Saturday, November 29, 2014

Multi-Cultural Text Sets: An NCTE14 Workshop

One of my favorite moments of NCTE14 was being in a roomful of educators and listening to Jacqueline Woodson read Each Kindness out loud. The whole book. Out loud. To us. How great was that! But, this read-aloud experience was only a small part of the powerful presentation that Ann Berger-Knorr, Mary Napoli, and Susan Van Zile put together that showcased Jacqueline Woodson's books.

These presenters had collections of powerful picture books at every table. As we went through their jigsawed, interactive activity, we learned about the six elements of social justice: Self love and knowledge/identity; respect for others/empathy and kindness; social injustice; social movements and social change; raising awareness, and; taking social action. Grace Ahn has written a short post that gives each of these elements more description and can be accessed here.

These presenters have given the world a gift with their collections of text sets that support each element, and they have made their presentation accessible to everyone here.
As adults, we read the books that were on the table, then presented them to each other, recognizing and discussing themes and universal messages that lived within the books. The presenters had color-coded the sets, and our table's collection of books emphasized the second element. We shared Each Kindness, Every Human Has Rights, Paths to Peace: People who changed the world, and A Little Peace. If anyone wants an amazing poem to go along with Each Kindness, check out "Drop a Pebble in the Water" at

Note: I spent extra time looking at A Little Peace. This book could find its home into curriculum in many ways, since the photographs are from around the world, depicting varying levels of technology, available resources, communities, and geography. It's a book that inspires wonder and research with beautiful photographs and minimal text.

This activity would work with a range of ages as an inquiry lesson, having students explore the question of what all of these works have in common. This question could anchor the text sets for all of the social elements. I wonder if children could come up with the six elements if provided these text sets.

The lesson plan that the resource includes, designed by Susan Van Zile, is geared toward middle school students, but the question that she raises is universal:

"What better way to lead students to become socially responsible citizens than to arm them with the thinking skills they need to raise moral and ethical questions about contemporary issues in the interest of justice and fairness?"

While I can't duplicate the experience of listening to Jacqueline Woodson, I can pass long the access to text sets, blogspots, lesson plans, and resources from the session, Multicultural Text Sets: Landscapes into Stories and Writing. You won't be disappointed.

More to come from NCTE14 in the future!


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Melanie! And thanks for the time together at NCTE!

  2. WOW! I'm so bummed I missed this session, but so grateful that you shared all of this! I am ordering each of these books. We are just about to start a social justice unit. I NEED this!! Thank you so much!!! Invaluable post to me today!!! (And thank you again for the thoughtful gift!!!)

    1. You just made me so happy, Michelle! Thank you for this comment!

  3. I have been enjoying all the posts that highlight sessions I did not attend. Where was I? Thanks for sharing this. What a gem we have in Jackie!