PUBLICATION

Part III: Planning Workbook

Ana Contreras
Julia Delacroix

Before You Begin: The Planning Committee

Activity A: Review Best Practices 

1. Take turns reading the standards aloud. As you read, discuss each standard and address any questions or concerns group members may have—about the standard or about how your particular group might ensure that you meet it. 

  • Ideas are generated by children and adults together. Educators and family members may help structure meetings or conversations, but children are full participants. Everyone involved has the opportunity to select topics, plan agendas and lead the group. 
  • Participation is accessible. The most successful groups make it as easy as possible for members of the school community to participate. Consider questions like: How often will our group meet? Will we hold meetings at a time and place that work with family schedules? 
  • The work is equitable. Labor—the planning and leading of sessions but also the intellectual labor of participating and sharing during meetings—should not fall disproportionately on any person or group. For example, the group should not rely on people of color to lead conversations about race and racism. Equitable division of labor also means the success of the group isn’t dependent on any one member. 
  • The work is challenging. While the mere act of bringing communities together has great value, a social justice reading group exists to expand the knowledge and understanding of all participants. In the most successful reading groups, members call one another in and challenge everyone—families, educators and students—to learn and grow together.

2. Brainstorm additional standards you think would benefit your group and list them. 

Using the guide? Give us your feedback!

Activity B: Plan the Community Meeting 

1. Evaluate accessibility to ensure how you’ll include all families. Read through the questions below, discussing possible answers and taking notes as you go.

  • Accessibility
    Will your meeting place be accessible to students or family members with disabilities? Will any participants require accommodations such as an American Sign Language interpreter or materials printed in Braille? 
  • Childcare
    Will there be a space for younger siblings to play during group meetings? Can the planning committee arrange for a caregiver to watch younger children while families participate? 
  • Language
    Does the school district have live translation available? If you are a monolingual group, consider creating additional spaces for families who have a different home language.
  • Safety
    Does the space feel safe for all families? Is it a safe place for them to get to? Be sure to anticipate and address these concerns, particularly for undocumented families, LGBTQ families, families of color or families who have a member with a disability. 
  • Time of day
    When are families available to participate? Will the group meeting bump up against a mealtime? Is serving food a possibility, to make up for lost time?
  • Transportation
    Will meetings be held in a location along a public transportation route? If not, can other transport be made available? 
  • Other considerations:

2. Schedule your community meeting. After you’ve considered how you can make your community meeting as accessible as possible, choose a time and place, and record your meeting and accessibility plans below.

  • Time and date
  • Location
  • Staff/resources (translators, interpreters, etc.)
  • Additional services (transportation, childcare, food, etc.)

 

Activity C: Create a Publicity and Outreach Plan 

1. Brainstorm publicity options based on the channels available in your school community. Possibilities include:

  • Personal outreach to families—identify at least three families who might reach out to their networks and act as liaisons with the planning group. 
  • Posters 
  • School newsletter 
  • School website 
  • Flyer sent home with students 
  • Announcements at PTA meetings 
  • Conversations during family-teacher conferences 
  • Invitations extended from the school counseling office

2. Brainstorm ways to solicit feedback from the children who will join your group. These might include: 

  • Attendance at part or all of the community meeting (for older children) 
  • Parent/guardian surveys for pre-discussion among families 
  • In-class writing or discussion 

3. Consider how you’ll collect feedback from families who can’t attend the community meeting. Brainstorm questions you can include on a family survey. (You can also use this as an opportunity to survey families about availability and other logistics.) Several questions you’ll discuss at your meeting can also be sent to families ahead of time. Some possibilities include:

  • What topics or experiences would you like to read about or discuss with your child? 
  • Are there any specific books you’d be interested in reading with a group like this one?
  • What goals would you have for a group like this one? 
  • Other questions: 

4. Decide who will be responsible for which outreach activity. Record agreed-upon activities, people responsible and due dates.

5. Assign one member of the planning committee to ensure everyone at the community meeting will have access to this guide during the meeting.

 

The Community Meeting

Activity 1: Establish Standards and Agreements 

1. After reviewing best practices as a group, discuss the following questions:

  • What expectations will we hold for one another if we disagree with group members? 
  • How will we remind ourselves of the “Getting Started” standards? 
  • How will we ensure that our work is distributed across the group? 

2. Use your answers to develop community agreements. List them.

 

Activity 2: Decide on Group Roles 

1. Take turns reading aloud the full descriptions of each of the group roles. As you read, decide which roles will best serve your group and who will take responsibility for each set of roles.

  • Communications Manager(s)
    This person (or people) can ensure that everyone gets the information they need to participate and prepare for discussions. Part of this responsibility is asking the group members for their preferred modes of communication: phone calls, email, a website, text messaging, notes home with students and so on. Some families at school may already be using apps that allow groups to coordinate easily. 
  • Text Manager
    The person in this role facilitates text selection. This person also collaborates with families and school staff to ensure that any school-owned texts are maintained, distributed and collected, and to address any text translation needs. 
  • Plan Manager
    This person collects notes and graphic organizers created during the community meeting and works with the communications manager and text manager to produce and distribute a plan once responses to the communications and text surveys are in. 
  • Scheduler
    The person in this role establishes times for group meetings and makes sure the agreed-upon space is secured. This person also collaborates with the communications manager to make sure families know when and where the meetings will be. The scheduler might also volunteer to keep time at the group meetings.
  • Partnerships Manager
    This person collaborates with school or library staff to ensure that the group has the support it needs. In particular, the person in this role should focus on coordinating with the school or district librarian (a valuable resource for books, meeting places and activities), school or district translators, community or family liaisons, and, if available, a grant coordinator who could potentially help the group find and secure funding for books or other needs. 

2. Add additional roles, along with descriptions and the names of those who will take them on.

 

Activity 3: Choose a Group Structure 

1. Consider which structure best aligns with your community’s needs. Review the chart below, and then have the scheduler lead a discussion of how each structure might align (or not) with the needs of your community. 

A chart that breaks up the types of meeting structures (Collective, Class, Home and Parallel) against questions ("Will families need time to read with students at home?" "Will families need to communicate with other group members between meetings?" and "Will families need tot attend multiple meetings?") used to determine which is appropriate for a specific group.

2. Based on your discussion and feedback the planning committee has collected about family availability, select the structure that will work best for your school community.

As you plan, consider tying a whole-group meeting to a culturally significant event or observation. For example, in Latin America, Mother’s Day is a huge event, and parents traditionally come to school around this time. If your community includes a large Latinx population, consider meeting as part of a Mother’s Day celebration. Alternately, try building on Native American and African American traditions of storytelling. Or consider family and educator collaborations so those with experience on your group’s topic can visit children in class and share an oral history.

 

Activity 4: Select a Few Topics

1. The communications manager should lead a brainstorm of some topics your group might want to explore. Below is a list of topics we use to classify resources for Teaching Tolerance, but you may find it useful to review the Book List Chart in Activity 9 for a few more ideas.

  • Ability 
  • Bullying & Bias
  • Class
  • Immigration
  • Gender & Sexual Identity
  • Immigration
  • Race & Ethnicity 
  • Religion 
  • Rights & Activism

2. As a group, decide on two or three topics to explore together. List them. (Be sure to consider any feedback the planning committee has collected from families unable to attend this meeting.)

 

Activity 5: Read and Discuss the Social Justice Standards 

1. Read through the Social Justice Standards as a group. 

You can find the standards in Spanish, as well as a list of standards specific to the grade band for the children in your group, here.

2. As a group, identify one or two domains and three or four standards that you’d be interested in learning more about. The plan manager can lead this conversation; you can record your group’s answers.

 

Activity 6: Establish Your Social Justice Learning Goals

1. Review the models below for examples of how to bring your topic and the Social Justice Standards together to form a social justice learning goal.

  • Topic: Immigration
  • Social Justice Domain: Diversity
  • Social Justice Standard: Students will respectfully express curiosity about the history and lived experiences of others and will exchange ideas and beliefs in an open-minded way. (D8)
    Students will examine diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts rather than in ways that are superficial or oversimplified. (D10)
  • Social Justice Learning Goal: Our reading group will learn about how immigration influences the cultural identities of communities, including our own.
     
  • Topic: Black History
  • Social Justice Domain: Justice
  • Social Justice Standard: Students will identify figures, groups, events and a variety of strategies and philosophies relevant to the history of social justice around the world. (J15)
  • Social Justice Learning Goal: Our reading group will learn about how black people have historically resisted racial injustice and oppression in the United States.

2. Working together, develop one or two social justice learning goals for your group. (Note: group leaders may develop additional learning goals for each meeting.) Record them. 

 

Activity 7: Develop Literacy Goals 

1. Together, brainstorm a few answers to the questions below. Remember to include the feedback that the planning committee has collected from families who can’t attend the community meeting. 

  • What speaking skills do you want children to build through this group? 
  • What listening skills do you want them to build? 
  • What reading skills do you want them to build? 
  • What writing skills do you want them to build? 

2. Talk through the following questions: 

  • What perspectives do you want children to engage with in your group? 
  • What genres do you want them to read? 
  • Will group members be reading in a group or individually? Aloud or silently? 
  • How do you want children to respond to the text? Writing? Discussion? Presentations? Other?

3. Agree on at least three literacy goals that you’ll keep in mind as you choose texts and activities for your reading group. Record them.

 

Activity 8: Decide on Your Group’s Needs

1. Consider how you’ll include members at all reading levels.

  • If your group includes children of different ages, different reading levels or with different home languages, you might decide to have readers choose from a selection of texts about the same topic before the meeting. (If you do have children reading different texts, you’ll want to keep that in mind as you plan your whole-group discussion activities.) 
  • Will everyone in the group be reading the same text, or will you read different texts on the same topic?

2. Consider how you’ll include members of all home languages in your community.

  • It is critical that everyone in the group has access to the texts. If your community speaks several different home languages, provide a translator in your whole-group meetings and make sure every household has access to a text they can read. Bilingual or multilingual books are excellent options because they allow everyone in the group to read in both primary and secondary languages. If you are selecting books in multiple languages or in Braille, be sure to include families who speak or read those languages or who use Braille in the text-selection process.
  • Will you be selecting books that are bi- or multilingual? When will the partnerships manager reach out to the district to learn more about translation services?

3. Consider how you’ll guarantee everyone has access to a text.

  • You’ll also want to consider how you’ll ensure everyone has physical copies of the texts for your reading group. There are many ways to handle this—the text manager might work with the partnerships manager to secure library or class sets of texts. Home reading groups might stagger their meeting dates so texts can circulate among group members. You might even choose online texts, like those available through Teaching Tolerance’s Student Text Library, that can be accessed by (or printed for) all group members.

4. How will you ensure that everyone has physical access to texts? What next steps will the text manager and partnerships manager need to take to make sure texts are available to all? Record them.

 

Activity 9: Develop a Text List

1. Begin by brainstorming texts as a group. Remember to include the feedback that the planning committee has collected from families who can’t attend the community meeting.

2. Supplement your list (if necessary) with student texts from Teaching Tolerance or from other sources. These organizations maintain extensive book lists that you may find useful:

  • Colorín Colorado
    Remarkable for its wide range of book lists, this site is primarily designed as a resource for teachers and families of ELLs. While Colorín Colorado can direct readers to bilingual texts, they also include lists on topics as diverse as growing up adopted, celebrating Diwali and entering the United States through Ellis Island. From the site’s main page, simply select “Books and Authors” from the menu and then select books for kids, young adults or professionals.
  • We Need Diverse Books
    We Need Diverse Books is a nonprofit whose mission is encouraging change in the publishing industry to help shape “a world where all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.” Among the resources available at diversebooks.org is their guide, “Where to Find Diverse Books.” Categorized by topic (e.g., African and African American, Latinx, LGBTQIA), the guide directs readers to online book lists recommending texts for readers of all ages.
  • School Library Journal
    Written for librarians and information specialists, the website of the School Library Journal hosts a wealth of booklists organized by topic and separated by grade level. Visit their “Reviews+” page to browse their lists—you may discover topics you hadn’t considered.
  • Social Justice Books
    A project of Teaching for Change, Social Justice Books offers curated booklists, reviews of children’s literature and articles with recommendations for talking with children about social justice. Their “Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books” is particularly helpful.
A chart for the discovery of texts on a range of topics ranging from "Race & Ethnicity" to "Gender & Sexual Identity" and beyond.

Activity 10: Narrow Your List Based on Your Learning Goals and Your Group Members

1. Look for texts that align with your learning goals—not just your topic. Review the booklist to look for titles that you think might best align with your social justice learning goals. The genre breakdown below can help.

Identity and Diversity: 

  • Fictional stories, poems or songs that focus on characters, friendship, tradition or family
  • Informational texts describing contemporary cultural and religious practices or experience
  • Traditional texts like folktales or songs. Please note that folktales alone cannot fairly represent a culture or heritage. As Louise Derman-Sparks writes, “They are about animals and occasionally people from a mythical past and are designed to teach core values and beliefs in their culture of origin. They are not about how people actually live in contemporary society—and that is what young children need to understand.”

Justice and Action:

  • Fictional stories, poems or songs that focus on living with or pushing back against injustice 
  • Informational texts that offer a history of an identity group or a description of what life was like for people in a different time 

2. Look for texts that align with your group. Look at the text’s setting, characters, plot, language and illustrations. These questions can help as you discuss specific texts: 

  • How and where will children in your group find themselves in the texts you select? 
  • How and where will they learn about different cultures, experiences and identities? 
  • For whom in your group could this text be a mirror, a reflection of identity and experience? For whom could this text be a window into the identities and experiences of others? 
  • How could this text motivate and connect with the interests and concerns of group members? 
  • How does this text access and build on the knowledge that group members will bring with them?
  • What knowledge or information will children need to fully understand this text?
  • Does the text contain topics that may be more sensitive for some readers than others (e.g., those who have lost parents or those who have come out)?

3. Use “Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books,” available through socialjusticebooks.org, as a final check. Here are a few questions inspired by the guide that you can ask yourself, along with recommendations from anti-bias education expert Louise Derman-Sparks:

  • Are there stereotypes in the language or images? See the list “Common Harmful/Undermining Stereotypes.” 
  • How are different identities represented in the texts? Sparks asks, “Are people of color, women, low-income families or people with disabilities depicted as needing help or in passive roles, while whites, men and ‘able-bodied’ people are in leadership and action roles?”
  • What message(s) does the text send about lived experiences? Sparks asks, “Do the lives of people of color or people living in poverty in the story contrast unfavorably with the norm of white, middle-class suburban life?”
  • How does change come about in the text? “The story line should be about children and adults working together,” Sparks says, “rather than perpetuating the myth that change happens because of special, individual people who do it by themselves.”
  • How do the identities of the author and illustrator affect the text? Sparks asks, “What qualifies the author or illustrator to deal with the subject? If the book is not about people or events similar to the author or illustrator’s background, what specifically recommends them as creators of the book?”
  • When was the text published? Sparks recommends, “When considering new books for your collection, begin with the most recently published ones and then continue with descending copyright dates.”
  • What about the text will children enjoy? “Check for active, interesting story lines,” Sparks says, “where different kinds of people are integral to the people in the story, not the main topic.” 

4. Assign tasks. You can select texts as a group or identify volunteers to assess the readings for your group. The text manager should set a date by which reviews will be due to them and by which they will share a final book list with the group—record that information.

These considerations were adapted from Teaching Tolerance’s Reading Diversity: A Tool for Selecting Diverse Texts, available here

 

Activity 11: Set Logistics for Group Meetings

1. Discuss who will lead each meeting. Your group structure might help you decide.

  • Collective Reading Groups
    Consider rotating leaders for each meeting and having children and their family members plan and lead the meetings together. 
  • Parallel, Home and Class Reading Groups
    Since teachers will lead the in-class meetings and children or their family members will lead any at-home meetings, this question only applies to your final, whole-group meeting. Whoever leads the last meeting needs to be sure the tone, activities and facilitation value and honor the experience and knowledge that families bring to the reading group.

2. Consider when and where your group will meet. As you plan a time and location for your whole-group meetings, think through the following:

  • Accessibility
    Will your meeting place be accessible to students or family members with disabilities? 
  • Childcare
    Will there be a space for younger siblings to play during group meetings? Can the planning committee arrange for a caregiver to watch younger children while families participate? 
  • Safety
    Does the space feel safe for all families? Is it a safe place for them to get to? Be sure to anticipate and address these concerns, particularly for undocumented families, LGBTQ families, families of color or families who have a member with a disability. 
  • Time of day
    When are families available to participate? Will the group meeting bump up against a mealtime? Is serving food a possibility, to make up for lost time?
  • Transportation
    Will meetings be held in a location along a public transportation route? If not, can other transport be made available? 
  • Other considerations:

3. Set a time, date and place for your meeting.

  • Time and date
  • Location
  • Staff/resources (translators, interpreters, etc.)
  • Additional services (transportation, childcare, food, etc.)

4. Begin planning your calendar. Decide who will be responsible for working with the scheduler and partnerships manager to schedule group meetings. Decide who will reach out to families who aren’t at this meeting to ensure they have the opportunity to facilitate if they want to. Set a deadline for soliciting volunteers and a date by which your scheduler will have completed and shared the final schedule. Record planning responsibilities and due dates. When complete, you can record your meeting schedule in the chart at the end of this workbook.

5. Decide when you’ll read. Keep in mind that reading during the meeting (whole-group reading, reading aloud, reading in pairs, and so on) may also support your literacy goals. Discuss the pros and cons of reading before the group meeting versus during the meeting and decide on an answer.

 

Activity 12: Plan Activities and a Sample Group Meeting

1. Consider activities other than reading that you can do in your group meetings. Try to choose a variety of activities to keep the meeting energetic (including discussion, writing, art or physical activities). Be sure to keep your literacy goals in mind as you select strategies and other exercises. Read through the activities listed below to get an idea of what you might do.

An expanded explanation—including steps to follow—for each of these activities is available here.

Exploring Texts Through Read Alouds (K–2)
These activities help young readers define text types, examine how text structure affects meaning and identify audience and purpose.

  • Developing Language to Talk About Texts
    Most children need explicit language instruction to discuss difficult or sensitive issues. This activity gives them tools to use when exploring, thinking about and discussing read-aloud texts.
  • Using Realia
    Realia are real-life objects that enable children to make connections to their own lives as they try to make sense of new concepts and ideas. They create physical responses that help readers recall ideas and themes from the text in later discussions.
  • Who’s Telling It?
    This strategy helps children explore varying points of view in familiar, comfortable situations, then apply their learning to unfamiliar texts and topics. Readers explore the same text from various viewpoints and identify the author, speaker point-of-view, publication date, intended audience and characters.

Responding to the Read-Aloud Text (K–2)
These strategies help young readers analyze, interpret, critique and make connections to texts.

  • Author’s Chair
    This activity allows children to show their understanding of the reading. They take on the role of “author,” reading the text aloud and facilitating a group discussion.
  • Making Connections During Read Aloud
    Making connections allows readers to monitor their understanding and relate learning to their own lived experiences. They make connections to read-aloud texts by relating the text to themselves (lived experiences), to other texts (read in any setting) and to the world (current and historical events).
  • Readers’ Theater
    Readers’ theater helps children gain reading fluency and engage fully with the text. The strategy requires attention to pronunciation, unfamiliar vocabulary and interpretation. During a readers’ theater, two or more children dramatize a text by reading expressively.

Word Work (3–12)
These strategies help build comprehension and language skills by asking readers to use key words from texts in their own reading, writing, speaking and listening.

  • Illustrated Vocabulary
    In this visual strategy, readers divide key words into parts and draw illustrations to represent the separate meaning of each part.
  • Vocabulary Tableaux
    In a vocabulary tableau, a group of readers use their bodies to create a frozen picture of a key word.
  • Four-Fold Vocabulary
    Interactive “foldables” help readers learn new vocabulary through defining, illustrating and using words in sentences.

Close and Critical Reading (3–12)
These strategies help readers to analyze, interpret, critique and make connections to texts and discover the relevance of their reading within a larger context.

  • Challenge the Text
    This activity helps readers ask and answer text-dependent questions by taking multiple perspectives and uncovering assumptions and biases in the text.
  • Text Graffiti
    This strategy exposes readers to multiple short pieces of a text before they read it. They read selected quotes out of context and comment on both the selection and the comments of other students. The activity ends with participants reflecting on their reactions to and predictions about the text.
  • Window or Mirror?
    This task helps readers determine if a text is a window or a mirror. They decide if the author, speaker, characters or content in a text mirrors their lived experiences or provides a window into the lived experiences of people whose identities differ from theirs. 

Community Inquiry (3–12)
These activities ask readers to draw upon texts—and their own lived experiences—during meaningful and respectful discussions.

  • Brain Share
    In this activity, all members of the group contribute to collective understanding. Small groups of readers rotate through stations, discussing and recording concepts from central texts.
  • Text Treasure Hunt
    Teams of readers look for clues and respond to questions that help them identify details, organization, inferences and comparisons in the central text. The strategy is a fun way for readers to solve problems and give each other directions as they search for text clues.
  • What Would They Say?
    Analyzing how two or more texts address a similar theme or topic helps readers build knowledge and compare ideas. This discussion strategy asks participants to infer how a particular author or character from a text would respond to questions and scenarios, defending their conclusions using evidence from the text.

2. Complete a sample agenda together. Use the chart below to answer any last questions and determine the template that best aligns with your group structure. Working together, plan out a sample meeting.

Chart to help determine the meeting template that best aligns with a group's structure.

Whole Group Meeting Template 

  • Date/time/location
  • Topic(s)
  • Social justice learning goals
  • Literacy learning goals
  • Facilitator
  • Texts 
  • Activities (Include reading time if you’ll be reading with your group.)

Home Meeting Template

  • Date
  • Specific meeting goal
  • Text(s) to discuss
  • Questions for families to discuss

You might draw from the following questions, adapted from the Teaching Tolerance strategy “Challenge the Text”:

  • Whose voice(s) is/are featured in this text? 
  • Whose voice(s) is/are omitted? 
  • Who is the audience for this text? 
  • Why did the author write this? 
  • How is the information used? 
  • Who decided the “truth” as it appears in this text? 
  • What assumption(s) is/are being made?  
  • What did I learn from this text? 
  • What was I left wanting to know? 
  • Other thoughts/observations about the text:    
  • Additional Activities

Parallel Meeting Template

  • Date
  • Specific meeting goal
  • Text(s) to discuss
  • Questions for families to discuss

You might draw from the following questions, adapted from the Teaching Tolerance strategy “Challenge the Text”:

  • Whose voice(s) is/are featured in this text? 
  • Whose voice(s) is/are omitted? 
  • Who is the audience for this text? 
  • Why did the author write this? 
  • How is the information used? 
  • Who decided the “truth” as it appears in this text? 
  • What assumption(s) is/are being made?  
  • What did I learn from this text? 
  • What was I left wanting to know? 
  • Other thoughts/observations about the text:    
  • Additional Activities
  • Communication Plan    

Consider the following possibilities for communicating with other families before your whole-group meeting, or create your own communication plan:

  • Shared journals can go home with different children each night so families can write down their responses to the text and to one another.
  • A shared Google Doc or other web application can allow families to comment and respond to questions posed by the whole-group leader (and to one another). If you decide to hold conversations online, be sure to select an application with robust privacy settings, and remember that not all participants may feel comfortable sharing personal information in such a forum.
  • Individual response sheets can be filled out by each family together. Children can connect home reading with in-class reading by sharing their family response sheet in class.

Meeting Schedule: Record the date, facilitator(s) and texts for each of your meetings.