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3 Books Every Anti-Racist Educator Should Read

A group of diverse children huddle together.

How can teachers learn to be anti-racist educators? These three books can help.

Any teacher striving to be an anti-racist educator who works toward dismantling racial inequality in their school and classroom probably has questions on how to respond when students ask challenging questions about race. How can teachers ensure that they are designing and implementing culturally proficient instruction? And how can they be certain they're meeting their students' needs in a culturally responsive way?

Further Reading: Fostering Healthy Classroom Debate

These three science-based and action-oriented books can help a teacher work toward the goal of becoming an anti-racist educator.

1. Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

This is my absolute favorite book because it provides teachers with research-based strategies that they can immediately implement in their classrooms. Zaretta Hammond looks to cutting-edge neuroscience to implement what she calls "brain-compatible culturally responsive teaching," which covers generating trust in the classroom, building the foundation for learning partnerships, and establishing alliances and shifting academic mindsets in those partnerships. And she explains the science of building intellective capacity—the increased power the brain creates to process complex information more effectively—so that students can learn, grow, and take on new challenges.

Most importantly, Hammond cautions teachers against becoming sentimentalists who build rapport and show warmth but hold lower expectations out of pity for their students and either over-scaffold instruction into too-small chunks, provide too many tools, or dumb down the curriculum. Rather, Hammond says, teachers should be "warm demanders" who earn the right to demand engagement from their students, hold high standards and offer emotional support, and encourage the productive struggle that grows intellective capacity.

This book should be required reading for every educator.

2. Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real about Race in School

This book provides strategies and techniques for addressing challenging issues about race in schools. What do you do if someone uses the N-word in class? How can teachers help parents fight ethnic and racial misconceptions about their children? How do you make race relevant in an all-white classroom? How do you engage diverse colleagues in conversations? How do you ensure that you're valuing your students' worldviews? How do you change the system?

These questions and more are answered in essays written by leading educators, including Sonia Nieto, Pedro Noguera, and Beverly Daniel Tatum, and edited by Mica Pollock. Everyday Antiracism helps educators to see the racial implications of what happens in schools, and it provides tools for teachers to be thoughtful and decisive in confronting discrimination in their schools and classrooms.

At the end of each essay, Pollock provides discussion questions focusing on a core principle about what racism entails, a general strategy that teachers can use in various situations, and a specific and immediate solution that teachers can apply in their classrooms and schools. This is an essential handbook for every anti-racist educator.

3. How to Be an Antiracist

This best-seller is an eye-opening look at how racism intersects with class, culture, biology, and geography, and how those intersections affect how we see the world. Author and historian Ibram X. Kendi frames the book as an autobiography, identifying and examining the devastating consequences of racism so that we can oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

To truly be anti-racist, Kendi says, one must support anti-racist policy through actions or by expressing anti-racist ideas. We must start, Kendi notes, with examining our own biases. We must acknowledge "the basic struggle we are all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human." The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and oppose it.

Kendi challenges us to be transformative in our work and to strive toward a just and equitable society. How to Be an Antiracist can help teachers navigate today's world to help in the struggle for racial justice.

Extrapolating Anti-Racist Lessons

Teachers should endeavor to create inclusive and civil school communities where every student feels welcomed, respected, empowered, and valued. This starts with exploring our own biases so that we can reject false notions of human differences. We must also acknowledge the lived experiences that are shaped along racial lines, learn from diverse forms of knowledge and experience, and challenge systems of racial inequality.

Further Reading: Strategies to Bring Diversity Into the Classroom

These three powerful books can help teachers strive to be the anti-racist educators needed during these challenging times. By applying the takeaways from these tomes in their classrooms, teachers can help counteract racial inequality and racism in schools and society, and they can begin the work necessary to change the world.