The Power of Literacy for Liberation with Kimberly N. Parker | The LP: EP 7

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One of Frederick Douglass’ famous sayings is, “Once you learn to read, you’ll be forever free.”As someone who was explicitly forbidden from reading, there was inherent freedom in learning to read and the access it provided during chattel slavery in America. But what about those who are completely literate but are still psychologically jailed? When it comes to becoming literate in written English, it seems like the purpose matters a LOT. From African Americans like Frederick Douglass, we receive a tradition and purpose called “freedom for literacy, literacy for freedom.” Kimberly N. Parker and I discuss her book Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching and nerd out on practical steps to practice “freedom for literacy” and “literacy for freedom.” 

Key Takeaways

  • Rigid instruction is not vivid instruction. We have to be sure that the tools we use to provide structure for the learning experience doesn’t turn into a structure that confines and limits growth and creativity. 
  • Some tools just don’t need to be used. Period. Doing research on what works for literacy instruction helps teachers monitor traditional instruction versus what is equitable instruction. 
  • Low level instruction, supported by low level tools and low level texts, leads to surface learning, which causes deep discouragement of meaningful literacy experiences. 
  • Savior complexes only show we need saving. Saving from our commitments, blindspots, and social positions that limit our ability to provide grade-level, engaging, affirming, and meaningful instruction. 
  • When providing culturally relevant literacy instruction, considering both place and race of the students can amplify the educator’s ability to provide high-quality teaching.
  • We live in an era where mentorship and Your professional learning community and network cant stay local, we miss opportunity otherwise
  • We greatly benefit from mentorship and professional learning communities that exist both in-person and online. If you want to keep your spirit and practice on point, leaning into both avenues will be critical. Through her in-person collective work, through her online presence, and through a book that can guide and develop thousands of educators, Dr. Kimberly Parker sets a good example.
Literacy is Liberation by Dr. Kimberly N. Parker
Dr. Kimberly N. Parker
Dr. Kimberly N. Parker
Director, Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University and Author of Literacy Is Liberation

About Kimberly N. Parker 

Dr. Kimberly N. Parker is an award-winning educator based in Boston who holds a steadfast belief in the power of literacy to normalize the high achievement of all students, especially Black, Latinx, and other children of color. She is currently the Director of the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University, and published Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching (Feb. 2022) with the Association for Curriculum and Supervision Development (ASCD). The book documents her successful literacy work based on her classroom and professional development experiences.

About The LP: Literature in Practice

UnboundEd's goal is to instill the GLEAM™ (Grade-Level, Engaging, Affirming, and Meaningful) instructional framework into classrooms across the nation with professional development, curated programs, and now with a brand new podcast series, The LP: Literature in Practice. Host Brandon White interviews the authors of today’s thought-provoking educational literature and connects the text to GLEAM.

About Brandon White

Brandon White is a former middle school ELA teacher and Restorative Practices educator for the Rochester City School District. He has worked for seven years as a servant leader intern and site coordinator for Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Summer Literacy Programs in Rochester. He has also advocated for these practices through his participation in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Teacher Advisory Council and through providing professional development at BMGF-sponsored Elevate and Celebrate Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) Conferences.


Episode Extras

Purchase the book



Article: The Power of Liberatory Research by Kimberly N. Parker
Video: Curriculum Planning Begins with Self-Reflection by Facing History and Ourselves and Kimberly N. Parker 
Podcast: Kimberly Parker on Culturally Responsive Literacy Instruction by ACSD Connect and Kimberly N. Parker
Article: Why Self-Directed Literacy Matters More Than Ever by Kimberly N. Parker 

Website: #DisruptTexts