05 May naomi visits letter city & soulful beginnings featured in upstate parent
“Alanda Posey is making literacy real through representation.”-Chris Worthy (Upstate Parent Magazine)
As you step inside any classroom or learning environment you want every student to be able to see themselves and feel confident that they can be successful in their academic arena. I was so grateful to have a conversation with Chris Worthy from the Upstate Parent Magazine to explain why Soulful Beginnings exists and its purpose in the community. It was an opportunity for me to tell my story and to let people across the Upstate (Greenville/Spartanburg/Anderson) get a glimpse of a company that will be changing the game in the near future.
So let’s talk about REPRESENTATION and what that looks like and feels like in the classroom. As a teacher (whether in a public school, private school, or daycare center) the children in your classroom should be able to participate and engage with learning materials that look like them. It is important that students be able to connect with their culture in the classroom even if they are the only person that represents a particular culture. How is it possible to include every culture of every student in the classroom? It starts with a CONVERSATION with every student that is a part of the learning environment. Put in some time to learn more about the child’s culture, family traditions, beliefs. Although every piece of the culture cannot be represented, it is crucial that the teacher is aware of how a child’s culture may require new avenues of the communication. We have to examine the fact that body language, verbal responses, non-verbal responses, and eye contact vary from within each culture. How we respond to children based on these measures listed above has a strong impact on their sense of belonging.
-Chris Worthy (Upstate Parent Magazine)
“On top of that, I create resources to cater to African-American children, simply because there are not a lot of things out there where they see themselves.”
It baffles me that “A is for apple and B is for ball” is still the underlying requirement for letter sound materials from most companies that are used in the classroom. So I decided to be a #gamechanger and create my own alphabet where African American children will be able to see some pictures that they can relate to in order learn their letters and sounds. There will also be an opportunity for parents and teachers to introduce our children to new vocabulary words that are a part of their culture. The ways representation can be prominent and effective include literature, clubs, celebratory days that acknowledge diversity and in a positive way to bring about awareness and acceptance.
As we make choices about the literature that we put into the hands of our young learners, we are charged with exposing them to diverse characters that reflect their culture and the culture of other students in the classroom so that cultural appreciation can be taught. Children should not be denied access to opportunities that could propel their thinking simply because we do not understand someone’s cultural or racial background. We want our students to be able to see multiple perspectives and have the chance to agree with the idea or disagree in a respectful manner. There is no better way for these opportunities and perspectives to manifest than through selecting literature that presents ideas, themes, and opinions where the students can debate, question, research, and create ways to solve problems in the world. If we truly believe that we are creating global scholars in the classroom, then we cannot refuse or deny the student to encounter situations that are diverse in nature and especially different from themselves.
With that in mind, I decided to start the “Naomi Travel Series,” where the main character Naomi takes a trip to an urban community. Through the lens of a child who lives in an urban community in the Upstate of Greenville or any other urban city is the fact that family income determines their level of exposure to real world situations. As elementary teachers, one cannot make the assumption that every child has been to the movie theater, a museum, a science center, the zoo, a planetarium, a stadium, or even a beach! This response about why Naomi Visits Letter City was created sparked a conversation between Chris Worthy and myself to make sure that the readers of Upstate Parent understand that not every child is on a level playing field. We have to take into account children in today’s classroom do not enter with the same knowledge and experiences. Yes, the teacher is responsible for closing most of those gaps after the child enters the classroom, but we must also find ways to engage our parents and provide the resources they need to expose their child to places, ideas, and experiences that will deepen their child’s knowledge. I want people to understand that when you bring up the words equity and equality, be sure to check your lens and see if your ignorance, biases, and stereotypes seem to cloud your vision of the reality of what happens to low-income children in public schools. For me, this book created a bridge for parents to start conversations with their children and possibly plan mini trips that will allow all children to have the schema and background knowledge to make in-depth connections, display higher level thinking, and articulate their opinions because they will have the tools in their toolbox to do so. More importantly, “Naomi Visits Letter City” provides a special place for every little black girl to see someone who looks like them thinking, exploring, and traveling to places near and far.
We write this with appreciation to the Upstate Parent Magazine for creating a story about Soulful Beginnings and Naomi Visits Letter City where people can catch a glimpse of who we are, what we do, and where we are going. There is no place to go but UP and we are ready for the next places that have already been designed for our destiny.