Upper School Summer Reading Book Discussions Focus on Racial Justice
In our ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the important topic of racial justice, our Upper School held small, group discussions for students on Tuesday, October 27. These faculty-led discussions were based on summer reading books on this topic. While students in grades 6-12 had one required reading book, they were able to choose a second age-appropriate book that either featured a prominent character of color or discussed race and diversity. All faculty members read these books as well. Some of the books included Blended by Sharon M. Draper, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
“We met to discuss the books and what students had learned from them about racism,” said Sonia Alexander, guidance counselor and experiential/social justice educator at GOA. “This was an important continuation of the conversations on the topic that our school community participated in over the summer, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to educate our community and take action about race this school year.”
Eighth grader Elana F. said that “The discussion groups were a great way for the students to be reminded of our school's values and commitment to social justice,” she added. “We recognized that most of us don't truly understand because of our experiences, but by having discussions about racial justice and reading books we can start to understand the importance of this movement.” The book she read, The Hate U Give, helped her and other students to learn more about racial justice and spread the message to others.
During the high school discussions, summer reading books sparked discussions about current events, including George Floyd, riots and the rise in support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Junior Hannah L. said, “We talked about the difference between antisemitism and racism, about the support we must give the black community in this time of need, but also our own views about how racism affects us. Overall, I feel that these discussions are crucial to have.”
“Bringing our whole student body and faculty together to discuss the topics and issues brought up in these books was a powerful next step for our school’s focus on racial justice education,” said Interim Upper School Principal Jordan Herskowitz. “The books helped to ground our conversations and reflect personal observations and experiences. Everyone did a great job listening and sharing with one another. We look forward to the next opportunity to continue our work on this important issue.”
Steps to increase awareness about this topic already include a newly-formed faculty committee on Racial Justice and Diversity to examine curriculum and programming for Pre-K through 12th grade students and a new student-run club on racial justice to pursue community activity and fundraising. For more information, please visit our school resource page, Educational Resources to Combat Racial Injustice, which will continually be updated with resource materials for students and faculty.