Through my AmeriCorps service at the Literacy Center, I tutor incredible learners from all over the world. We practice several different English skills on a weekly basis, while also working towards accomplishing their short and long term goals. Staying true to the Literacy Center’s mission of seeking social justice through the power of literacy, I try to choose texts that emphasize diverse voices. The Literacy Center has many great resources for this in their library, including the Activist Series from the Grass Roots Press.
These books are great for learners of all levels, and highlight the activism of leaders from across the globe, including Harriet Tubman, Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King Jr, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks. I often incorporate this series into my tutoring lessons.
Htein is a learner from Burma. He came to the United States as a refugee, seeking a safer and better future. Recently, he became a U.S. citizen, and discovered an interest in American history and culture. For homework, I would give him a book from the Activist Series. The following session, we would talk about what he learned. When discussing the oppressive systems these men faced, Htein talked about similar experiences he had in Burma. He said, “In my country, leaders never give us a chance. They always hurt people.” He later went on to praise leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, “They are great people because they good for all people. They protest the right way. Very peaceful. They used peace and love. I learn a lot from them.”
Sah is another learner of mine from Burma, and came to the United States as a refugee a few years ago. Lately, we have been working on preparing for the U.S. Citizenship test, and have been covering topics such as the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Our workbooks have had much to say about Abraham Lincoln and Dr. King, but have failed to mention strong women such as Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. Through the use of the Activist Series, I was able to teach Sah about these activists, whom she had never heard of before our sessions. When I asked for her thoughts on these women, she said, “They led their people to freedom. They are very brave and strong. I want to be like these women.”
“They led their people to freedom. They are very brave and strong. I want to be like these women.”
Through these books, I hope that my learners will feel empowered and understand that anyone can make a difference. I highly recommend tutors to incorporate The Activist Series into their weekly sessions.