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How can diving into some good literature this summer make things easier for students in the fall? Here are a few different areas where regular reading can help bridge gaps and bring joy.

1) Diverse Summer Reading Can Help Students Feel Seen and Heard

As Max Silverman, director of the Center for Educational Leadership (CEL), notes in his article for Education week, allowing students the opportunity to speak and be heard is a critical component when addressing issues of learning loss or groups of students being underserved during this pandemic. Another way for students, especially those who are marginalized, to feel seen and represented is through media, particularly books. Rudine Sims Bishop, a multicultural education scholar, has spoken at length about how books can serve as ‘mirrors’, for children who can find within a text a reflection of their communities, their families, and themselves. Reading about empowered characters who look and feel like them can provide students with a sense of belonging and agency that they may be lacking after this period of isolation or lost connection.

2) Broad Summer Reading Can Help Students Develop Social-Emotional Skills

One aspect of bringing students back into a classroom setting is fostering a growth mindset through curiosity. The desire to explore is an excellent, driving force that can motivate many students, and adventuring through broad, diverse reading can actually help students develop critical social-emotional skills as well as new knowledge. Using literature as a ‘window’ allows students to stand firm in their own experiences and identity while engaging with people, places, and situations outside their current worldview. Numerous studies have shown that individuals who regularly engage with narrative fiction are more likely to have more developed social-emotional skills and greater empathy for others. Promoting social-emotional skills and broadening horizons through reading this summer will help students acquire the tools they’ll need in the coming school year.

3) Independent Summer Reading Can Give Students Choice, Freedom, and a Sense of Achievement

For students who are old enough to engage in independent reading, the activity can reflect a student's personal choices in terms of reading material and time spent with that material. Students who read independently on a regular basis will develop a sense that they are in control of their own reading habits and educational development, which in turn fosters feelings of agency and achievement. By young children getting to select a book that's being read to them, helps to increase: independence, self-esteem, critical thinking abilities, memory, and other skills. Students who know what they love to learn about will have higher levels of confidence and motivation when encountering those subjects in a school setting. This can give students a head start when it comes to the growing focus on inquiry-based, student-driven models of learning.

So, whether your focus is on helping students find representation, cope with learning loss, or develop social-emotional skills, it seems that promoting independent reading is the best place to start. Assisting students in their attempts to read regularly and broadly this summer can boost motivation, curiosity, and confidence, all things that are sorely needed as we enter into the new normal of primary and secondary education.

This is one of my favorite times of year.

It’s this time when the voices of my beautiful, brilliant Black people are amplified and celebrated. This, by the way, should really happen year-round. But, every year, like clockwork, teachers across the country are preparing their “February lesson.” Lessons, explaining the contributions of Black men and women in the fields of science, the arts, entertainment, politics, and literature. Many lessons will shine a spotlight on ways African Americans persevered to find success in their various fields.

Note to teachers everywhere… This is an archaic perspective, and I implore you to rethink your plan while you still have time. Allow the spirit and strength that has centered Black experiences since the beginning of time to be the true storytellers. That time...dates to the beginning of man.

Take this explicit opportunity to center your lessons on the joy, happiness, and intersectional accomplishments that support the positive self-image, and the uplifting of voices of yesterday and today. These same voices empower and inspire the very children sitting in your classrooms. Yes, we are thankful for the contributions made by Madam CJ Walker, Barbara Jordan, Charles Drew, and Mary Mcloud Bethune. We thank our heroines and their voices and brilliance will forever deserve our gratitude. That being said, there are scientists, artists, politicians, and activists who have taken the torch and are blazing paths that are creating history as we speak. Use these lessons as an opportunity to spark genius.

Engage your students in ways that help them learn more about themselves, make connections, learn new skills, and experience rigor while being immersed in Black brilliance. Allow your students to learn with an intentional focus on the power of intersectionality, pride, and joy.

Please join me on Thursday, January 28 at 4 pm to discuss what it means and how to Center Black Joy while teaching Black History.

Updated: May 13, 2021

We asked our upcoming Educational Joy Series guest B.M. Hardin to tell us a little more about what motivates her creative projects. This is what she had to say:

"I’ve always possessed the gift of words. I’ve been writing since I was a small child. Continuously winning essay contests and things of that sort. I tried to write my first novel at the early age of 14 but being that I hadn’t experienced much life at that age, I put my incomplete novel on the back burner. Then, in my early twenties, with the encouragement of a host of friends, I sat down to write my first full novel. And I did. Now, I’m over 40 novels in and there’s nothing else I would rather do.
COVID-19 actually gave me more time to write. With everyone home, and little to nothing to do outside of the house, I had a lot more time to focus on writing my next great story. And along with write, during the COVID crisis, another great idea was birthed. I started my brand Color Me Bilingual Language Learning Coloring Books. The brand was inspired by my own son who absolutely loves learning words from different languages, and my want to expose my future children to other languages at an early age. And not just my children, I wanted to created something educational, yet fun and life-changing for little brown children everywhere.
I wanted to represent natural hair and appreciate my culture with the coloring books, and I’ve done just that. My customers absolutely love what I’m doing with my brand and their appreciation and satisfaction pushes me every single day to keep doing something great."

Author B.M. Hardin is a #1 bestseller who brings you mouth-dropping stories full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat! She has written over 30 novels, most of which have been #1 bestsellers on Amazon charts for weeks.

She launched her trending coloring book brand “Color Me Bilingual” in April 2020. Her coloring books feature natural hair, and other cultural familiarities that children of color can identify with, all while teaching them words from different languages. The driving force behind her idea is her desire to bring children of color something both educational and fun! So far, she has released 5 of 12 languages, with 3 new languages coming in Black Friday 2020.