- This is Poly
The Lower School introduced an Anti-Racist Read-Aloud Initiative this year with many of the featured books being read by Assistant Head of Lower School Alison Flannery P’31, ’33 and Head of Lower of School Francis Yasharian.
“Our goal is to provide our students with the tools and vocabulary that they need to combat racism. We seek to teach children to be proud of their identity, respect and celebrate themselves and others, and stand up for what is just and fair.”
Flannery explained that this new initiative “came about from our anti-racist read alouds that we did in the spring in response to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.” She added, “As a Lower School community we are committed to fostering a learning environment in which all of our students, families, faculty, and staff feel validated and uplifted. Our goal is to provide our students with the tools and vocabulary that they need to combat racism. We seek to teach children to be proud of their identity, respect and celebrate themselves and others, and stand up for what is just and fair.”
A committee of teachers from the Lower School, which includes Kim Davis, Sarah Ely, Ruba Rabah, Alexa Alifonso, Carmen Dreyer and Flannery, worked together this summer to create the list of books and the discussion questions and activities that the Lower School is reading and discussing this year.
Each book selection is presented with some things for parents and students to notice about the book before reading it, such as, “Look at the front cover of the book. What do you notice?” A grade-level appropriate set of discussion questions about the book is also featured.
Books included in the initiative so far include: Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, Skin Again by Bell Hooks, Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’O, I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, The Colors of Us by Karen Katz, Mixed: A Colorful Story by Aree Chung, Who We Are by Robie Harris, Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers, I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, All the Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger, and The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson.
On the Read-Aloud site, parents are told: “We seek to strengthen the bridge between school and home by welcoming you to engage in weekly conversations about anti-racism with your children. Each week, classroom teachers will engage in a read aloud and discussion around diversity, social justice, and anti-racist work with their students. On Thursdays of each week, Francis Yasharian and Alison Flannery will upload a video of the week’s read aloud. We encourage you to watch the read aloud at home with your child—or read the book with your child if you have it—and engage in conversation around the book. We will be providing a document along with the read aloud that includes questions to guide your conversations. As this is meant to encourage ongoing dialogue there is no need to submit anything back to us.”
“I have received very positive feedback so far from parents about the initiative,” Flannery said. “Parents seem grateful to have access to the books their children are reading at school as well as discussion questions that help guide their own conversations around anti-racism at home. Many parents have asked if they can share the list and questions with their friends with children at other schools.”
Flannery said she heard that it came up in conversation that the Lower School has launched this anti-racism reading initiative for students and bringing home questions for parents to talk about the material with kids. Some of the Middle School parents were interested to learn more and even to be able to share the books and questions with other friends of younger children.
A parent communicated to Flannery: “Excited for this initiative. Thank you! We want to purchase the books in advance so we are ready for Thursdays.”
Before becoming Assistant Head of Lower School, Flannery was a Head Teacher at Lower School. “Yes, reading the books each week does take me back to my teaching days,” Flannery said, “however, once you are a teacher you are always a teacher. To that end, I am still in the classrooms this year. In order to provide extra support to our teachers and students this year, the Lower School administration is rotating in different grades to teach specials. So far this year, I have taught yoga to Pre K and grade three students and done social-emotional lessons with grade one.”
Poly families can visit the Lower School virtual site to find all the books, watch the videos, and view the accompanying discussion questions.