How the librarians help students immerse themselves in Black History Month

To mark the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to kick off learning for Black History Month in February, all Colorado Academy Lower School students are spending time in the Lower School Library reading, watching, discussing, writing, and creating projects dedicated to values of peace, respect, courage, equality, and kindness.

Pre-K and Kindergarten students read a variety of books about friendship, peace, and kindness. A school favorite, The Big Umbrella, by Amy June Bates, inspired an art project where students made their own big umbrellas, big enough for ALL to fit under, no matter who you are or what you look like.

For First, Second, and Third Graders, inspiration came from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We learned from Kid President about the life of Dr. King. Then we read We March by Shane Evans about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Students were inspired by MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and articulated their own dreams for the world after reading Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Margaret McNamara.

Ms. Giarusso’s First Graders went outside on a chilly day to make a video of their ‘We have a dream too’ speech to share with the community.

‘We have a dream’

Each class worked together to write speeches titled “We Have a Dream,” sharing their hopes for the future of our nation. Writing speeches collectively helped our students develop a unified dream of what we can be. They listed equality, freedom, peace, and stopping climate change as the things they most want to work towards. Ms. Giarusso’s First Graders went outside on a chilly day to make a video of their speech to share with the community. At Colorado Academy, we believe that when we hope, dream, and plan for a better future, then together we can make our world a better place for all people.

Fourth and Fifth Grade students focused their attention on the late John Lewis and what he called “Good trouble, necessary trouble.” To learn about John Lewis’s life, we read together from Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison. Students watched a video giving them background on the Civil Rights Movement and discovered how John Lewis fit into that time period. One surprising and exciting fact was learning how John Lewis first met Dr. Martin Luther King: Lewis felt inspired after participating in his first peaceful march and wrote to Dr. King, asking for advice on how to do more for the movement. Dr. King replied to his letter, and soon the two met and became friends and colleagues in the Civil Rights movement. That’s how the two activists began to dream and organize together!

Creating positive change

At Colorado Academy, we want students to learn how they can create positive change in the world: today, tomorrow, and for the rest of their lives. Thinking about why “good trouble, necessary trouble” is essential to this journey, Fourth and Fifth Graders wrote about what it means to them. Students did so much good thinking that it was hard to choose just a few quotes to share:

  • “Protesting is good trouble because you are fighting for what you believe in and making a change.” –Clara
  • “I think we get into good trouble by not being afraid to speak up.” –Eli
  • “No matter what, you can be who you are and stand up for your rights and for others.” –Rylee
  • “Good trouble is necessary, because if you don’t get in a little good trouble, then it might not change the way some people think about fairness and equal rights.” –Adler

In the coming weeks, we will be reading and learning more about contributions that Black Americans have made to our country and around the globe. We will continue to read, watch, talk, write, and create together.

As a teacher of all the Lower School grades, Pre-K—Five, I have learned that Colorado Academy students are ready for change and want to be active participants. They are inspired by the past and the present to make the future better for everyone, and they want to do it together.

Other great reads for Black History Month:

Primary Grades

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

Me & Mama by Cozbi Cabrera

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson

Ana & Andrew series by Christine Platt

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein

Intermediate Grades

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Blastback!: the Civil Rights Movement by Nancy Ohlin

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

Swish!: The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters by Suzanne Slade