Unity Charter School Weaves Equity and Social Justice Into Everyday Lessons

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Connie Sanchez Executive Director

By Connie Sanchez

Unity Charter School weaves equity and social justice into the lessons and texts shared with all of their students. These elements are part of an education that focuses on sustainability. While expanding their Virtual Read Aloud Library, as part of their literacy initiative, Unity Charter School strives to add texts that offer mirrors and windows for their students. 

We Are Teachers explains, “The phrase “mirrors and windows” was initially introduced by Emily Style for the National SEED Project. A mirror is a story that reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity. A window is a resource that offers you a view into someone else’s experience. It is critical to understand that students cannot truly learn about themselves unless they learn about others as well. Multicultural education scholar, Rudine Sims Bishop talks about books as mirrors, which are texts in which children can find themselves, their families, and their communities reflected and valued. When students read books where they see characters like themselves who are valued in the world, they feel a sense of belonging.”

           On World Read Aloud Day, February 3, 2021, Unity will have the chapter book, “George”, by Alex Gino, added to their digital library collection. “George” is a book about a transgender fourth-grader who increasingly learns to be herself and to tell others about her secret. Along the way, she finds many supportive advocates, but her greatest ally is her best friend, Kelly. This book will be read by special guests, the New Jersey LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Group. Officers from around the great state of New Jersey will introduce themselves and read a chapter for the children to listen to. The middle school students at Unity Charter School will also have the opportunity to meet New Jersey’s first openly transgender male police officer as a guest speaker. Officer Johnson will be sharing his own experience of becoming a police officer and answer questions from the students later this year.

In March, the Morris Township Police Department will be reading a chapter book titled “The Crossover”, by Kwame Alexander, to be added to the digital library. “The Crossover” is a poignant novel in verse that mixes basketball, family, and coming-of-age themes and includes serious issues regarding adult health and a parent’s life-threatening condition. It won the 2015 Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King Book Honor, and may inspire a discussion about healthy lifestyle choices and the impact of those choices on people and their loved ones. (Common Sense Media) As part of the Education for Sustainability standards, Unity weaves in the importance of multiple perspectives in all of their lessons. They are extremely grateful to have these agencies add their voices to their library.

Unity Charter School’s Read Aloud Library is open for the public to listen to at https://sites.google.com/unitycharterschool.org/unitys-read-aloud-library/home

If you are interested in recording yourself reading a book to add to our library, please contact jennifer.carcich@unitycharterschool.org
Connie Sanchez, Executive Director

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