Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Wednesday 02.24.21

Children’s Books About Race and Prejudice

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream" speech.

In the above Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, he challenges us to judge others by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Prejudices and discriminatory behaviors exhibited in children are learned beliefs and attitudes form society. Some of the societal influences can present themselves in the form of the children’s parents or guardians, teachers and coaches, the media, friends and any other sources of socialization.  Children often emulate and model the behavior they see around them. According to Welcoming Schools, stereotyping and prejudice starts between the ages of 3-5.i Can you believe babies start to notice race as early as 3-6 months?ii

There is value in educating young children and shedding light on how prejudices and discriminatory behaviors can lead to positive impacts on valuing diversity, celebrating differences and acknowledging how seemingly harmless behaviors can be mistaken for weapons. Below you will find a short, but detailed list of five children’s books based on race relations and prejudice. Using books can be instrumental when inspiring and encouraging conversations with children about race and racial issues that are plaguing our society.


Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

Each page of this book highlights bold accomplishments of African American women. During this read, you will see familiar faces like business mogul Oprah Winfrey and astronaut Mae Jemison. Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. This book is a great way to show beautiful faces of women heroes while encouraging your little ones to think big! Recommended for ages 0-3.


What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan

The kids in What I Like About Me, are very different and they could not be happier. From glasses, to braces, to the inclusion of a mirror on the back cover, it is our differences that make us special. Focusing on appearance, nationality, food, and more, this book helps children to learn about diversity and building self-esteem. There is also a Teacher Classroom Pack available to guide you while diving in deep with your students. Recommended for ages 5-9.


A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory

In light of recent events and racial uprisings, parents are finding themselves speaking with kids about race at a much younger age. A Kids Book About Racism is indeed a book about racism that clearly defines what constitutes racism, how it makes people feel, and how to identify racism when it happens. This book not only explains racism in a way children can understand, but it is helpful in cultivating anti-racist minds. Recommended for ages 5-9.


The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

There are many, many reason to feel different. Maybe it is your cultural background, how you walk, how you wear your hair, or what you eat. Sometimes we feel like outsiders when we enter a room where nobody knows you or looks like you do. Being different can feel lonely at times, but you find the courage to go forward anyway. This book helps set the tone for conversations with little ones around physical differences and how to push through feelings of insecurities.  Recommended for ages 5-8.


Town: A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano PhD

This book follows two families- one White, one Black as they navigate through racial injustices in their town at the hands of law enforcement. A book with a very familiar storyline, explores the events of the police shooting a Black man in their community. This book helps to create a safe place for children and to answer questions children might have about racial injustice. Recommended for children ages 4-8.


i Winkler, Erin N. (2009). Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race. High Reach Learning. PACE 3(3)

ii Bar-Haim, Yair., Talee Ziv, Dominique Lamy, and Richard Hodes (2006). Nature and nurture in own-race face processing. Psychological Science 17, 159–163.

Sunday 02.21.21


By Natalie C. Jones

“The best kind of self-care involves a gratitude practice, a pursuit of self-awareness, and a journey of constant self-forgiveness.” –Elayna Fernandez


I am sure most of you are familiar with the movie and the self-help book entitled The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The premise of The Secret is based on the law of attraction and how our thoughts can alter and change a person’s life. As a child of color growing up in the south and in the Baptist church, I was very familiar with the notion of “speaking it into existence.” Being aware of my thoughts, when I am feeling bothered or in an interesting place, I am very intentional about thinking of happier times or revisiting photographs in order to shift my thoughts. 


The word pivot has been widely used to describe how the world has shifted, adapted, and learned new methods of educating and presenting information. We are all going through a difficult time and are experimenting so many uncertainties, while simultaneously continuing to function at a high level in our homes and careers. Below, I have included phrases and questions on self-reflection. If you are a more creative person, you can incorporate practices that feed your soul. Traveling, making art and textiles are what feeds my soul. What feeds your soul? Have you discovered anything new about yourself since the pandemic started?

Below, you can read my responses to the statements and questions. I have included a blank set identical prompts for you to print and fill out on your own. As a mental reminder, keep this sheet visible on your office table or in your bathroom. The prompts will also work well as a check in with your students.


I embrace my authentic self when I sing very badly, share my opinions without fear or judgement, and when I proudly acknowledge that I am weird sometimes.

Today my self-care mantra is take care of myself by any means necessary.

When I am in a difficult situation, I calm my nerves by listening to music, specifically gospel or jazz.

This week I will make choices based on my needs by getting more rest and working out for 30 minutes a day.

This week I am grateful for

1.A career that provides me with new opportunities.

2.Being safe, having a sound mind, and having everything I need to survive.

3.The ability to help and give to others.

Please print this part to fill out and keep visible on your office table or in your bathroom.

I embrace myself authentic when _____________________________________.

Today my self-care mantra is _________________________________________.

When I am in a difficult situation, I calm my nerves by _____________________.

This week I will make choices based on my needs by ______________________.

This week I am grateful for




Tuesday 02. 9.21

Classroom Narratives

By Natalie C. Jones

In 2019, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture created a teacher professional development program, Gantt Teacher Institute, under their Initiative for Equity + Innovation. The two-day arts and professional development institute for classroom teachers focuses on creatively-themed programs featuring leaders in the field of innovation, diversity and inclusion. The institute uses two to three exhibitions as the anchor for workshops and peer sessions.

Professional development pertaining to cultural competency and diversity will help teachers explore social issues and develop creative responses to impact the instructional core. It’s important to develop awareness on issues of opportunity, fairness and justice and the impact these three things have on our students. Sometimes it is difficult to navigate differences in our communities and in our classrooms, however using the arts as a tool for better understanding social capital for action and change can be empowering while simultaneously building and promoting equity in the classroom in order to provide a blueprint for the next generation.

Allowing your students to be able to express racial and ethnic issues openly, will help to deepen relationships and give a voice to the voiceless. Gantt Teacher Institute (GTI) and other cultural responsive programs aim to provide enriching and impactful opportunities for teachers. Equipping teachers with engaging cultural proficiency initiatives will aid in creating teaching tools that foster culturally responsive classroom environments.

Narratives can be changed based on who is telling the story. One of the projects used in GTI is Question Bridge: Black Males. Question Bridge was created by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayete Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair and it is a platform for Black men from different backgrounds and ages to ask and respond to questions about life in America. The project is structured in a documentary style and after attending this workshop, two high school teachers from vastly different schools decided to partner and facilitate a Question Bridge style project that focuses on race, identity and stereotypes in different communities.

Students who are participating in the Question Bridge project are currently reading Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X Kendi. During the readings, students are drafting questions with their respective teachers to ask students at the other participating school. The teachers have partnered with the Gantt Center to assist and provide support during this project. After the project is recorded and complete, it will be available online for viewing.

I would like to leave you with a few questions to ponder. What is the narrative you are telling in your classroom? Do student know they have a voice and a safe place to express their thoughts and concerns? How are you building and fostering relationships during this difficult time? There is a great deal of emphasis on narratives through art.  Narratives can motivate students, shape identity and meaning and provide a place of belonging to those who feel marginalized or underrepresented.

More information about Gantt Teacher Institute can be found at

More information about Question Bridge can be found at