Winter Book Discussions - National Council of Teachers of English

We hope you were able to join some or all of the Winter Book Discussions in January and February 2022. Here are some of the resources from those discussions!

Book Discussions:

Becoming and Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers by Michelle Obama

The book discussion will include the adult and young readers editions.

Event took place January 20, 7 p.m. ET

Facilitated by

Joel Garza called roll for the first time at El Centro Community College in the fall of 1993. Currently, he is chair of the Upper School English department at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas; he is on the board of Deep Vellum Publishing; and he teaches Race and Society through Global Online Academy. The best PD of his career has been via social media, where he has grown immensely thanks to #aplitchat, #DisruptTexts, and #TeachLivingPoets. With Scott Bayer, he cofounded and cohosts #THEBOOKCHAT, a chat devoted to having brave conversations about marginalized voices and devoted to curating classroom-ready online resources for teachers eager to read deliberately. 

Julia E. Torres is a nationally recognized veteran language arts teacher-librarian in Denver, Colorado. Julia facilitates teacher development workshops rooted in the areas of antiracist education, equity and access in literacy and librarianship, and education as a practice of liberation. Julia’s work has been featured on NPR, AlJazeera’s The Stream, PBS Education, KQED’s MindShift, Rethinking Schools, Learning for Justice magazine, and many more. She is a current Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award committee member, a member of both the Book Love Foundation and Assembly for Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) board of directors, an Educolor Steering committee member, and a cofounder of #DisruptTexts.



The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson and The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones

Event took place January 27, 7 p.m. ET

Facilitated by

Lynsey Burkins is a proud educator who has worked for children for the past 18 years. She works towards creating antiracist spaces where children feel free, have agency, and know they are loved. Lynsey received her Masters Degree from The Ohio State University in Language, Literacy, and Culture. She currently serves third-grade students and presents on topics that include using literature to help students make sense of their world and literature as a vehicle to nurture the spirit and minds of students. 

Aeriale N. Johnson, she/her/we, is a Reggio-inspired, abolitionist educator. She taught public school for twenty-three years in Florida, Alaska, and California. In 2021, she transitioned from being a classroom teacher to serving as a staff developer for Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Aeriale strives to help teachers build a democratic classroom where all adults (educators and families) believe in children, allow children to bring the fullness of their humanity into the space, and deliberately relinquish their power to the children. Aeriale was recently elected to the Elementary Steering Committee. She is also a column editor for Language Arts. 

Aeriale’s blogs, articles, and essays have been published by NCTE, Heinemann, the International Literacy Association, Scholastic, School Library Journal, and ASCD. She is the author of the teachers guide for the children’s book The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, which was written by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson and illustrated by Nikkolas Smith. Aeriale is currently co-authoring a book, Possibilities of Poetry, with Clare Landrigan. 

Tonya Perry is a professor of Secondary English language arts where she also serves as the executive director and principal investigator of GEAR UP Alabama and Red Mountain Writing Project at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A tireless advocate for students and educators who are often denied a voice, she works with and for educators and communities to develop programs and initiatives that uplift historically marginalized peoples. For this work, she has been awarded a multimillion dollar grant to serve the community. In addition, she has advocated for others on numerous committees, including the NCTE Executive Board, NCTE Research Trustee Board, NCTE Diversity Taskforce, and NCTE Editorial Board. She currently is the Director for NCTE’s Cultivating New Voices Scholars of Color program. Dr. Perry has also served the nation as a 2000 National Teacher of the Year Finalist. 



Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem and The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman

Event took place January 31, 7 p.m. ET

Facilitated by

Sylvia Vardell is a professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University and teaches graduate courses in children’s and young adult literature. Vardell has published extensively, including five books on literature for children as well as over 25 book chapters and 100 journal articles. In 2020, she curated the anthology A World Full of Poems: Inspiring Poetry for Children. Learn more about her at


Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer. She has written more than 35 books for children on a wide variety of subjects, including chess (Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club) and yoga (TWIST: Yoga Poems). She is the 2021 winner of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children Award, a lifetime achievement award that is one of the highest honors a children’s poet can receive. Learn more about her at



The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Event took place February 3, 7 p.m. ET

Facilitated by

Brendan Kiely is The New York Times bestselling author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), Tradition, The Last True Love Story, and The Gospel of Winter. His most recent book is The Other Talk: Reckoning with Our White Privilege. His work has been published in over a dozen languages, and has received the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, the Walter Dean Meyers Award, and ALA’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. A former high school teacher, he is now on the faculty of the Solstice MFA Program. He watches too much basketball and reads too many books at the same time, but most importantly, he lives for and loves his wife and son.

Lisa Scherff teaches English and AP Research at the Community School of Naples. Prior to that she taught English Education at the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama. Lisa has been a member of NCTE for more than 20 years and has been involved in many capacities including as president of a state affiliate, as a member of several commissions and standing committees, in  elected positions, and as coeditor of English Education (with Leslie Rush). Most recently, she was elected to the Secondary Section Steering Committee. Her books include Student Research Done Right! A Teacher’s Guide for High School and College Classes (with Leslie Rush), International Perspectives on Teaching English in a Globalised World (with Andy Goodwyn, Louann Reid, and Cal Durrant), New Directions in Teaching English: Reimagining Teaching, Teacher Education, and Research (with Ernest Morrell), and Teaching YA Lit Through Differentiated Instruction (with Susan Groenke). 




Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Event took place February 9, 7 p.m. ET

Facilitated by

Antero Garcia is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. His work explores how technology and gaming shape learning, literacy practices, and civic identities. Prior to completing his PhD, Antero was an English teacher at a public high school in South Central Los Angeles.


Nicole Mirra is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She previously taught high school English language arts in Brooklyn, New York, and Los Angeles, California. Her research explores the intersections of critical literacy and civic engagement with youth and teachers across classroom, community, and digital learning environments. Central to her research and teaching agenda is a commitment to honoring and amplifying the literacy practices and linguistic resources that students from minoritized communities use to challenge and reimagine civic life. Her most recent book is Educating for Empathy: Literacy Learning and Civic Engagement (Teachers College Press, 2018) and she is a coauthor (with Antero Garcia and Ernest Morrell) of Doing Youth Participatory Action Research: Transforming Inquiry with Researchers, Educators, and Students (Routledge, 2015).   


We Are Not Broken by George M. Johnson

Event took place Tuesday, February 15, 7 p.m. ET

Facilitated by

Danelle Adeniji is a doctoral student at the University of North Texas and a former elementary teacher. Danelle’s research focuses on how Black queer pre-service teachers draw on their intersectional identities to impact and influence curriculum and pedagogy in educational spaces.


LaMar Timmons-Long is a vibrant educator who believes that every student deserves access to an equitable and transformative educational experience. His main work centers around ethnic studies, racial linguistics, antiracist education, intersections between literacy, social justice, and language, as well as students experiencing disabilities. LaMar teaches English in New York City, where he began his career after obtaining his Bachelor of Science in English Education, 7–12, from SUNY Buffalo State. He holds a Master of Education in Special Education and is currently finishing his advanced graduate certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Pace University. LaMar has taught middle and high school grades and serves as a student advisor. Outside of the classroom, LaMar is a professor at Pace University in the School of Education. LaMar is a proud member of NCTE, where he serves as the Secondary Rep-at Large, and a member of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee. His writing and work can be found on the NCTE blog, the #31daysBIPOC, the Educator Collaborative, and in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. A compelling and contemporary voice in the advocacy for BIPOC and LGBTQ youth, LaMar bridges pedagogy with practice, personal with professional, whether teaching students in his NYC school or presenting to teachers at national conferences. This commitment to student learning and quality education guides LaMar’s focus on the use of literature to advocate for marginalized voices and as a means of promoting social justice within the classroom.