Google Teams Up With The Conscious Kid on a Book List to Promote Racial Equity in Classrooms

Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone is on the list, and for good reason.
Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone is on the list, and for good reason.
Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Glamour

Google has teamed up with The Conscious Kid—an organization that promotes racial equity in education—to curate a list of books and other resources aimed at helping teachers establish more inclusive classrooms and foster conversations about racism and acceptance.

The reading list groups works by grade level, and many of them have corresponding teaching guides with discussion questions, writing prompts, and other activities [PDF]. For Lupita Nyong’o’s Sulwe, which tells the story of a young girl bullied because of her dark skin, students in preschool through second grade are presented questions like “Why do you think Sulwe believes she must have lighter skin in order to make friends? What advice would you give to Sulwe?” For Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, high-schoolers are asked to create a travel brochure for the fictional country of Orïsha, “emphasizing its positive aspects and great variety.”

The online packet also contains a number of guidelines for teachers to consider when choosing their own reading material. One helpful tip, for example, is to re-evaluate the “classics” before assigning them to make sure they don’t reinforce racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, or other harmful messages. Another is to foster healthy racial identity by avoiding books “where characters of color can only succeed when conforming to white values or norms.”

It’s part of Google’s broader campaign to amplify diversity in public education by providing educators with the resources needed to do it. Last year, the company donated $5 million to DonorsChoose—a platform that teachers can use to crowdsource funds for classroom projects—for the launch of #ISeeMe, an initiative that highlights projects submitted by Black and Latinx teachers, as well as those that focus on diversity and inclusion. This year, Google pledged an additional $1 million to matching donations made to #ISeeMe projects.

You can see The Conscious Kid’s full reading list here [PDF], and learn more about contributing to #ISeeMe projects here.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Browsing Through the History of School Book Fairs

School book fairs can help create readers for life.
School book fairs can help create readers for life.
Doug Scaletta/Scholastic

Memories of grade school often involve valued teachers, friends, athletic achievements, and square slices of sheet pizza. And for millions of kids, there is another indelible bit of nostalgia: It’s the week when a school gymnasium or auditorium was temporarily given a facelift, collapsible steel shelves were wheeled in, and the area was suddenly alive with fresh reading material.

For a few days or a week, school became a place to conduct a bookworm’s business. It was all because of the school book fair.

For decades, book fairs have generated excitement among kids by disrupting their daily routine and broadening the over-familiar collection of the school library. Affordable paperbacks line shelves, with kids able to catch up on book series like Goosebumps or The Baby-Sitters Club or procure classroom accessories like glittery pens and stationery. Book fairs are the rare school event where the freedom of choice is granted to students; their opportunity to consume classics as readily available as the option of buying a new Marvel tie-in book.

Since the 1980s, the predominant name in book fairs has been Scholastic, which operates roughly 120,000 Scholastic Book Fairs annually. More than 100 million books are sold to over 35 million kids each year, with a portion of proceeds going to participating schools.

Kids are pictured reading books during a book fair
Book fairs offer kids the freedom of choice.
Doug Scaletta/Scholastic

Scholastic was born in a sewing room in 1920, when Maurice R. Robinson decided to publish a four-page high school sports magazine, The Western Pennsylvania Scholastic, for circulation in classrooms. (He used his mother’s work area as an office.) By the 1940s, Scholastic was promoting book clubs in schools. By the 1970s, they were a respected educational publisher as well as a force in entertainment. An animated version of their Clifford the Big Red Dog series was on the air. Later, Scholastic would publish two of the most successful book series of all time: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise and Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games titles.

In 1981, Scholastic purchased a regional book fair promoter, California School Book Fairs, and began to supplement their book club arm with bookselling events. Along with other companies like Educational Reading Service Book Fairs, Inc. and Book Fairs Services, Scholastic offered book titles for readers in kindergarten through sixth grade, though modern fairs often include books appropriate through eighth grade.

Then as now, the events would normally be sponsored by parent-teacher associations or school librarians, and a division of labor was involved. Scholastic and the other companies would drive the books to the school, where volunteers would set up the provided displays, handle payment, and box up the unsold books. Then Scholastic would haul away the unused inventory. Books cost between 75 cents and $3.95, with the schools getting between 20 percent and 33 percent of the gross revenue. In the 1980s, a typical fair might collect $1500.

While the school faculty appreciated the revenue and the promotion of literacy, students were less interested in the economics than the shelves of books that flaunted their unbent spines and promised a break from required reading. In both the book fairs and catalogs, volumes about boy detective Encyclopedia Brown mingled with Garfield collections and Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. Poster books of BMX bikes and joke books were in plentiful supply.

A child is pictured reading a book at a school book fair
School book fairs introduce kids to books and authors they might not have discovered anywhere else.
Doug Scaletta/Scholastic

The favored genres were binary in nature. It was said boys gravitated toward mysteries, adventures, and books about sports. Girls were thought to like books about horses, which were always well-stocked. Everyone seemed to like tie-in books that offered recognizable characters from movies or television. A Newbery Medal-winning book like Caddie Woodlawn might share space with The Supergirl Storybook.

The fairs were not without critics. Scholastic and other companies were accused of inserting just enough well-regarded books to satisfy teachers and stuffing the shelves with more questionable titles. Organizers refuted the complaint by pointing out that the low price points eliminated some of the more popular books from being stocked. More recently, there have been concerns that Scholastic is pushing merchandise like classroom items more than books, but the company insists that schools can decline to display or sell any non-reading material.

Scholastic wound up acquiring other regional book fair companies and eventually became synonymous with the events. (Another company, Follett, entered the book fair scene in 2017.) Today, Scholastic sifts through advance copies of many major children’s book releases, a group of 50 employees gathering and discussing what’s been successful in past fairs and what might be worth curating for the next one. Kids navigate shelves marked with genre labels like Picture Books, Chapter Books, Friendship Tales, Fearless, and Fun Facts. A new category, Girl Power!, was added in 2017.

The most telling evidence of the book fair’s hold on our psyche may have come in 2018, when the Junior High art gallery in Los Angeles convinced Scholastic to allow them to set up a real book fair in the gallery space. Open to kids and adults, it may have been the first school book fair in a non-academic setting, and one that undoubtedly brought visitors back to a time of slim paperback volumes, sticker books, and horse adventures.