LIVINGSTON, NJ — Members of the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) addressed two of the hottest topics currently being discussed in public school districts across the nation on Wednesday, including the planning process for reopening in the fall and new ways to communicate with students about multiculturalism and social justice.
During last week’s virtual LBOE meeting, the board reviewed and approved a collection of books donated by Nicole Beeney and Danielle Kelly—two sisters of Livingston students who “worked together to create a community fundraiser to purchase books that would build awareness of social justice and multiculturalism,” according to LPS Assistant Superintendent Lisa Steiger.
“In doing so, they donated a very large selection of books to supplement our classroom libraries, our building libraries and resources for our students to borrow and take home,” said Steiger. “It’s such a generous donation.”
The collection includes three books each for Kindergarten through fifth grade. Steiger noted that the two women worked closely with Leala Baxter, K-6 Supervisor of English Language Arts/English, to put together a “really rich reading list” and praised them for “their efforts to build in our community this understanding of multiculturalism and social justice in such a positive way.”
According to the district’s rationale for accepting this donation, Livingston Public Schools (LPS) believes that “education is the best way to promote change,” and that exposing LPS students to a large selection of multicultural and social justice books “will help to equip them with the tools to become more aware citizens.”
Since the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. and the nationwide protests that followed, the Livingston district has been providing various resources and tools “to help families navigate conversations at home about social justice and injustice, democratic protest, racism and dealing with trauma in response to the current events around the country.”
Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block, a former social studies teacher, reinforced his belief that one of education's top priorities is “shaping students to be productive citizens” and that the job of any public school district should be to “ensure inclusivity, diversity, acceptance and equal access" in all programs and practices.
Adding that “cultural awareness and sensitivity” was previously set as one of four district goals for the year, Block noted that this will “always be an area of focus” and is a “work-in-progress" for the Livingston district.
“We teach students that it is their responsibility to speak out in productive ways when they see injustice,” the superintendent said in June. “Certainly, current events provide opportunities to have deeper discussions on these and other related ideas.
"Our supervisors, counselors, administrators are already identifying ways to provide resources to families to help adults talk to children about these events, to support students who may be confused, upset, or angered by what they are seeing and hearing, and to help teachers engage in productive conversations about social justice and civil rights.”
Block reiterated that the district “stands ready to help [its] students and reinforce the important message that everyone plays a role in positively shaping our world.”
A full list of the books being donated to K-5 classrooms at LPS can be seen below. CLICK HERE to visit the Social Justice Resources page at LPS.
“All are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
“Lola Goes to School” by Anna McQuinn (Illustrations by Rosalind Bearshaw)
“The King of Kindergarten” by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
“Kenya’s Art” by Linda Trice (Illustrations by Hazel Mitchell)
“Imani’s Moon” by JaNay Brown-Wood (Illustrations by Hazel Mitchell)
“This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration” by Jaqueline Woodson (Illustrations by James Ransome)
“Sisters: Venus & Serena Williams” by Jeanette Winter
“The Youngest Marcher” by Cynthia Levinson (Illistrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton)
“The Real Slam Dunk” by Charrisse K. Richardson
“Youg, Gifted, and Black” by Jamia Wilson
“Ellray Jakes the Recess King” by Sally Warner
“Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg!” by Quvenzhane Wallis
“American Slave, American Hero: York of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” by Laurence Pringle (Illustrations by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu)
“Liberty Porter, First Daughter: Cleared for Takeoff” by Julia DeVillus (Illustrations by Paige Pooler)
“Go Long!” by Tiki and Ronde Barber (with Paul Mantell)
“Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor
“Courage” by Barbara Binns
“Twintuition: Double Dare” by Tia and Tamara Mowry
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