HRC Foundation Welcoming Schools’ Understanding Racism Book List and Lesson Prompts

by HRC Staff

Illustration with blue on top and text: "Welcoming Schools, Understanding Racims: New Lesson Prompts Every Month!" and book covers covering the bottom of the illustration

On the last Wednesday of every month, check back here to see brand new lesson prompts to go with one of the books on our book list.


Our kids are going back to school this fall. We must continue to foster an inclusive classroom and promote racial justice, no matter if we are virtual or face-to-face. With this in mind, HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools is launching a new resource for educators. We are providing a book list and lesson prompts that delve into education on anti-Black racism, Black history, skin color and racism experienced by Asian, Indigenous peoples and Latinx people.

On the last Wednesday of every month, check back here to see brand new lesson prompts to go with one of the books on our book list.

NOVEMBER LESSON PROMPT

M is for Melanin. Tiffany Rose. (Toddler – K) Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, Black-positive messages, from A is for Afro and F is for Fresh to P is for Pride and W is for Worthy. Teaches children their ABCs while encouraging them to love the skin they’re in. Be bold. Be fearless. BE YOU.

Questions

  • What are the letters that start your first and last names?
  • What are some words from the book that start with those letters?
  • What are your favorite words and pictures in the book?
  • What does melanin do in the human body?

Activities

  • Write your name vertically on a sheet of paper. Pick a word to go with each letter of your name. Have someone help you write the words next to each letter in your name. This will make a poem!
  • Select four words in the book and find out what they mean.
  • Draw a picture of something that begins with your favorite letter and share it with one other person.
  • Draw a picture of yourself using crayons that represent your skin color.

OCTOBER LESSON PROMPT

Book over with an illustrated girl facing away and a backpack on

A Good Kind of Trouble. Lisa Moore Ramée. (3 – 7) Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. As the school year goes, Shayla gets into “good trouble” as John Lewis would say.

Questions

  • What does Shayla mean by saying she is “allergic to trouble”?
  • Describe Shayla’s group of friends. Why do they call themselves “The United Nations”?
  • How and why does Shayla’s view of Bernard change over the course of the story? What does she learn about him and about the authority figures in her school?
  • How did Shayla’s mother react to the discipline that was given to Shayla because of her protest activity? Did you expect that reaction? How did the principal respond?
  • What do you think is meant by “good trouble” as described by the late Congressman John Lewis?

Activities

  • Create an “eyeball journal” by making notes about things that you observe - behaviors, activities and events in your family, community, school and the news; for example, the current political campaigns and your family members’ reactions to these events. Share some of the entries with one other person.
  • The story mentions NFL football player Colin Kaepernick; sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos; boxer Muhammad Ali; and other athletes who have protested police brutality, racism, and other injustices. Choose one of these figures to research and prepare a presentation to give to at least one other person.

SEPTEMBER LESSON PROMPT

Ruth and the Green Book. Calvin Alexander Ramsey. (1 – 4) Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family’s new car! But she soon found out that many hotels and gas stations refused service to African-Americans. Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book.

Ruth and the Green Book, Center for Puppetry Arts Music Video

Questions

  • Why was it difficult for Ruth and her family to find places to eat, sleep, and use the restroom during their trip?
  • What kind of information was included in The Green Book?
  • What are some services that you take for granted or expect when you are in a public place?
  • What are some of the states the family had to travel through where segregation was the law?
  • What was the system of laws called that made it legal for businesses to discriminate against African-Americans?

Activities

  • Draw a picture of a place you have visited or want to visit.
  • Make a travel advertisement for a place you’ve visited or want to visit. It can even be to a home of a relative or close friend.
  • Write a letter to Victor Green explaining what The Green Book meant to African-American travelers.
  • Write and perform a commercial for Esso Gas (the only gas stations African-Americans could own at the time of the setting of the story) or a commercial for The Green Book.

AUGUST LESSON PROMPT

Illustration with text on the left side that says "MONTH ONE" and books stacked together on the right, mimicking a book shelf

The Undefeated. Kwame Alexander, author and Kadir Nelson, illustrator. (K – 5) Winner of the 2020 Caldecott Medal. This poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The poem and the illustrations are great for students of all ages.

Video: Kwame Alexander reading The Undefeated

Questions

  • What are some words that are new to you in this poem? Undeniable, Unflappable, Unafraid, Righteous, Unspeakable, Unlimited, Unbending, Unspoken, Undefeated.
  • What does the prefix un mean?
  • What illustration do you like best?
  • What do you know about slavery, Black soldiers in the Civil War or the civil rights movement? (See endnotes)

Activities

  • Select one person mentioned or pictured in the book and tell their story to another person.(See endnotes)
  • Explain five of the un words.
  • Write a poem about how you are undefeated (how you are strong and hardworking).
  • Make a drawing or collage of a person that you think is undefeated.

JULY LESSON PROMPT

Illustration with text on the left side that says "MONTH ONE" and books stacked together on the right, mimicking a book shelf

March (Trilogy).

By John Lewis. (Grade 4 and up) Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. March is a vivid first-hand account of Congressman John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation while reflecting on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Questions

  • What was John Lewis’ life like as a child?
  • What things did Lewis experience during his childhood trip north that opened his eyes to the bigger picture of what the country could be like? What things were new to him?
  • What kind of protest did Lewis participate in as a college student? How was it dangerous?

Activities

  • Prepare a speech about something you like or something that is important to you. Gather objects or pets or other people in your house and deliver your speech the way Lewis preached to the chickens.
  • Make posters to advocate for something you believe in and stage a march around your house or outside in your neighborhood.