Customer Reviews: The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children
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on November 30, 2013
I used this book for a Graduate School paper. It was a very interesting book with real life stories. It was easy to read with a lot of great ideas for teaching not just African American children but all children.
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on March 30, 2016
This book was mentioned in a staff development, I am a junior high teacher, I bought a copy. It is an interesting read and very informative and provocative.

One of the things which I was most taken by was the level at which it was written. Gloria Ladson-Billings is an excellent author and has edited this book extremely well. Quite often when I read books with similar content to this, I find myself frustrated by the authors voice changing from a third person to first person experiences, but trying to pass them off as third person. Gloria Ladson-Billings uses distinct textual transitions to keep this from becoming muddled and confusing or boring.

I especially appreciate that she doesn't try to pass her opinions off as fact - again - she has written this book extremely well.
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on July 3, 2014
I read this book for my Critical Pedagogy class (a class for social justice). I’m heading back to school to become a teacher. I rate this book 4 stars and I would recommend it to anyone who works with youth. Ladson-Billings writes about an extensive study she conducted with the purpose of identifying what methodologies have been most successful in helping African American students achieve academic success. In general, the book is full of amazing teaching strategies and inspiring stories. One of the main focuses though is what she calls culturally relevant teaching. I love the principles of this pedagogy and find that it fits in quite well with my own teaching philosophies. According to Ladson-Billings, culturally relevant teaching “is a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.” Throughout the book, she focuses on African American students and their teachers. Although she doesn’t explicitly speak of other ethnicities, I assume that much of what she writes be relevant and applicable in a general multicultural school setting. I truly enjoyed reading about successful teaching stories strategies but I began the book by thinking she was going to emphasize a clearer strategy of high quality education that minority students will best benefit from… but I finished the book feeling like this was never explicitly stated. I guess for me, I truly believe that ALL students will benefit from the use of culturally relevant teaching. I still gave it 4 stars because the stories are inspiring and, as I said, culturally relevant teaching and critical pedagogy are important in general. In the end, I would recommend this book to anyone who works with youth, but I just felt like I had to sift through the stories a bit to find the anticipated seeds of wisdom.
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on December 17, 2011
I read this book for a Nature of the Learner course I took Columbia International University. In Dr. Ladson-Billings' second edition of The Dreamkeepers (2009), she revisits eight teachers who were interviewed and observed in the first edition (1994). 15 new teachers who are examples of great teaching are also introduced in the afterword. The stories of all of the teachers take place in predominantly African American school districts. The basic premise of the book is to show that culturally relevant teaching is a matter of teachers bringing out the different strengths of students in the classrooms. Each teacher that Dr. Ladson-Billings studied focused on three central things in their teaching - a strong focus on student learning, developing cultural competence, and cultivating a sociopolitical awareness in the students.

The Dreamkeepers consists of seven chapters and is 225 pages when including the two appendices (Dr. Ladson-Billings' methodology and the context of the study), 14 pages of notes, the index, and 21 study questions. I do not find The Dreamkeepers to be a riveting read, but that is a common theme in a number of my book reviews of this type. I do think this book is important for African American teachers and teachers of African American students and can certainly benefit anyone in the teaching profession.
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on December 28, 2009
Although this book focuses on a familiar theme in educational circles, that of how to reach African-American children in school, it focuses on a variety of areas where educators should pay attention. It does not conclude that only African-American teachers can teach African-American children. On the contrary, author Gladson-Billings highlights teachers from different ethnic backgrounds. Her thesis is not revolutionary, but challenging - teachers need to teach in culturally relevant ways. This book is a good compliment to works by Sonia Nieto and Lisa Delpit. New and old teachers can appreciate this work!
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on July 10, 2010
The book is one of the best ethnographic studies I've read based on African Americans so far. Ladson-Billings goes even as far to say that some people "reduce research findings to individual idiosyncracies" (p. 14) implying that there is a bigger picture that is not observed enough. This statement is kudos from a quality researcher! What tends to turn me off from the book is a particular part of the study itself and some of the results discussed of the ethnographic comparisons. In one portion of the study, she compares an inexperienced WM teacher in a more suburban, better off school, to an experienced BF teacher in a poor, urban district. (We will assume experienced is "5+ years experience" which I believe is what was implied for this term for this particular text.) I felt the comparison was more apples to oranges rather than being able to generalize a broad statement about how culture does or does not matter.

The tone of the book gets to the point where it feels like only the black race is in need, but any minority in any country has different sets of needs. While I would not expect each of these needs to be researched in one such book, in at least one or a few cases, blacks and latinos are lumped together. What about Asians, Muslims, minority races in foreign countries, or possibly even subsets or "subsets" or the races?

Her Appendix A and Appendix B help enhance the book. People whom also stood out to Ladson-Billings, but whom could not be included in the meat of the book itself were added. This was a wonderful idea!

What I like about this book is that is gives one ideas on how to work with a population where the black culture takes over. One thing I don't like is that the tone makes is sound like these cases are definitely common and not necessarily exceptionally hard to enact. For instance, choosing to not follow the curriculum guideline to battle with administration and risk your job this way is a teacher's choice or a group's choice, but the book's tone seems to imply that it is a duty for a teacher to do something like this. Also, inviting students to one's home and giving out a personal cell phone number- while I think this is a great idea, I think in too many cases, this kind of contact would be abused and not used properly. This books asks all teachers to give away their livelihoods in the sense that a future population will benefit that could otherwise affect you and others later on in life. While this is an understandable request, I don't consider it a fair request. Sometimes, I sense the book makes it seem like we can all be dreamkeepers, and this is not fair or true. The people who are described as dreamkeepers deserve their titles every bit, but they made these sacrifices within their own lives because they felt it was the right thing to do and they were in a situation where they could make it work. A person who does not produce results or have a certain amount of authority or good networking, even if that person does all the right things to become like one of the dreamkeepers described, doesn't necessarily mean they can keep their jobs or easily find another one. Read this book with a lot of heart, but a lot of caution too!!

There's a book in which I can't remember the title, but I think it has the words "cultural crisis" in the title and it points out an interesting racist situation described in a suburb of PA involving a policeman, researcher, and a visitor. In another example, it points out Asians and how even though they are stereotyped as the "successful" ones, most of your CEOs are not Asians (for now?) The book was copyrighted 2005 at the time I read it. Books like the one I'm trying to describe help support why the dreamkeeper book is a bit off for me.
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on July 6, 2013
I am returning to teaching and was enouraged to read this book. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to utilizing many of the techniques and approaches in the book!
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on June 25, 2014
While I don't agree with everything in the book, I was extremely inspired by it. It's one I will keep and review when it's time for me to set up and plan for my first classroom!
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on April 27, 2013
Fabulous book for teachers! Inspirational as well as informative for bettering education for all of our students! I really loved it.
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on January 18, 2011
I read this book for my Literacy class, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it greatly. The book is an ethnographic study of eight teachers who were respected in the community for being successful teachers of African American children. Instead of viewing African American children as problems in schools, Dr. Ladson-Billings wants to highlight teachers who are able to bring their students to rise above the status quo and achieve high proficiency. Major themes of this book are respect, community, and culturally relevant pedagogy.

I rate this book 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who works with children/teens. I learned a lot and am newly inspired to be a better teacher.
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