19 Essential Books to Understand Race and Equity in Schools

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Isaiah McGee

Many educators have been asking what they can read to better understand race, racism, and its impact on schools and the classroom. I compiled a list of 19 essential books that can help educators not only better understand the elusive, pervasive, and persistent impact of race on schools, but also provide them with skills to challenge and mitigate its influence and provide marginalized students, especially Black students, the best learning environment and experience.

So You Want to Talk About Race

Ijeoma Oluo

Gives honest, clear, and constructive guidance for having conversations about race and racism; discusses how racial prejudice and racism infect almost every aspect of American life; and offers suggestions for how to deal with racial prejudices and biases

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Confronts the notion of race in America from a personalized viewpoint; discusses how race has been systematically constructed and how it has shaped American history which includes the subjugation of Black people

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

Beverly Tatum

Uses research and psychological theory to explain the development of racial identity and the impact that has on racism and belonging

Is Everyone Really Equal?

Ozlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo

Addresses the most common stumbling blocks to understanding how social inequity is reproduced.

Racism Without Racists

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Documents how our contemporary conversation about race often leads to “colorblind” philosophy on race;discusses the persistant litany of arguments, phrases, and stories used to systematize and justify racial inequalities

How to be an Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi

Uses history, science, and ethics to describe different forms of racism and how racism becomes structural; highlights how people are harmed by this structure;  describes what we can do to work towards undoing racism and its component policies in order to build an equitable society

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race

Robin DiAngelo

Explores the counterproductive reactions White people often have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.

Learning in a Burning House

Sonya Douglass Horsford

Looks at the concept of equal education and offers a historical look at the desegregation dilemma and negative consequences of school desegregation on Black communities in the United States

Culture and Power in the Classroom

Antonia Darder

Argues that culture is situated in the classroom experience; discusses how culture informs everything we do from curriculum, pedagogy, organization, and daily (sometimes hidden) practices; considers the ways culture intersects with the power dynamic that exists in schools

Other People’s Children

Lisa Delpit 

Explains how many of the academic problems attributed to children of color are often the result of miscommunication that stems from the struggle with the imbalance of power

Whistling Vivaldi

Claude Steele

Sifts through empirical studies to explain the concept of stereotype threat which suggests that regardless of our social power or positionality, identity-based stereotypes that have been internalized can cripple performance and potential

Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity

Floyd Cobb and John Krownapple

Posits that many schools remain trapped in a cycle of equity dysfunction, often because they lack clarity on the fundamental needs of dignity and belonging; offers that once these are understood, educators can dismantle the barriers to meaningful student relationships, especially across dimensions of difference such as race, and culture, and make changes that reshape the academic experiences

We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know

Gary Howard

Establishes a critically conscious framework for White, middle-class teachers to become highly effective, culturally relevant, and responsive educators, especially those in the most poorly resourced schools

Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There

Richard Milner

Provides insights and skills for successfully educating diverse student bodies; centers on case studies that exemplify the challenges, pitfalls, and opportunities facing teachers in diverse classrooms

Culturally Proficient Instruction

Kikanza Nuri-Robins, Randall Lindsey, Deloras Lindsey, Raymond Terrell

Provides tools, resources, and vignettes to frame how educators illustrate what can transform our educational practice to meet the needs of all kids

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood

Christopher Emdin

Provides practical strategies on how teachers can empower and engage students based on their experiences to create an environment that produces authentic teaching and learning

The Dreamkeepers

Gloria Ladson-Billings

Provides an explanation of how culturally relevant teaching works; clarifies that culturally relevant teaching is not a matter of only race, gender, or teaching style — what matters most is a teacher’s efforts to work with the unique strengths a child brings to the classroom

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

Zaretta Hammond

Offers a framework for optimizing student engagement and uses neuroscience research to explore how our cultures program the brain to process data and affect learning relationships

The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys

Eddie Moore Jr.,  Ali Michael, Marguerite Penick-Park

Employs poignant personal stories, current research, and specific activities as an instructional guide to the largest demographic of educators teaching one of the most marginalized populations of students.

*This was originally posted on West Wind’s Educational Equity Resources Portal.

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