‘We read what we are’ or ‘we are what we read’? As readers, we come to books not as culturally neutral, but with ready-made lenses. Yet the claim is made that books can sometimes change our ways of seeing.
This is the story of a year in an English class where all the literature read by the 13/14 year old white students was written from perspectives strongly indicting racism. At the same time, the students had drama lessons, sessions with visitors – especially black artists – and exposure to social context material, all aimed at extending empathy, challenging perceptions, and stimulating critical thinking. This account of the students’ responses offers new insights into education about issues of racial justice and includes questions of gender.
Beverley Naidoo’s choices for the programme of study, her ‘readings’ of the pupils’ responses and her analyses of overt and institutionalised racism make this book an illuminating contribution to that wider and more profound debate about ‘reading standards’ where values assert their importance over statistics. A fascinating story told with the novelist’s eye for detail and in immaculate prose.
– Dr Michael Benton, School of Education, University of Southampton, UK
Definitely a ‘must’ for secondary teachers of language, Social Studies and PSE, and for every teacher trainee…and as much for multicultural Europe as for multicultural England… The book is packed with practical and realistic suggestions for teaching about the sensitive issues of racism and for dealing with unacceptable racial bigotry in acceptable ways. It offers a wide variety of learning activities and never patronises teenagers, highlighting universal issues – and in ways that will make sense to any student.
– Dr Bill Taylor, School of Education, University of Exeter, UK