Creating a Social Justice Reading Group for Children and Their Families

Seeing an increase in intolerance shortly after the 2016 election, National Education Policy Center(NEPC) director Kevin Welner and associate director Michelle Renée Valladares were discussing how to address the issue with their young children. They decided to collaborate other parents and their children to create an intergenerational social justice reading group. The aim was to provide a learning experience to counterbalance the negative political comments about people of color, immigrants, and other historically disenfranchised groups.

They decided to share their experience running the reading group with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. Through this collaboration came a new Reading for Social Justice guide.

The guide provides everything a group of parents or teachers need to set up a social justice reading group for families, covering:

  • Things to think about before starting your reading group
  • How to organize your reading group
  • How to set content and literacy goals for your group
  • How to select what books to read
  • How to run your reading group meetings

The guide shares the experiences of three reading groups from Colorado, Texas, and South Carolina. There is a recommended book list and places to find other similar lists. The appendices provide information for teachers on laying the groundwork for a reading group, a planning workbook, and a sample teaching strategy.

There are benefits in creating a reading group for both adults and children for everyone involved, including improvements in school climate, in family and community engagement, and in reading and language skills. Other benefits are:

  • Reading groups support children in processing current events and hard truths about the world around them.
  • Reading groups help children situate present events within a larger historical context of social injustice.
  • Reading groups facilitate social emotional learning.
  • Reading groups develop critical thinking and literacy skills.
  • Reading groups build family and community engagement.
  • Family engagement bolsters students’ academic performance.

Check out Teaching Tolerance’s Reading for Social Justice guide and start planning for your reading group.