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STORIES OF IMPACT 2/8/21: Diverse Readers Deserve Diverse Reading

After a January that felt to last 200 days, it is finally February. While Black history should be celebrated daily, February also comes the time where, as a nation, we take special note to celebrate Black History Month, and CMs have been thoughtful in how this shows up in their practice and in their classrooms.

1st year Corps Members are taking a class with Lipscomb titled “Integrated Literacy”. Almost every 1CM has mentioned that they are enjoying the practical application of the strategies learned in the class around the importance of literacy across all subject areas. Sierra Cook, a 1CM teaching science at Dalewood Middle School, notes that what she is finding most useful is integrating reading for pleasure into the classroom, which creates larger impacts for student success across disciplines.

When Janiel shared the book Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed, in the GroupMe channel with other Black History Month resources and quotes, Sierra leapt on the application of her Lipscomb class and honoring the diversity of her learners. “I must recognize that I am educating future scientists, which means I need to challenge them to read texts that expose them to key elements of science, such as the scientific method and ethics within science….. [I also need to] expose them to texts that highlight prominent members in science beyond Einstein or Edison. My students need to know about Mae Jemison, George Carver, Rosalind Franklin, and all other unsung heroes in the field of science,” Sierra notes.

Sierra has started integrating a minute of reading to start her classes and suggested that the TFA Chattanooga Cohorts organize a Lending Library of books which are written by and/or feature BIPOC characters and other diverse stories. Sierra’s motivations for the Lending Library are to promote representation of significant figures that reflect the identities of the students in her classroom. Through the books, students will be able to see that they truly are capable of becoming the next generation of scientists. “The unfortunate truth is that science has historically been taught without diverse representation. Personally I only ever encountered one female scientist in my K-12 education, and no scientists of color. The message this sends to students is that science is best left to white men. [This is] a disservice… to every brilliant child who doesn’t fall within those identities.”

Mae Among the Stars, a story book about Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space, will be the first of many books that we will work to collect for CMs to utilize in their classrooms. All grade levels, all subject areas, and all proficiency levels should have access to quality, diverse, and representative literacy tools. We hope to hear more about the impacts in the classroom using this great tool!

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