“Schools have a chance to affiliate themselves with life, to become a child’s habitat, where he learns through directed living, instead of being only a place to learn lessons having an abstract and remote reference to some possible living to be done in the future.”

John Dewey, The School and Social Progress

Schools and educators have an amazing opportunity, but sometimes, in our results driven society, we miss it. We put our efforts into testing and scores instead of the inner emotional lives of our students and the rich cultures they possess. We pressure students to fall in line and avoid conversations about societal obstacles and social justice.

In School and Society, John Dewey explains that “Schools have a chance to affiliate themselves with life, to become a child’s habitat, where they learn through directed living; instead of being only a place to learn lessons having an abstract and remote reference to some possible living to be done in the future.” Schools have an incredible opportunity to function as a miniature community, an embryonic society.

As teachers, our first priority should be connection to our students lives and school community. Finding this time can be difficult with lesson planning and grading. Ask your administration to help facilitate progressive professional developments for teachers with diverse literature!

Below are 9 books, on diversity, social justice, climate change, and gender, that can facilitate connection and understanding between teachers, students and families!

1. School and Society

By John Dewey

Dewey discusses the way in which education is fundamentally tied to a thriving democracy. The problem, according to the author, with the old education model was that elementary schools did not encourage exploration and curiosity in their students.

2. Teaching For Black Lives

Edited By Dyan WatsonJesse HagopianWayne Au

Teaching for Black Lives grows directly out of the movement for Black lives. We recognize that anti-Black racism constructs Black people, and Blackness generally, as not counting as human life. Throughout this book, we provide resources and demonstrate how teachers connect curriculum to young people’s lives and root their concerns and daily experiences in what is taught and how classrooms are set up. We also highlight the hope and beauty of student activism and collective action.

3. Rethinking Bilingual Education

Edited By Elizabeth BarbianGrace GonzalesPilar Mejia

  • How do we bring social justice curriculum into our bilingual classrooms?
  • How can we honor our students’ native languages, even when we don’t teach in a bilingual setting?
  • How do we involve diverse groups of parents in our classrooms and schools?
  • What can we learn from Indigenous language immersion about the integral relationship between language and culture?
  • How do we elevate the status of non-dominant languages when there is so much pressure to prioritize English?

The articles in Rethinking Bilingual Education show the many ways that teachers bring students’ home languages into their classroom—from powerful examples of social justice curriculum taught by bilingual teachers to ideas and strategies for how to honor students’ languages in schools with no bilingual program.

4. Pedagogy of the Oppressed

by Paulo Freire

First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire’s work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm.


Edited By Annika Butler-WallKim CosierRachel HarperJeff SappJody SokolowerMelissa Bollow Tempel

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is a collection of inspiring stories about how to integrate feminist and LGBTQ content into curriculum, make it part of a vision for social justice, and create classrooms and schools that nurture all children and their families.

  • How do you respond when a child asks: “Can a girl turn into a boy?”
  • What if your daughter brings home school books with sexist, racist stories?
  • What does “queering the curriculum” really mean? What does it look like?
  • What’s wrong with “anti-bullying” policies? What are alternatives?

6. A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis

Edited By Bill BigelowTim Swinehart

A People’s Curriculum for the Earth is a collection of articles, role plays, simulations, stories, poems, and graphics to help breathe life into teaching about the environmental crisis. The book features some of the best articles from Rethinking Schools magazine alongside classroom-friendly readings on climate change, energy, water, food, and pollution—as well as on people who are working to make things better. A People’s Curriculum for the Earth has the breadth and depth of Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World, one of the most popular books we’ve published.

At a time when it’s becoming increasingly obvious that life on Earth is at risk, here is a resource that helps students see what’s wrong and imagine solutions.


Edited By Linda ChristensenDyan Watson

Offering practical lessons about how to teach poetry to build community, understand literature and history, talk back to injustice, and construct stronger literacy skills across content areas and grade levels—from elementary school to graduate school. Rhythm and Resistance reclaims poetry as a necessary part of a larger vision of what it means to teach for justice.

8. Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves

By Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards

Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves offers practical guidance to early childhood educators (including parents) for confronting and eliminating barriers of prejudice, misinformation, and bias about specific aspects of personal and social identity; most importantly, it includes tips for adults and children to respect each other, themselves, and all people.

Individual chapters focus on culture and language, racial identity, family structures, gender identity, economic class, different abilities, holidays, and more.

9. Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching

By Deborah Menkart (Editor), Alana D. Murray (Editor), Jenice L. View (Editor)

As one of the most commonly taught stories of people’s struggles for social justice, the Civil Rights Movement has the capacity to help students develop a critical analysis of United States history and strategies for change. However, the empowering potential is often lost in a trivial pursuit of names and dates.

The book includes interactive and interdisciplinary lessons, readings, writings, photographs, graphics, and interviews, with sections on education, labor, citizenship, culture, and reflections on teaching about the Civil Rights Movement.

Find resources and sample lesson plans HERE!

Other online Resources:

Challenge Islamophobia: A project of Teaching for Change

Black Lives Matter at School

Social Justice Books