sign on wall

First, however, we might have to face some potentially uncomfortable truths about ourselves. Paquita Jarman-Smith, one of our education consultants at SERC, called my attention to the Implicit Bias Project at Harvard University. Most of us would probably say – and hope – that we do not have any prejudices or preconceived ideas about gender, race, economic status, etc. My boss is a woman? Of course, no problem. My best friend is plus size? Let’s love our bodies as they are! – But what if we dig below the surface of these beliefs? This research project at Harvard University aims at revealing and educating about hidden biases in society. To quote from the website directly:
“People don’t always say what’s on their minds. One reason is that they are unwilling. For example, someone might report smoking a pack of cigarettes per day because they are embarrassed to admit that they smoke two. Another reason is that they are unable. A smoker might truly believe that she smokes a pack a day, or might not keep track at all. The difference between being unwilling and unable is the difference between purposely hiding something from someone and unknowingly hiding something from yourself.
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about. For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science.”
Taking some of these tests might be uncomfortable and confront us with an aspect about ourselves that we did not know – and might not like. But recognizing problems is the first step toward solving them. Let us find out what biases might lurk in our subconscious – and then do something about them!

Movies & TV

Laptop with movie running and a tray with a candle and coffee mug

Wanda Guzman, one of SERC’s project specialists, is convinced that you can start with something quite small already: Instead of watching the same TV show every night, why not try something else this week? Search for a movie or a TV show that features other cultures or ethnicities than your own! What about a comedy from South Africa? A telenovela from Venezuela? A documentary filmed in Tibet? Wanda says it is important, however, that a representation of a certain culture should also be realized by or at least advised by people with the same cultural background that is featured in the production. Otherwise you would become a witness only to someone else’s idea of a country or a culture, but not get an authentic impression of the culture itself. And who knows, you might just pick up a few expressions in a different language while you become a fan of your new TV show. Grab some popcorn and travel around the world, all from the comfort of your own couch!

The New York Times, as one example, has put together a list of TV shows with a diverse or non-white cast. Look at the creators of the show, however! Are the people behind-the-scenes just as diverse as its cast?

woman in red blouse holds magnifying glass in front of her while reading a book

And while we are talking about TV: Inform yourself about some of the main TV and social media channels that you are consuming regularly. What are their political positions and how might this influence their features and posts? How are they funded, and which political agenda might they have to subscribe to by accepting certain money? How many people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, etc. do they employ? Let’s become critical consumers of media outlets and remind ourselves to always put articles and news stories into their political, societal, and economic context. Let’s strive to become not just informed but rather knowledgeable citizens. Knowledge is information in context.

Festivals & Food

Young boy holds a lit lantern in the evening

“Attend festivals that celebrate a culture that is different from your own! These are lots of fun with amazing food and music!”, Wanda recommends. The Connecticut Office of Tourism has even put together a list of celebrations and restaurants of various world cultures. Instead of going to your local diner tonight, why not try out an authentically run restaurant where you can not only have a great meal but also learn about the food’s history and the owner’s culture?

bike handle with two paperbag grocery bags around the handles, filled with vegetables

Another idea is to mix up your grocery shopping routine and go to a supermarket or bakery in a different corner of your city. When I worked in San Francisco, I always made an effort to pass by a Mexican bakery on my way to work for delicious brocas or besitos! The website CTbites.com, a food guide for Connecticut, put together a list of Latin American markets in Connecticut and says: “Whether you’re making corn tortillas from scratch, seeking beautifully ripe fruit at a great price, looking to pick up a luscious pastry, or preparing your grandmother’s mole, these stores are well worth the trip.” Or why not go to your local Asian supermarket and discover new ingredients! There is so much more to Asian cuisine than just fried noodles!

vegetables at market, three people in sales process

Local Farmer’s markets are also a great opportunity to support small businesses that often employ immigrant workers. And what is better than a freshly French-pressed coffee on a Saturday morning while you pick up your locally sourced veggies for the week? In New Haven on various farmer’s markets, you can enjoy delicious culinary creations from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan at the stall of Sanctuary Kitchen, a non-profit organization working with refugee and immigrant chefs as part of the CitySeed Inc. Iniative. 

Travel and learn about  other cultures!

City map next to a notebook, a pair of glasses and two hands taking notes

Mark Twain is believed to have said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” So travel some more this year, if only just in your own city! Venture off the beaten path and educate yourself about the history and culture of communities other than the one you grew up in. The Yankee magazine has put together an interesting list of museums and historical sites with regards to African American history in Connecticut. Connecticut History.org, a project of Connecticut Humanities, has also created a varied potpourri of resources where you will discover various books, documents, websites, and historically significant places.

Older native american woman on wall mural

From the state of Connecticut you can also easily travel to and learn about a variety of sovereign nations such as the Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Nation, the Golden Hill Paugussett Nation, the Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Nation, the Mohegan Nation, and the Schaghticoke Nation (of these, only the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut and the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Tribe are officially recognized in Connecticut by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs). Have a look at their websites and find out whether and how you could visit their land or attend open cultural events. The Mohegan Nation, for example, will host this year’s Mohegan Wigwam in August! 

hands making silver jewellery on a table with tools and materials

In addition to visiting tribal events that are open to the public and educating yourself about the different nations’ histories, you can also support Native American art and craftsmanship by purchasing clothes, jewelry, blankets and much more from specific organizations that are exclusively run by Native American artists and give back to their community. Rather than buying an item from a large retail chain that features an indigenous pattern or artwork often without paying tribute, why not buy an original piece of artwork straight from the artist and help to support Native American artists? Cultural appropriation is hurtful to any party affected – seeing your culture and history reduced to stereotypes for the sake of entertainment and quick sales would hurt any of us, independent of our background. SERC cannot endorse any specific shops or organizations here but a simple Google search for “native owned businesses” or “buy native made jewelry/clothes/decor” will quickly yield results. Why not plan ahead and get the next birthday gift for your nephew or housewarming gift for your sister-in-law from a Native American artist’s workshop?

woman in turquoise top holding young plant in palms of hands
So let’s start this New Year off right! Let us grow together as a community and become a stronger “We” as we head into this new decade. Let us stay curious about cultures and practices that are different from our own and step out of our comfort zone regularly – only then can we grow and expand our intellectual, social, and political horizon. Let us take a critical look in the mirror and take Harvard’s Implicit Bias Test to find out what biases might hide under the surface – and then begin our journey to educating ourselves about and experiencing other cultures and backgrounds than our own. This is a long journey that might sometimes be uncomfortable and have us realize aspects about our culture that are not only pleasant, but it also will turn us into a more respectful and proactive citizen who explores the exciting and thought-provoking worlds that other cultures offer. Let us build bridges and learn from our diversity so that we become stronger together.

Disclaimer: Resources, listings, or links to websites in this blog post do not indicate approval or endorsement by SERC or the Connecticut State Department of Education. This blog post is provided solely as a resource of general information and also does not claim to be comprehensive in any way.

woman holding sparkler in hands

Happy New Year to all of our SERC patrons and fellow educators – and welcome to this new and exciting launch of the SERC library blog!
We hope that this New Year 2020 will be filled with joyful moments of community-building, opportunities to educate ourselves and each other, and many moments to continue building an equitable and welcoming society. Let us work together to build educational spaces where we are valued by ‘the content of our character’ and where we see and accept any mental (dis-) abilities, cultural or economic background, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs – and any colors of our skin. And SERC and its library has many exciting events and projects planned for 2020 to continue on this important mission! Cassondra McCarthy und Julia Klann are SERC’s new librarians and are both eager to welcome regular and new patrons to the library – get to know them here.

Equity

wooden blocks with letters spelling 'EQUITY'

In May, SERC will continue to raise awareness for racial equity by hosting the: ‘5th Annual Dismantling Systemic Racism Conference on Race, Education & Success‘ on May 20, 2020. It focuses on ways to support, promote, and develop racial equity in education. The full-day conference supports educators, families, and community leaders who seek to confront racist structures and practices to better serve Connecticut’s students and their families, through advocacy and the development, implementation, and sustainability of innovative, culturally relevant programming. Systemic racism impedes our students’ outcomes and limits opportunities for success in academics, social development, health, and family engagement. The conference features dynamic, thought-provoking presentations that will address possible ways to dismantle systemic racism and create positive change for our students – and yours could be one of them! The deadline for submission has been extended to Sunday, January 12 so we strongly encourage anyone with a great topic idea to send us their proposal here https://ctserc.net/dsr2020call! All paper abstracts must be received by midnight on that day in order to be considered. Notifications about the status of the proposal will still be emailed by February 4, 2020. Please contact Janet Zarchen zarchen@ctserc.org with any questions or find more details on the conference here https://ctserc.org/news/2018/dismantling-systemic-racism-registration-is-open.

Education

two hands reaching out to each other, young man with bracelets

One of the goals of our librarian Julia Klann for this year 2020 is to turn the SERC library into a vital and up-to-date educational resource for all things mental health. Mental Health questions lie at the core of many other issues that SERC has made its main mission: Racial equity, equal access to education, physical and mental disabilities. If a student keeps being bullied because of their ethnic background, is it a surprise that they might become depressed and self-harm? If a student suffers from a severe case of undiagnosed social anxiety, would it not be natural that they lack behind in class because they are more occupied with trying to avoid a panic attack than to pay attention to the teacher? The interconnections between mental health and education are two-fold: Struggles with mental health are the cause for many inequalities in access to education but they are also simultaneously the result of students’ struggles in the education system. Julia will focus on some mental health topics that are most relevant to middle or high school students: Depression, anxiety, self-harm, autism, struggles with gender and sexual identity, and eating disorders. There will be regular library posts on these topics, reviews of recently published books, interesting new journal articles and academic findings, and listings of crucial resources for teachers, parents, or peers. Stay tuned for these regular blog posts! 

Excellence #1

young man with beard and beanie standing in front of library shelf, picking out one book

The SERC librarians Cassondra McCarthy and Julia Klann are very excited that the library has opened its doors and shelves again in October 2019.The SERC library is continuously aiming to improve its services in order to best accommodate our patrons’ needs and wishes. We always want to provide our library patrons with excellent services and resources – and need your input! As the library just recently re-opened, we are currently re-organizing the library processes, re-evaluating the opening hours, and considering to invest in new resources. Some questions that we have are: Which opening hours suit you best? Which new professional development books or journals would you like to see in the SERC library? What about the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) – should we bring it back? How can we improve our space in general? We would be grateful to get feedback from as many of you as possible: Just follow this link and take part in our 2-minute-survey. It’s only two minutes of your time – but will have a great effect on how we shape our vision for the SERC library in 2020. Thank you very much already for your participation!

Excellence #2

many hands reaching toward each other, blue bracelets

SERC is very excited to announce that it is seeking nominations for the George A. Coleman Excellence in Equity Award for 2020! In collaboration with the SERC foundation, the State Education Resource Center is seeking nominations of individuals, organizations, schools, or districts that have demonstrated extraordinary acts of commitment and courage with regards to educational equity. The nominees would have shown outstanding passionate and steadfast activism creating a respectful and accommodating atmosphere for all students, especially students of color and culturally and linguistically diverse students. Award recipients will be selected based on their steadfast and unwavering action in:

• Advocating for children and families of color;
• Galvanizing individuals and coalitions toward equitable action;
• Taking risks in conversation and action regarding issues of equity for racially, linguistically and culturally diverse groups;
• Engaging the diverse needs of members of an education community and reconciling them toward a shared vision; and
• Furthering the exchange of information that affects thinking and effects conviction on matters of equity.

Nominations of students are encouraged. Entry forms for nominations are available here.

Please submit completed nomination packages to SERC by Friday, February 21, 2020 to the attention of:

Heather Dawes, Project Specialist, SERC
100 Roscommon Drive, #110, Middletown, CT 06457
or by email – dawes@ctserc.org

We look forward to receiving your nomination packages. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Heather at SERC, (860) 632-1485, ext. 263, or dawes@ctserc.org. Nominators and awardees will be notified no later than March 31, 2020 and invited to attend a recognition award celebration held the evening of May 19, 2020. (They will also be invited to attend the Dismantling Systemic Racism Conference on May 20, 2020.)

Meet our SERC Library Staff

Library Associate

Cassondra McCarthy

Cassondra McCarthy is an English/Language Arts teacher-turned-Library Associate who seeks to match education professionals and parents with the resources they need to ensure every student has a successful present and future. After spending several years working in Connecticut school districts, Cassondra understands the struggle educators face to match the needs of the student with the right solution. She firmly believes that, given the right tools and inspiration, every child can achieve the excellence that will allow them to reach for their dreams.

This is why she is dedicated to designing the SERC Library to be a welcoming, inclusive space for all with a collection of highly developed resources to support teachers and parents as they advocate for the young people in their lives. The SERC Library is committed to being at the forefront of innovation in education so that we can achieve the goal of providing an equitable education for all. If we can unite to ensure that every student has access to the resources they need to succeed, we can be assured that the future of our communities and the world will be a bright one.

With this in mind, Cassondra encourages anyone with questions or suggestions to reach out to the SERC Library staff so that we can help you meet the needs of your child, classroom, school, company, or district.

Cassondra has a Bachelor’s degree in Education and English (015) and is working on completing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science at Rutgers University.

Library Associate

Julia Klann

Our library associate Julia Klann is very happy and excited to be part of the library team at SERC! Libraries have always been a place of peace and knowledge for her, a place where books help us to educate ourselves and to grow as individuals, as researchers, and as community members. Julia is very passionate about equal access to education as a right for every person and is determined to make a difference here at SERC.

She enjoyed the great privilege to receive an excellent education in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America and holds a Master of Modern Languages (MSt) from Oxford University and a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Harvard University. Now she wants to give back to the community and ensure that education is no longer a privilege but a right – there should be nothing that holds you back, neither your language, nor your background, nor your intellectual or physical learning abilities.

You can come to her with any questions or ideas and Julia is more than happy to help you. She wants to make sure that SERC offers the best possible assistance to its patrons and will go the extra mile to find a solution together with you. Julia also is familiar with French and German, so feel free to ask her anything language-related as well.

Julia’s credo is: “Let’s work together and make sure that Connecticut’s next generation is superbly educated and trained for a stronger future in which we create a community of mutual support and genuine care for one another.”