Published: Feb. 19, 2019

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Amidst a turbulent political climate and activist- and youth-led social movements, many educators have been wondering not only how to teach but also how to parent during these challenging times. 

Familiar with incorporating social justice themes throughout their course curriculum, several faculty in the CU Boulder School of Education came together following the 2016 election to create a unique space for social justice exploration that is for and led by their school-age children. 

The CU Boulder School of Education has partnered with Teaching Tolerance to publish Reading for Social Justice, a comprehensive guide for educators and families interested in starting similar intergeneration social justice reading groups. Authored Ana Contreras, a PhD student in educational foundations, policy and practice, and edited by Julia Delacroix, an editor from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, the guide features multiple models for starting a tailored, local social justice reading group, including the foundations of the reading group created by School of Education families.

The School of Education’s founding group continues to meet, and alternating parent-child pairings take turns selecting featured readings and leading monthly discussions. Ranging from ages 8-13, the kids have selected several books — including titles like “How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation,” “We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices,” and “Rad American Women A to Z” — that have now been incorporated in the CU Libraries’ Children and Young Adult Collection available to CU Boulder students and teacher candidates and local K-12 students and teachers.

 This kind of idea not only creates community in the school and among our families, it creates a sense of possibility and critical action.— Dean Kathy Schultz
Last spring, Teaching Tolerance staff attended the group gathering to see the youth in action and to feature the group model and educator’s guide in the spring edition of Teaching Tolerance magazine. On that particular day, the group discussed the book, “The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window,” and they examined the current student walkouts related to gun violence in the context of the coordinated civil rights-era walkouts protesting school segregation. Providing context and taking action is what the reading group is all about, says Kevin Welner, director of CU Boulder's National Education Policy Center (NEPC), who co-founded the group with Michelle Renee Valladares, associate director of NEPC.


“We wanted our children to look at the current situation and understand that the struggle for social justice, the struggle for civil rights, is something that’s been going on forever and will continue to go on,” Welner said in the Teaching Tolerance Magazine article. “The current moment is best understood within that continuum, within that past and the need to continue the struggle into the future.”

In the reading group meetings, the parents put their teaching and research expertise aside in order to center their kids’ voices, concerns, and reflections and respond to current issues together, a model that Dean Kathy Schultz sees as highly replicable. 

“This kind of idea not only creates community in the school and among our families, it creates a sense of possibility and critical action,” Schultz said. “The fact that this is a group of parents who are coming together with their children to explore—in a variety of modalities—how to respond to the moment that we’re living in ... feels very unique to me, and [it’s] something I hope will catch on.”