Liberation Literature and Counter-narratives

Exploring Texts Through Read Alouds
Grade Level


This strategy exposes students to literature that places out-group identities at the center of the curriculum.


Before, during and after reading


Children need to hear narratives that counter common negative stereotypes or omissions about people based on some identity characteristic (e.g. race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, economic status). Liberation literature consciously and consistently reinforces these counter-narratives. The use of liberation literature ensures that texts used in the classroom are mirrors for all children. Liberation literature and counter-narratives are especially important tools to help young children develop understanding about different social identities and groups of people.


  1. Choose several Perspectives central texts that embody a variety of voices and perspectives. Make sure that texts represent both the experiences of children in your classroom and those not present.
  2. Put students in small groups. Let them (with the assistance of adults as needed) explore the texts—author, authenticity of the story, characters in the text, time period text was produced, etc.
  3. As a class, fill out a group representation chart for each text.

English language learners

Representing multiple identity groups in the curriculum affirms English language learners’ membership in the class community. The use of a graphic organizer or manipulative during learning activities aids overall language acquisition and reading comprehension development and facilitates students’ ability to fully participate.

Connection to anti-bias education

Liberation literature: 1) celebrates the strengths of the family as a cultural institution and vehicle for survival; 2) bears witness to people’s struggle for freedom, equality and dignity; 3) nurtures children by reflecting back to them, both visually and verbally, the beauty and competencies of their cultural groups; and 4) situates itself, through language and content, within specific and relevant literary and cultural contexts.1 While liberation literature and counter-narratives support all four dimensions of the Anti-bias Standards (Identity, Diversity, Justice, Action), they are particularly useful for teaching in the Identity and Diversity domains where students can experience windows to the array of perspectives in the world. Students need to hear, appreciate and understand new and different perspectives. Liberation literature brings those various perspectives to the center of the classroom curriculum and discussion so that students can develop the language necessary to talk about their identity as well as diversity around them.

Abolitionists William Still, Sojourner Truth, William Loyd Garrison, unidentified male and female slaves, and Black Union soldiers in front of American flag

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