The Book Cover of Brown Girl Dreaming.

Why and How to Teach Brown Girl Dreaming

Facing History offers an overview and guide for Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming, an ideal book to teach in the middle school classroom.

Brown Girl Dreaming (2014) is Jacqueline Woodson’s celebrated coming-of-age memoir written with young readers in mind. Named one of TIME Magazine’s Best YA Books of All Time among countless other accolades, Brown Girl Dreaming recounts Woodson’s experience growing up as a young Black girl in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York during the era of Jim Crow as her sense of herself as a young woman and writer begin to take shape. While remaining grounded in her own personal and familial journey, Woodson gracefully touches upon a host of issues that continue to face the African American community, ranging from the health consequences of substandard housing to mass incarceration as they touched her own family, all written from the vantage point of herself as a child. Far from a one-note tale of woe, however, Woodson’s narrative glimmers with the abundant hope, love, and humanity that coexists with these phenomena in Woodson’s own heart, and in her circle of relatives and friends. Though her story includes themes likely to be relatable to most readers—such as feeling a lack of belonging in the place where she lives and her process of discovering her own unique brilliance in the shadow of a precocious sibling—it also highlights experiences unique to African American history, culture, and the nuances of Woodson’s own biography. This movement from universal to particular and back again makes Brown Girl Dreaming an ideal book to teach in the middle school classroom, and Facing History is offering a guide and live event with the author to help educators do just that. 

Drawing inspiration from figures including Latin American educational philosopher Paulo Freire, our resource Teaching Brown Girl Dreaming equips the educator to help the student to “read the word to read the world”⁠—that is, cultivate the skill of literary analysis with the goal of deepening their capacity to interrogate and navigate the real social landscapes in which we live. Though designed for students in grades 6 and 7, this material is easily adaptable for classrooms at higher grade levels.

Below is the table of contents which offers a glimpse of what you can expect from this resource:

Part 1: “i am born”  
Overview & Activities for Deeper Understanding 
Reading: “Where I’m From” 
Handout: “Where I’m From” Brainstorm 

Part 2: “the stories of south carolina run like rivers” 
Overview & Activities for Deeper Understanding 
Handout: Exploring Justice Anticipation Guide 
Reading: Jim Crow Laws 
Handout: Say Something Sentence Starters 
Handout: Influences on Identity 

Part 3: “followed the sky’s mirrored constellation to freedom” 
Overview & Activities for Deeper Understanding 
Handout: Storytelling Sketch to Stretch 
Handout: Read the Word, Read the World 
Handout: Keep the Discussion Alive! 

Part 4: “deep in my heart, i do believe” 
Overview & Activities for Deeper Understanding 
Handout: Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors
Handout: Keep the Discussion Alive! 

Part 5: “ready to change the world” 
Overview & Activities for Deeper Understanding 
Handout: What Is Power? Anticipation Guide 
Handout: Introducing Agency 

Summative Assessment Options 
Handout: Brown Girl Dreaming Discussion Questions


Brown Girl Dreaming will be the focal point of Facing History’s next All Community Read⁠—a recurring series of events in which Facing History staff read a significant book together and engage in ongoing dialogue about the insights it raises.

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