Black History Facts about Civil Rights Leaders

Black History Facts about Civil Rights Leaders

As we look into celebrating Martin Luther King’s holiday, we should remember the individuals who fought alongside him to bring African Americans justice, equality, jobs, freedom, and so much more. Unknown organizers, freedom riders, activists, and marchers participated. Notably though, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Fannie Lou Hamer, and “Bob” Moses, are a select few of the individuals who were leaders in different ways during the Civil Rights era. The selfless efforts of these leaders and Martin Luther King,  earned African Americans freedom in the 1970s.

Learn more about each individual below.

1. Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979)

Born in Crescent City, FL. Moved to NYC at 22 years old. 1915 Randolph started a political magazine called The Messenger which challenged labor policies, politics, black leadership, the war, and more. Randolph wanted to shift the narrative for laborers. So in 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union for Black railroad car workers, formed. Randolph’s work did not come easy, he was arrested, saw lynchings, and was born 24 years after the Civil War Ended. He influenced President Roosevelt to pass an Executive Order banning discrimination. By 1963, worked with Bayard Rustin to serve as a director for the March on Washington.

A Philip Randolph, Labor Leader Here

Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Rising of the Black Middle Class

2. Bayard Rustin (1910-1987)

Born in West Chester, PA. As a young person wrote poetry, played sports, and even sit-ins. 1936, Rustin joined the Young Communist League, but left early on. Worked closely with A. Philip Randolph to march for jobs and freedom to the U.S. government. Rustin was sadly beaten by Tennessee police for refusing to get off of a bus in 1942. 1947 spent 22 days on CHAIN GANG, and published his experience. He was active to end racial injustice in India, South Africa, and even advised Martin Luther King. Rustin stood for gay rights because he identified as a gay man during his lifetime.

We Are One, The Story of Bayard 

Troublemaker for Justice


Leaders Like Us: Bayard Rustiin

3. Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)

Born in Mississippi. At six years old, Hamer worked in the cotton fields. Early on, her father was a successful land owner but angry white citizens poisoned the animals. 1962, Hamer and 17 others rented a bus to register to vote. Hamer’s group was denied to register and arrested. Hamer worked as a sharecropper as an adult, and because she tried to vote, she was fired. 1963, Hamer and SNCC started voter education training sessions. Group was arrested and Hamer had permanent kidney damage. 1964, Hamer formed Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenging delegation of all-white members. Hamer was a voice for the oppressed, and was unafraid to use it for change.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer

 Brave Black First: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World

4. Robert Parris Moses (1935- )

Born in New York City and earned a master’s degree from Harvard in 1957. Was a high school math teacher for a short period of time. 1964, organized the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project recruiting northern college students to increase Black voter registration. Moses worked with Hamer on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and attended the Democratic National Convention in 1964. Moses believed that local people must develop their own leadership rather than depend on civil rights leaders. Moses is co-author of the book Radical Equations-Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project. Moses started “The Algebra Project to improve the math skills of young people.

Books About Peace

Books About Peace

Our nation is in turmoil and we need to think about the wonderful things that we have. Below is a list of books that builds discussions on acceptance, acts of kindness, gratitude, togetherness, mindfulness, and overcoming challenges for peace. We have listed books for PreK-5th grade readers about Peace. 

Pre-K-2nd Grade

1. Can You Say Peace? By Karen Katz


A picture where you can see the lives of children living in India, Africa, America, and other parts of the world. You learn what the word peace sounds in different countries. You can have a rich discussion on what peace sounds like and looks like in different countries.

2. We Share One World, by Jane E. Hoffelt

Beautiful images demonstrating the environment and lifestyles of children living in different parts of the world. Images are illustrated  to find the beauty in everyone’s community. Book is written to demonstrate how we are all connected on the planet.

3. I Am Human, by Susan Verde
A Book of Empathy

A book of affirmations about a little boy. “I find joy in friendships.” “I am a Human.”

4. Peace is an Offering, by Annette LeBox

Sharing experiences on what peace looks like. Peace can be showing gratitude, caring for insects, words one uses, and even caring for others. Many people want peace, but the author and illustrator simplify those experiences showing that peace occurs through someone’s actions and experiences.

5. All Are Welcome Here, by Alexandra Penfold

Children at school are playing during recess, in the cafeteria, in their own classroom and other parts of their school. The pictures support the message detailing “All are welcome here.” Children are from different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and physical appearances. The message is clear that no matter who you are and where you are from, you are welcome.

6. The Seed of Compassion by 14th Dalai Lam

“There are many simple ways to bring more happiness to this world.” The 14th Dalai Lam shares how he was chosen into his role and the teachings that his mother taught him. This story is for children to apply lessons on their own lives. He teaches that you must protect and nurture your seed (mind).

3rd-5th Grade

7. Grandpa Stops A War, by Susan Robeson

Paul Robeson was an actor, athlete, singer, and activist, April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976. He was a man who stood over 6 feet tall. Robeson was unafraid to speak against white supremacy. This story demonstrates Robeson’s ability to use his gifts to change the hearts and minds of people living in turmoil. During the Spanish Civil War, Robeson traveled to Spain and visited men on the battlegrounds. On the mike, he sang and soldiers stopped fighting to hear the sound of Robeson. Robeson lived during complicated times, and believed that artists had the responsibility to speak about injustices. He used his gifts to do that.

8. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, by Robbie Robertson

A rich narrative about an American Indian named Hiawatha. He sought revenge because  an evil Chief desecrated his home and killed his family. One morning,  a spiritual man traveled across the land carried a message called “The Great Law.” He changed the heart of Hiawatha, and he agreed to journey alongside him. Hiawatha spoke this message for the Peacemaker connecting different Nations so that tribes could form peace. Each time they visited different tribes, others joined. Hiawatha proclaimed, “Together we paddled as [one] nation.” On their visit to the evil warriors tribe, Tadodaho, the Peacemaker sought healing over darkness. So he healed Tadodaho’s body, and Five Nations were formed.

9. A Bowl Full of Peace, by Caren Selson

Story based on a true experience where a Japanese family lived before their city of Nagasaki was bombed. Before the war, food was abundant, and families gathered around Grandmother’s bowl. When war struck, food was scarce but Grandmother’s bowl still offered food to warm the family’s heart. When Nagasaki was struck, millions perished. However members  of Sachiko’s family survived and used Grandmother’s bowl to eat ice chips. Unfortunately due to radiation, Sachiko’s family members died. However, the bowl now was used to remember what happened. Despite the hardship, Grandmother’s bowl is a reminder of the times of prosperity, famine, war, and reconciliation. Sachiko tells her story to restore peace.

10. Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson

Wangari is taught to enjoy the delicious fruits in her Kenyan Village. Wangari is a part of the Kikuyu people. During Wangari’s childhood, many girls did not attend school. However, her parents gathered the money to enroll her. When it was time for Wangari to attend secondary school, she had to leave the village and attend school in the city. Her family told her to remember the mugumo tree and to protect it. Wangari loved science and studied photosynthesis. She ended up migrating to the states to further her studies. After graduation, Wangari went back to Kenya to do something for her village. Villagers laughed at her for empowering women to work and educate themselves. However, Wangari did not stop calling her work the “Green Belt Movement.” Wangari’s movement threatened a corporation so she was jailed. Luckily her supporters on the outside fought for her freedom. Wangari eventually became a minister of the environment and continued planting trees.

11. Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone

A book about young women across the world. These girls are speaking out, protesting, and fighting for the rights to give other girls an equitable future. The author and photographers documented their stories in person to show how they live. These girls have inspiring stories that are pushing to challenge the tremendous challenges in their communities. If any of these girls solve problems, peace and hope can impact our future.

Oral Reading Fluency

Oral Reading Fluency

Reading can be a joy for some and a chore for others, and that largely depends on a reader’s skill and ability. If you aren’t a strong reader, you might not enjoy reading as much as someone who has strong reading comprehension skills or who read a lot when they were younger. But the only way to build those skills is to practice, which is why building these skills during a child’s formative years (ages 0-8) is imperative for long term reading success. During these years, children undergo rapid cognitive, social, emotional and physical development, making it a prime time to learn the skills necessary to develop lifelong literacy skills. One of these necessary skills is oral reading fluency.

Oral reading fluency consists of three primary components/skills: accuracy, speed, and vocal expression. With those three components in mind, oral reading fluency is the ability to read connected text quickly, accurately, and with emotional expression. In doing so, there is no noticeable cognitive effort that is associated with decoding the words on the page. These skills lay the groundwork for reading comprehension, with readers who master oral reading fluency being much more likely to better comprehend the information offered to them from literature. 

In order to teach these skills, it is important that students understand the reasoning and process behind learning each piece of the pie. A great breakdown of these skills is explained in the blog post, “Teaching Oral Reading Fluency”, from the website “Teaching with a Mountain View”. The post breaks the process of oral reading fluency into five parts: accuracy, expression/prosody, punctuation, pace, and comprehension. 

Below is a breakdown of each skill and what success looks like in developing strong oral reading fluency:

  1. Reading accurately means that young readers are not eliminating or skipping over words when reading text, nor are they adding in words that are not included in the text they are reading. 
  2. Reading with appropriate expression requires students to inflect their voice at appropriate points when reading, without over exaggerating the content.
  3. A key follow up to reading with expression is paying attention to punctuation. Encouraging comprehension of punctuation teaches readers to understand the author’s intended interpretation of text by recognizing what the use of exclamation points, commas, italics, or bolded words mean.
  4. Proper pacing when reading means that students are not reading too fast, to the point where they are not comprehending the words on the page, but are reading at a pace equal to the flow of a natural conversation.
  5. The final building block of oral reading fluency is comprehension. This means that readers understand the text they are reading and are reading to learn, not just to check a task off a list or say they completed it.

In an article posted by The International Literacy Association, experts recommend that rather than encouraging students to read alone, silently, or to themselves, reading out loud or with groups helps to facilitate stronger oral reading fluency abilities. This can be listening to others read aloud, performing readings and books as plays to engage students, and making sure to acknowledge not only a student’s skills that need additional support, but also the skills they have mastered or shown growth in. This is why it is vital to read to children at a young age, by reading aloud and modeling strong reading fluency, children learn what accurate and proper reading looks and sounds like, helping them to do it themselves.       

To support the development of oral reading fluency in young readers, Pennez has developed a web application, Read2Think, which is intended to provide support as young readers work to build these skills. Read2Think is a web application that assesses a child’s oral reading skills. Stories are written for Kindegarten-Sixth Grade Readers. They are written on, above, and below. Read2Think utilizes Natural Language Processing software and is designed to be responsive, listening to the child, and adapting to their reading needs. Read2Think was created not only with the intent of providing evaluation of a child’s reading skills, but also to provide teachers and parents with a resource to better understand where a child is in their literacy education. Reading aloud, either with friends, teachers, family, or with Read2Think, empowers young readers to build their literacy skills to not only be able to understand the text in front of them, but to comprehend the meanings and intent behind those words as well. 



Evaluating Literature with BIPOC

Evaluating Literature with BIPOC

When you choose literature featuring Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), it is important to know how “deep” you want to get into the content. Readers can read from identifying elements about the culture to becoming emotionally there with the events taking place. The examples below are explanations on expanding your knowledge of different cultural experiences.

Level 1: Shows customs such as holidays, and cultural elements

Shades of Black, A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney

A picture book with positive affirmations and images of children. Pinkney says, “I am Black, I am Unique.” Pinkney compares the different shades of each child to vanilla ice cream, golden brown sugar, velvety orange, and much more. This book shows more cultural elements about the uniqueness of Black children.

This is the Rope, by Jacqueline Woodson

A story about a family’s connection on migrating from the South to the North. A rope that had significance to the little girl’s grandmother living in South Carolina, to the rope being used to tie luggage on a car, and then used to hang a sign on a family reunion. This story highlights how something as small as a rope is passed down to different generations as a family “heirloom.”

Level 2: Describes concepts and themes, folktales

Chicken in the Kitchen, by Nnedi Okorafor

Anyaugo woke up one evening to a decadent chicken roaming in the kitchen. She is afraid the chicken will ruin their yam dishes. She found guidance from Wood Wit, a nature spirit. The Wood Wit gave her advice, and Anyaugo calmed the chicken down. When the chicken left, she learned that ancestors returned to dance showing that death was a natural part of life. This chicken was an ancestor coming back for a midnight snack. This story incorporates a folktale about her African village. 

The Golden Flower: A Taino Myth from Puerto Rico, by Nina Jaffe


This Taino creation story describes how the island of Puerto Rico came into existence when the Earth was a desert without water.

 Level 3: View different perspectives. Gives historical accounts and authentic culture. 

Island Girl, by Junot Diaz

A little girl must illustrate the land where she was born. She is sad because she moved away as a tiny baby and her friends all knew about their ancestral lands. So she asks her grandmother, her cousin, the baker, the barbershop owner, her mom, and her building superintendent about the island. Lola discovers the world that she left behind was beautiful full of culture, music, and even danger.

Ho’Onani Hula Warrior, by Heather Gale

This book provides Hawaiian vocabulary and context about Hawaiian societal roles. Ho’onani preferred doing things differently. For example she wanted to perform Kane, or traditional Hawaiian chants. Her sister did not approve of her because these chants are traditionally performed by men. Ho’Onani was determined and told herself, “Strong and steady. “One the day of the performance, Ho’Onani was strong and made the crowd applaud and wonder in awe. This story challenges cultural statuses, and celebrates perspectives as well.

Level 4: The reader is empowered to change and own the curriculum. It is from historical and social events from different characters where the reader is empowered to take action. 

The Lost Tribes, by Christine Taylor Butler

Ben Webster lives a boring life in Sunnyslope. California. He craves two things, a spot on the school’s basketball team and an adventure with his globetrotting uncle. But there are two problems. Ben can’t play basketball and his uncle doesn’t seem to like him much. One day both dreams come true. His skills at basketball suddenly improve and he earns a place on the team. The same day his uncle arrives ahead of a storm and makes an offer: solve a puzzle-filled game in seven days and Ben can join his uncle’s last expedition. But the digital game isn’t as easy as it looks. Enlisting the help of his sister and friends, Ben soon suspects the game is more than it seems. Little does he know that the clues point to the true nature of the “family business.” You will learn about each of his friend’s origins: African, Navajo, Guatemalan, and Nepal. Just as the title recommends, you will discover Lost Tribes.

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

Written for a teen audience, this book ties three stories: folktale, and two modern tales together. In the folktale a Monkey King desires to master disciplines. Adolescents in the two modern tales struggle with fitting in and dealing with stereotypes. Each story is distinctly different with the plot, setting and characterization. However at the end you realize they all have the same meaning at the end with character development and inner struggle. I would hope this book would empower the reader. In essence we all carry preconceived stereotypes and ideas about different races and cultures. This book addresses how someone deals with Asian stereotypes, and the reader would hopefully relate to them and change.


When it comes to choosing literature for children, always consider their educational needs. Currently literature and experiences need to be more inclusive because this world has a set of diverse people who can contribute to the greater good of our society. We hope these evaluation methods can assist you as you determine books that young children to adolescence read.

Making the argument for children’s literature that represents BIPOC

Making the argument for children’s literature that represents BIPOC

Growing up, what was your favorite book? Did you have one? Was it a common classic, like “Goodnight, Moon” or “The Giving Tree”? Or something unique to your upbringing? 

Who was the main character in your favorite book? Did they remind you of yourself? Did they look like you?

For many adults and children, the answer to that last question is probably, “no”. Children’s books historically have featured two types of main characters: animals and white children. And when 40% of the U.S. population identifies as Latino, Black, Asian, or Indigenous, that’s a problem.

According to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, in 2013, of the 3,200 children’s books published, only 93 featured characters or storylines relating to the Black diaspora. That’s only 3% of children’s books published in 2013.

So, why is representation of people of color in children’s literature important and necessary? 

In 1988, educator Emily Style introduced the phrase “windows and mirrors” to refer to literacy and books. The phrase refers to the fact that books have the ability to serve as “windows” into a world unknown or unfamiliar to readers, and as “mirrors” for readers to see their own likeness, experiences, and stories told by the author. This phrase expanded in 1990, when author and educator Rudine Sims Bishop added that books serve as “sliding glass doors”, giving readers the ability to see, and access, something they had never experienced before.

But when all the books you read tell stories that focus on anthropomorphic animals, which are animals given human mannerisms or characteristics; or children and characters that don’t reflect your everyday experience, it can be difficult to turn that experience into a “mirror” or a “sliding door”.

Author Walter Dean Myers acknowledged this in his 2014 article, “Where are the people of color in children’s books?” In this article, Myers, author of the award-winning young adult novel “Monster”, reflects on the moment when his love for reading and his own identity as a young Black man collided.

Books did not become my enemies. They were more like friends with whom I no longer felt comfortable. I stopped reading. I stopped going to school. On my 17th birthday, I joined the Army. In retrospect I see that I had lost the potential person I would become — an odd idea that I could not have articulated at the time, but that seems so clear today.” 

In order to ensure that students and children from historically marginalized backgrounds are able to engage, connect, and develop their love for reading and literature, it is imperative that they are given the opportunity to find literature that not only reflects them, but tells their own unique stories and experiences. But that doesn’t necessarily just start with authors.

In 2015, Lee & Low Books, an independent publisher of multicultural literature, published the first major study examining staff diversity in publishing. Results found that across the 40 publishing houses and review journals that participated in the study, 80% of staff self-identified as white. 

NPR focused on the topic of diversity in publishing in their 2016 article, “Diversity In Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers — Marketing Matters, Too”, speaking with Kima Jones, owner of the Los Angeles-based publicity company Jack Jones Literary Arts. From Jones perspective, there is a dire need for diversity in publishing, not just authors and writers, in order to provide the systems level support for writers of color.

There needs to be more women of color in publishing, in positions of power, period. As I see other book clubs and speaking series, reading series, organizations pop up that are dedicated to writers of color, queer writers, disabled writers, other marginalized writers, I’m like: yeah, do that! This is what we need.”

In order for authors to tell stories about diverse characters and experiences, they have to not only make it through the publishing house doors, but ensure that the team working with them on publishing, marketing, and distributing their books understand the story being told and the audience being emphasized. If they’re unable to do that, they run the risk of having their book be underpublicized, not reaching the communities they are trying to uplift.

Diversity in children’s literature doesn’t just benefit children of color, but all children, allowing from an early age for conversations to take place relating to race, religion, ability, and other ways that we, as humans, each come from different backgrounds while sharing similarities. Offering stories and characters that represent people of color allows children not from these groups to build empathy for others, while simultaneously encouraging positive recognition of self for children of color. Think about it, if you are making soup, you need a grouping of diverse ingredients: water, broth, vegetables, seasonings, and meat. When these ingredients blend together, you are fed and sustained. Similarly, a range of ingredients and experiences from people of color can enrich the minds of youth and build their understanding to reduce fear and improve care and love for not only their in-group, but those around them. While anthropomorphism (characterizing animals or other non-human entities with human characteristics/abilities) in literature does have its benefits, allowing writers to tell stories about morals, ethics, and serious situations while placing an emotional distance between the reader and the characters, when every children’s book places that distance, it can be difficult for readers to connect with the story on a human level.

As parents, reading to your child is a necessary part of child development and is one of the simplest ways to foster a love of learning and build connection with the little human you’re raising. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind what values you hope to instill in your child as they grow up, and how their exposure to literature that reflects not only the world they experience every day but also the world beyond their lived experience can contribute to their development. Making an effort to seek out children’s books and resources that reflect BIPOC and their perspectives, is one of the simplest ways to build your child’s ability to empathize with others, especially those who may not look like the people they are exposed to everyday. 


Children’s Stories about Hanukkah

Children’s Stories about Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a holiday celebrated in December for 8 days. The start date might change which begins each year on the 25th day of the Jewish month. This day is also spelled Chanukah. For centuries, Jewish people have had to fight for their religious freedom. Hanukkah is such a special time because they can reflect and remember the story of the Maccabees. These warriors stood up for their religion. 

Today families all across the world celebrate this holiday with food cooked with oil, light the Menorah, play games, gather, and enjoy the blessings they have. These children’s books below are a window into this celebration.

Light the Menorah!, A Hanukkah Handbook by Jacqueline Jules

A nonfiction picture book explaining what occurs on each night and what happened historically on each night of Hanukkah. This story provides a holistic explanation on why and how Jewish members celebrate during this time. Book also has recipes and crafts to celebrate this holiday. 

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg

A family celebrates Hanukkah with dosas, mango lassi, and the Menorah. A boy’s younger sister is a climber. While the family prepares for their celebration, his little sister climbs and climbs. To get his sister’s attention, he signs a song, and she climbs down. On the day of Hanukkah, the boy and his family were locked out of their home. He was able to sing a song to his sister and she climbed into the small opened window to let them in, saving Hanukkah. 

A Hanukkah with Mazel, by Joel Edward Stein

Misha is a poor artist. One day a cat was found in his barn. Misha cared for the cat and named her Mazel. Misha did not have enough candles to light up for Hanukkah so he painted the menorah and candle lights each night of Hanukkah. Mazel became his good friend where they ate Latkes and Mazel drank milk. Misha, the artist, enjoys his Hanukkah with his new friend Mazel.

Little Red Ruthie, A Hanukkah Tale, by Gloria Koster

This treasured story of Little Red Riding Hood is written to celebrate Hanukkah. Ruthie had to take a stroll to her grandmother’s house to make Latkes for Hanukkah. On her walk, a wolf threatened to eat her, but she tricked the wolf that he could eat her after she was stuffed 8 days later after her Hanukkah meals. The wolf ended up pretending to be Ruthie’s grandmother, just like the original story. However at the end, Ruthie tricked the wolf and he was too stuffed from her latkes to eat her. 

Meet the Latkes, by Alan Silberberg

Latkes are potatoes that are grated down and fried that families eat during the Hanukkah celebration. A fictitious family of Latkes discuss the origins of Hanukkah. A grandfather tells his family why it is important to decorate the house, why he says Chanukah over Hanukkah, and most importantly why Hanukkah is celebrated. It is celebrated to commemorate the Maccabees who fought for religious freedom from a dubious king. The menorah is burned for 8 days, because the Jews who won against the king witnessed their oil lamp burning for 8 days when they did not have enough oil for 8 days. This was considered a miracle and that is how Hanukkah began. 

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins

A story inspired from other books by Sydney Taylor. 

It is 1912 in New York’s Lower East Side. Gertie’s four sisters and mother prepare the meal for Hanukkah. Gertie is four and she wants to help in the kitchen. However, when everyone is stirring, grating, whipping, and mixing, Gertie watches with delight. Gertie tries so hard to help, but Mama takes her out of the kitchen because she knows Gertie cannot help. Even though Gertie is sad, she listens to her sisters preparing. When Papa gets home he surprises her and lets Gertie light the first candle on the menorah. 

The Missing Letters, A Dreidel Story by Renee Londner

Dreidels are a cultural element to the celebration of Hanukkah. Dreidel letters are personified. These letters live in a dreidel makers shop. When they are made they think that Nobody likes them because the dreidel does not stop on them. So the next day the dreidel maker discovers the letters on each dreidel are missing. To comfort his helper, he discusses why the dreidel is so significant during Hanukkah. Once the missing letters discovered their importance, they changed their minds and reappear on the dreidels. 

Hanukkah, by Rachel Grack

A nonfiction text describing how Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday. Story explains the significance of lighting the menorah, whey eating foods made with oil is significant, and more. You can get a glimpse into this wonderful celebration. 


10 Children’s Books About Kwanzaa

10 Children’s Books About Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a holiday that originated in 1966 to help African-Americans think of their African ancestry. It is based on the East African principles from the Swahili language. Traditionally, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26-January 1. It is where families feast, fast, and examine their selves. There are numerous holidays celebrated during Kwanzaa, and it is not meant to replace Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, New Year’s, or other holidays.

You can find guiding principles from the Swahili language.

  • Umoja-Unity
  • Kujichagulia-Self-Determination
  • Ujima-Collective Work and Responsibility
  • Ujamaa-Cooperative Economics
  • Nia-Purpose
  • Kuumba-Creativity
  • Imani-Faith


Below are 10 Children’s books inspired from this holiday.


1. A Kwanzaa Keepsake, by Jessica B Harris

This holistic book details what each night means, historical people, and food that can be prepared. This book can be enjoyed by the entire family to learn and practice new insights about Kwanzaa.

 2. Kwanzaa Crafts, by Carol Gnojewski

Crafts inspired from African principles. Encourage creativity and less screen time with game making, basket making, and economic discussions. There are many things that children and families can do to celebrate Kwanzaa.

 3. The Kwanzaa Coloring Book

A coloring book that makes the experience interactive on learning about Kwanzaa principles.

4. Kwanzaa by Lola J. Amstutz

A text that explains how Kwanzaa is celebrated.

 5. African-American Holidays by Faith Winchester

This book explains different holidays that contribute to the African American experience: MLK day, Black History Month, Juneteenth, and Kwanzaa.



6. Kevin’s Kwanzaa, by Lisa Bullard

Story explains the activities and experiences that Kevin participates with his family and community. His grandpa teaches his family about candle lighting, word meanings, and the man who established Kwanzaa. Last they show the celebration of Kwanzaa where Kevin’s family and friends dance and celebrate together.

7. My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz

Written from the girl’s perspective about celebrating Kwanzaa. Also there is a pronunciation guide.

8. Messy Bessey’s Holidays, by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack

Bessy and her mother bake holiday cookies for Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. She explains her joy for sharing these treats. There is even a description about each holiday and how they are different.


9. Seven Spools of Thread, A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela Shelf Medearis

Seven Ashanti brothers quarrel all of the time. Once their father died, the chief told them they had to work together so they could receive their father’s inheritance. They found a way to turn spools of thread into gold. At the end they taught their village how to thread, and learned the principles of Kwanzaa to help themselves and community.

10. Lil Rabbit’s Kwanza, by Donna Washington, Illustrated by Shane Evans

L’il Rabbit searches for a gift for his grandmother when she is sick during Kwanzaa, and surprises her with the best gift of all. Includes “The Nguzo Saba – The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.”


Celebrate Deaf Communities: Booklist

Celebrate Deaf Communities: Booklist

The deaf community has a rich culture. However, their language and experiences are still not fully understood. They have in the past have been called Dummy, Dumb, Disabled, and so much more. Throughout the years, however, thousands of deaf activists have pushed for equal rights. They brought Closed-Captioning in television & media, interpreters for national conversations, brought data that American Sign Language (ASL) is a foreign language due its word structure, visual order, syntax, and meanings. Today it has been distinguished that there is even Black ASL

To celebrate the deaf community, we are highlighting books about deaf culture. Also, each year, December 3-December 10th, is celebrated as Clerc-Gallaudet Week. This week is to remember the partnership that Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet formed to establish a leading ASL school and university.

Below are fictional books about children’s and teens living with or living as a deaf individual. 


Secret Signs Along the Underground Railroad, by Anita Riggio

A mother and her deaf son hide slaves on their farm. When a slave catcher is suspicious, he threatens them. Quickly, the deaf son plans to outwit the slave catcher so he can give a message to a woman in an Indigo shawl.

The William Hoy Story, by Nancy Churnin

William Hoy was a deaf baseball player who played for Chicago White Stockings (Chicago White Sox) from 1890-1901. Because William Hoy was deaf his family and society determined his future. However, Hoy was determined to play ball. At first, other players and officials discriminated against him. Later on, Hoy gave the Umpire signs so he knew when to bat or if there was a strike. Remarkably signs in baseball are currently used. With the noise of the players and audience it is easier to sign than speak. We can thank William Hoy for his determination, grit, and passion for baseball.

Moses Sees A Play, by Issac Millman

1 out of the 4 Moses themed books is about a deaf boy named Moses. In this story, Moses befriends a boy named Manuel. Moses teaches Manuel signs and learns how deaf actors perform.

 The Deaf Musicians, by Pete Seeger and Paul Dubois Jacobs

A musician loses his hearing and has to find another way to celebrate his musical gifts. He befriends other deaf musician during his ASL studies. Lee and his new deaf band members performed for audiences in the subway.

Helen’s Big World, The Life of Helen Keller, by Doreen Rappaport

Helen Keller had a mind that amazed the world. She was born hearing, but due to an illness lost her hearing & sight as a baby. This story shares her story and how her life-long teacher, Annie taught her how to read and write. Annie showed Helen the beauties of this world and the injustices.

The Sound of Silence, Growing up Hearing With Deaf Parents, by Myron Uhlberg

An intermediary is a person who translates for the other. Myron describes his experiences of being an intermediary for his deaf parents.


Dad Jackie, and Me, by Myron Uhlberg

It is the summer of 1947 where Jackie Robinson is playing with an all-white professional baseball league. Uhlberg’s father is ecstatic because his father experienced discrimination, oppression, and being underestimate his entire life just for being deaf. Uhlberg’s father saw Robinson as his hero. Though this story was fictitious, Uhlberg’s father was proud to see a Black man play with white players.



You Don’t Know Everything Jilly P, by Alex Gino

New big sister Jillian has a new baby sister. When her parents discover that their baby Emma is deaf, they are upset. The doctors take action on creating hearing aids and even recommending a Cochlear Implant. However, when Jillian pushes back and asks if they will be learning sign language, they dismiss it. Her parents want to give Emma the chance to live amongst Hearing individuals. Jillian pushes back on her parents wishes though. To cope, she befriends a deaf teen named Derek. Derek explains what she is doing right and wrong when it comes to deaf culture. Eventually Jilly discovers that she has much more to learn than doing to “save” Emma. Derek is a friend who gives knowledge raw that makes Jilly think and step back.  

El Deafo, by Cece Bell

An autobiographical graphic novel where Cece became Deaf at the age of 4 after becoming sick with Meningitis. In the 1970s deafness was still a growing research field. So Cece had to wear hearing aids accompanied by a box to hear sounds. At the start, she was taught to read lips and not sign language. When it was time for Kindergarten all of the children noticed her hearing box that she carried around her neck. She felt uncomfortable and alone many times. When she became more comfortable with her hearing aid, Bell named herself “El Deafo.” She also personified herself as “El Deafo” to visualize how to handle so called friends and classmates who treated her unfairly. By the time she reached Middle School Bell became a strong girl who was embracing her deafness. You can learn more about Bell’s story here.

Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson

Novel set in 1971 where Frannie deals with race, living on the “other side” of the highway, faith, and her older brother Sean’s deafness. Frannie’s brother wants to connect with hearing people so he can be in a different world. Frannie also grapples with the new boy called “Jesus Boy.” He looks white and is the only “white” student in their school, but he affirms he is not white. Woodson tells a story of an adolescent girl who learns about the ways of the world.

Impossible Music, by Sean Williams

Simon is a teen who became deaf due to having a stroke. When he could hear, he relished music and was even thinking about studying music at the university. With his deafness, Simon pushes back. He does not want to learn sign language, dislikes his deaf education, and even wishes his hearing came back. The author goes back and forth when Simon recently became deaf and in the present tense on being deaf. Through it all, Simon is determined to make a sound, and he creates an experience that can be seen by deaf people and hearing.

 Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Mary lives in a deaf community where hearing and deaf people sign. Their island is connected to the Wampanoag people who live next to them. This book is in the time period where black people were considered the lowest class, then Irishmen, and then the English freedmen. What is important is that Mary’s community did not see deafness as a disability but as a way of culture and communication. The story shifts when a man named Andrew Noble visits her community. He researches why the community in Martha’s Vineyard thrives compared to others. 


Wonderstruck, A Novel in Words and Pictures by Brian Selznick

Rose is deaf living in the 1920s where deaf people were taught to lip read and not encouraged to sign. Ben lives in the 1970s. He is struck by lightning and ends up becoming deaf. In both of their discoveries, Rose and Ben run out of their communities to discover who they are. Ben’s story is told through text and Rose’s story is told through visuals. This story connects their stories at the end where each character discovers who they are.

Democratizing Artificial Intelligence with POC

Democratizing Artificial Intelligence with POC

We’ve all been there: we’re in the car or doing chores at home when we think of a song we want to listen to on our smartphone. So, we say “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google”, to put in the request and keep doing what we’re doing. But Siri and Google don’t pick up on what we said the first time. Or the second time. And by the third time, we’re just reaching for the phone to search for the song manually. Maybe it’s the name of the song, or the way we’re pronouncing it, but in this situation, speech recognition software supported by artificial intelligence (AI) misunderstanding us is comical at best, frustrating at worst.

But what if AI’s misunderstanding was the difference between life and death, or success and failure?

That’s an everyday reality for many non-white, non-Male, and non-American tech users across the world. Research shows that AI consistently shows bias in favor of white, English-speaking men, in comparison to other demographics. This imbalanced bias particularly impacts women of color, with Black women facing the most negative experiences with AI technology.

According to the 2018 study, Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification”, gender classifiers developed by Microsoft, IBM, and Chinese startup Face++ were compared against one another in their ability to accurately recognize whether an image shown portrayed a man or a women, and whether that man or woman was white or Black. As explained in the article, Facial recognition software easily IDs white men, but error rates soar for black women”, across all three technologies, the software error rate for identifications was extremely low for men, with identifications of white men having the lowest error rates, and higher for women, with error rates for Black women being 29 percentage points higher than the average error rate for white men.

The failure of AI for women and communities of color doesn’t just fall in the realm of facial recognition technology, but also, as referenced earlier, in voice recognition technology. In 2018, researchers partnered with The Washington Post to study the inequities in voice recognition technology for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The results of this study were published on The Washington Post’s website, in an article titled “The Accent Gap”, and showed stark differences in technology’s ability to understand and respond to accents from over 100 people from 20 cities.

While some of the data showed smaller error rates, such as Southern American accents being 3% less likely to be understood by the technology than Western American accents, the largest error rates came for non-native English speakers. Across the board, for non-native English speakers, inaccuracies occurred 30% more often than for those who grew up speaking American English. For example, individuals who speak Spanish as their first language were misunderstood 6% more often than individuals who grew up speaking English on the West Coast, where many tech companies are based.

The reasoning for this is straightforward, according to data scientist Dr. Rachael Tatman.

“These systems are going to work best for white, highly educated, upper-middle-class Americans, probably from the West Coast, because that’s the group that’s had access to the technology from the very beginning.”

Dr. Tatman’s study, “Gender and Dialect Bias in Youtube’s Automatic Captions”, shows that not only are diverse dialects negatively impacted by voice recognition technology, but that women are also shortchanged by AI’s ability to understand and respond to voice. According to the study, women posting content on YouTube are 13% more likely to be misunderstood by the site’s automatic closed captioning when compared to men. This is particularly damaging, considering that Youtube’s automatic closed captioning is in place to ensure equity for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

So, how do these errors and technological failures affect under-resourced members of our community? In more ways than you might think.

For differently-abled folks who rely on recent advances in technology to make their day to day lives easier, if the technology they’re using doesn’t understand their voice, make correct translations of voice to text, or won’t recognize their face, they could be left in a difficult situation.

As more and more companies and organizations rely on facial recognition technology, including the police force, to identify employees, clients, and potential suspects, hearing that people of color and women can be erroneously misidentified should bring you a feeling of concern.

Unlike many forms of technology, artificial intelligence has the ability to learn by exposure and interactions with humans. Siri, for example, learns how to better serve its users over time by building knowledge off of common voice commands or methods of use. And that’s the goal of Mozilla Common Voice. Through their website, Mozilla Common Voice offers the opportunity for anyone, from any background, to contribute voice recordings of common words, such as numbers, in an effort to diversify the recordings being used to teach AI to understand the human voice. The goal of Mozilla Common Voice is to “help make voice recognition open and accessible to everyone”.

In order to lessen, and eventually eliminate biases in AI, it is imperative to ensure that not only are these technologies made available to all individuals, but that individuals from Black and Brown communities are in the room during the creation and implementation of these technologies. By allowing for wider exposure, and a team of more diverse engineers, scientists, and software developers, AI can, like a child learning how to respect others, learn to better serve women, people of color, and other members of underrepresented  communities. It is these actions that can help to democratize artificial intelligence and make it accessible (and equitable) for all.




Toni Morrison Wrote Children’s Stories

Toni Morrison Wrote Children’s Stories

Toni Morrison built a legacy on writing about women and Black people in her novels. Morrison challenged the Black experience and brought up topics that made mainstream media question and create a large discourse. With her efforts, Morrison earned the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1993. She also co-authored children’s stories with her son Slade Morrison. Morrison lived from 1931-2019.

Below are a few narratives written for children. 

Who’s Got Game? Three Fables 

A book of three stories inspired by Aesop’s Fables for Children. Morrison’s spin on using stylistic vernaculars and free verse language making this old fable more contemporary for youth. This story utilizes rhymes such as “Got to split, Foxy. The summer’s been fun. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

The colorful language and use of vocabulary shifts the moral of the story.

The Ant or Grasshopper

Ant and Grasshopper enjoy the high times of playing music. But when winter comes, Ant prepares and Grasshopper gets stuck in the snow. Morrison gives personality and timbre to each character where they cannot agree on who is right and who is wrong. 

Original Story Here

The Lion or Mouse 

The Lion is all talk, but once a thorn got caught in his foot he needed help. No one but a little mouse did. Morrison flips the story around where the mouse is given a voice. He believes he is a Lion and everyone laughs at him. You will see an ending that is unexpected.

Original Story Here :

Poppy or the Snake

In this story, a grandfather tells his grandson on how he befriended the snake. Then in the end the snake and Poppy’s relationship changes. Morrison personifies the snake as a character with rhythm and jazz. Poppy likes to stay to himself. Morrisons shift the narrative where revenge occurs over a petty attitude from the snake saying, “Why did you break your promise?” “Hey man, I’m a snake.”

Original Story Here:

Penny Butter Fudge

A grandmother treats her grandchildren like gold. Instead of following mom’s schedule, grandma takes them on potato sack races, dancing, storybook, and then makes a recipe called Peeny Butter Fudge. This book reminds you of the times that children spend with their grandparents and the family recipes being passed down. 

The Tortoise or the Hare

A different version on the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare.” Jimi Hare wants to win the race off of his speed. Jamey Tortoise wanted to compete because of his intelligence. Jamey Tortoise strategizes how he will win the race. Jimi Hare stretches and exercises before the race.