The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children (Ladson-Billings)

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while. I think I avoided it for a time because Ladson-Billings studied elementary school children (not my area). Then, for a time, I wasn’t teaching (m)any African American children. A recommendation from my current principal caused me to pull it off of my shelf.

What a remarkable and inspiring book. Though Ladson-Billings is not (at least not here) a gifted stylist (the prose can sometimes be overly academic and wooden), in the end, the clarity of her ideas about “culturally relevant teaching” win the day. She not only describes what it is but offers both general guidelines and specific examples of how it is to be achieved. I was grateful for deliberate move to avoid celebrating the cult of personality; instead, she drew from her observations the guidelines or principles she thinks those of us who teach African American children (L-B omits the hyphen; so will I) need to embrace.

This book feels like a beginning. As a result of reading it, there is much I want to explore, notably the notion of how oratory and storytelling can be used with African American students.

L-B’s original group of Dreamkeepers were all women, an issue that I think merits more attention than she gives it (which is hardly any). Other than that minor quibble, I highly recommend this book. I think it belongs on the shelves of everyone who teaches, and everyone who teaches teachers.


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