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Years ago, the idea of “the American Dream” entered the national dialogue as an ideal and achievable goal. It represents the notion that in the United States of America, everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and prosper, regardless of class or origins, with hard work and determination. In subsequent years, while people continue to believe in and aspire to achieve “the American Dream,” transcending social barriers that may operate elsewhere, the dream remains more of an ideal than a reality for many. This audio story collection explores the theme of the American Dream through the perspectives of various individuals, inviting consideration of how the dream manifests in reality for people of different backgrounds.
In the USA in 2019, 23 million Americans identified as having Asian or Pacific Islander roots. They represent connections to many of the 61 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, each with a unique history and culture. As a result, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is very diverse, from how they personally identify, to the religions they practice, to the food they eat. Yet, despite their differences, they share many experiences. AAPI people have been in the territory that has become the U.S. since the 16th century, and they share rich, intertwined histories including both triumphs and persecution. This audio story collection explores a selection of stories relating to AAPI history, experience, and identity. Listen to learn more about a range of topics, including how different communities celebrate prominent holidays, how individuals have developed their identities, and how AAPI people have experienced prejudice and racism in the United States.
Those who identify as Black or African American make up just over thirteen percent of the U.S. population, and their stories are a valuable asset to American culture. This community’s influence is evident across a wide variety of fields, including politics, agriculture, medicine, literature, sports, fashion, comedy, and music. We celebrate revolutionary historic Black heroes like Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr., and contemporary ones like Simone Biles and Barack Obama because they represent the ideals of the American dream. In these figures, we see resilience and ingenuity because a history of inequality has not stopped Black people from working to achieve personal success and social progress. There are many other stories of lesser known individuals whose experiences also both inform and reflect American society. This audio story collection features stories of Black people whose success and struggles are a reflection of our country’s values, and its rich and complex history.
The modern Black Lives Matter movement continues the legacy of the 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement. In the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others led Black civil rights activists and their allies to take nonviolent action in the fight for voting rights, an end to segregation, and living wages. They marched, participated in sit-ins and boycotts, and traveled to register Black voters. Despite violent opposition, their efforts led to legislative victories that promoted a more equal society. Twenty-first century police brutality and discontent with systemic racial inequality has fueled new generations to protest civil rights violations and work for change through the Black Lives Matter movement. Though viral videos, online organizational efforts, and non-traditional leadership make today’s civil rights movement different from that of the past, the Black Lives Matter movement’s worldwide visibility and record-breaking protest attendance suggest that its demands for racial equity may be just as revolutionary. This audio story collection features stories about the events, efforts, and people involved in both the historic and contemporary Black civil rights movements.
Slavery began in the United States in 1619 when the first African slave ship arrived. Although Congress outlawed the slave trade in 1808, domestic slave trading continued, and the population of enslaved people grew to nearly 4 million by 1860. The enslaved people’s brutal experiences during the transatlantic slave trade and in homes and plantations throughout the U.S. continued until the 13th amendment was passed in 1865. During the reconstruction period between 1863 and 1877, the U.S. government took steps to integrate formerly enslaved people into society and reunify the nation after the Civil War; however, the reconstruction process was difficult, and some may say unfinished. This audio story collection features stories about slavery and reconstruction, including narratives of enslaved people and their involvement in early U.S history, important figures of the abolitionist movement, efforts toward reparation, and life for free black people after emancipation.
A coming-of-age story in literature (also known as a Bildungsroman) focuses on the personal transformation of a young character growing up and learning life lessons along the way. Well-read novels such as Jane Eyre, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Kite Runner are classic examples. The protagonist typically experiences a loss of innocence along with personal growth and develops a deeper understanding of the complexities of adult life. Many real-life stories also follow a similar arc of self-realization and personal development. Most of the stories in this audio story collection feature teens describing their lives, their challenges, and their triumphs and they grow up in a complicated world.
Millions of years ago, Earth and its inhabitants looked very different than they do today. Long before people drove cars or invented electricity, Earth was home to early humans, or Neanderthals, who used stone tools, cooked over fires, and hunted and gathered food. Large mammals, including woolly mammoths, saber tooth tigers, and giant sloths, roamed the land. While there exist no written records of these events, fossils and artifacts, along with advanced technology, allow scientists to piece together details about prehistoric life and the origins of humans. This collection features the discoveries of archaeologists, anthropologists, geologists, and others who bring to light the mysteries of prehistoric Earth and the lives of our earliest human ancestors.
Living creatures can be found in every habitat on Earth, from oceans, deserts, and rainforests to prairies, caves, and urban backyards. Animals have managed to survive in these varied climates and conditions through adaptation – the process of changing as a species over time to become well suited to the environment. Sometimes these changes take place slowly, over many generations, as more successful animals survive and pass their traits to their offspring. Other times, a quickly changing habitat forces animals to make swift behavioral adaptations in order to survive. This collection showcases different types of animals – insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, marsupials, and even humans – and the adaptations that have helped them succeed.
Like humans, animals engage in certain behaviors for reasons of basic survival – to nourish, avoid predators, and reproduce – as well as to socialize and even play. This collection opens a window into the variety of behaviors that help animals survive and thrive. There are stories of dolphins that learn important skills from their friends, bumblebees and spiders that play tricks to protect themselves from predators, and a story filled with the sounds of creatures – gorillas, rats, and parrots – laughing. Listen to hear about the surprising and ingenious behaviors that help animals thrive in their environments.
Biographies open windows into the lives of people who have made an impact on the world. Some of the people featured in this audio story collection have achieved excellence in sports, business, politics, science, or technology. Others stand out for their exceptional public service or desire to help those in need. Still others have sparked social change through activism or showed strength in the face of enormous challenges. Their stories illuminate different times and places, offering new perspectives to listeners. They reveal the many paths one might take, and the choices one might make, to achieve success. And they suggest that the qualities needed to accomplish great things – curiosity, creativity, passion, persistence – reside in all of us. Listen to learn about individuals representing many areas of human life whose stories will amaze, instruct, and inspire.
The study of Earth and space covers a wide range of topics including stars, moons, the atmosphere, geology, weather systems, and so much more. Even though scientists have been studying these phenomena for thousands of years, there are still new discoveries happening every day. The study of space, or astronomy, can help answer some long standing questions about new planets and black holes. The study of Earth’s tectonic plates and weather patterns can help predict future natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes. As technology advances, scientists are able to learn more about the Earth and the solar system than ever before. This audio collection highlights some of these exciting new discoveries and some of the ongoing unsolved mysteries as well.
Humans depend on the natural world to sustain them – for food, water, and the oxygen they breathe. But the way humans interact with the environment can sometimes have detrimental effects on the health of the Earth. This collection showcases stories about environmental problems facing humans such as a warming climate, more extreme weather, and rising pollution. It also highlights the ingenious and hopeful solutions people have developed to address these challenges, like feeding seaweed to cows to reduce methane gas and substituting bugs for meat at the dinner table. The stories in this collection can promote awareness of today’s environmental issues and empower students to help address them.
What does it take to be a ballerina? Why would a scientist collect poop? How might a Black, female police officer feel about the state of policing today? No two jobs require the same set of skills and interests. This elementary collection features the voices of workers as they describe various aspects of their jobs, including why they chose their work, what tasks their job requires, and what it takes to be successful. These stories detailing the passion many workers feel toward their jobs, as well as the teamwork and determination they bring to the workplace, will open students’ minds to some of the many possible career paths ahead of them.
This collection of stories addresses topics relevant to social and emotional learning (SEL) for younger students. The stories feature themes of perseverance, coping with life’s challenges, and learning how to be kind to oneself and to others, for example. Collectively, the stories touch upon key SEL competencies and address skills such as managing emotions, setting and achieving positive goals, empathizing with others, maintaining positive relationships, and making responsible decisions. From a story about survivors of extreme hardships in Sudan to the tale of a mouse that’s being teased by his friends, these stories inspire listeners to explore social and emotional development and wellness in a variety of contexts.
Every culture around the world has its own unique set of holidays and traditions. Some holidays commemorate significant events in a country’s history, while others are rooted in religion and faith. While holidays differ in many ways from one culture to the next, they all represent a time for people to gather, share stories, eat food, and uphold traditions. Learning about the holidays celebrated around the world builds understanding of the beliefs, rituals, and practices across cultures. This audio collection highlights holidays celebrated in the U.S. and beyond, with stories that can deepen understanding of each holiday's special meaning.
The power of the human connection can turn small acts of kindness, courage, or friendship into life-changing events. This audio story collection explores the potential effects of seemingly simple human interactions on others, illustrating that these exchanges are not really simple at all, but rather they can ripple through people’s lives in ways that may have lasting impact. Together, the stories in this collection demonstrate that people are linked by their need to make meaning in their lives through relationships with others. Across many different contexts, the intersection of individual lives can significantly influence their trajectories.
The Latino/Hispanic community represents a significant portion of the U.S. population and continues to grow. Its diverse members hail from a wide variety of countries of origin where the Spanish language is spoken. Whether community members identify as Latino, Latina, Latinx, Hispanic, Chicano, by nationality, by ethnicity, or otherwise, their stories are part of the American story. This audio story collection highlights the voices and experiences of Hispanic people in the U.S., including documented and undocumented immigrants, as well as people whose families have been U.S. citizens for generations. They capture cultural traditions like celebrating a quinceañera, accomplishments like working on the Mars rover or winning a prestigious scholarship, and emotions surrounding separation from or reunification with family members during the course of immigration. Listen to these stories for a sampling of Latino culture, history, and perspectives on identity and the American experience.
The LGBTQ+ civil rights movement started in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, where riots were held in protest of a police raid. This uprising paved the way for an ongoing fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, whose members have experienced prejudice, discrimination, harrassment, and violence based on who they are. This audio story collection highlights the positive work of the LGBTQ+ community, advocates, and allies who have stood up and taken action to fight for equality and liberation. These stories address policy issues such as legalizing same-sex marriage and protecting the rights of LGBTQ workers, as well as voicing perspectives on topics such as growing up gay or using gender-neutral pronouns. This audio collection can help listeners feel connected to the LGBTQ+ community and empowered to speak up as members or allies.
People have lived on the land that is now the U.S. for thousands of years, many of them Native Americans belonging to over 600 different tribes. Over time, the Native population has drastically decreased and endured significant hardship. However, Native Americans continue to persevere and remain an integral part of the American population today. It is important to learn about people who lived on the continent before Columbus arrived, their history on North American land, and how they have fought for the survival and prosperity of their culture. This audio story collection features a sampling of stories focused on Native American identity, culture, and experience, past and present.
The path to success is not always smooth, and sometimes society, nature, or chance circumstances can create hurdles that appear insurmountable. This audio story collection explores various examples of people facing adversity who persist in the face of significant challenges and persevere to reach their goals. Rather than giving up or losing hope, even when triumph seems unlikely, the protagonists of these stories exhibit determination, persistence, and hard work as they pursue their aspirations. These stories of individual journeys of accomplishment, full of twists and turns, speak to the power of perseverance, no matter what obstacles threaten to block the way.
Fear is a powerful motivator. As a basic animal instinct, it can help to protect people from danger, but it can also inspire behavior that is harmful. Fear manifests in many ways, and it can spread quickly and easily. Fear can be used as a tool to abuse power through exclusion, intimidation, or force. The embers of natural anxiety can be fanned into flames of irrational fear, driving people to act in ways that hurt themselves or others. A hint of fear can also be exciting, and many people seek amusement that offers the opportunity to vicariously experience the thrill of danger. This audio story collection includes tales that illustrate the power of fear in a range of circumstances, including its origins and its consequences.
Justice is not a destination, but a journey of struggle to right societal wrongs. This audio story collection features examples from recent history of quests for justice by many different groups in a variety of contexts. These stories explore what justice might entail, and, more often, what the absence of a just society means for the daily lives of those who have been oppressed and marginalized. These stories span multiple countries, decades, and causes, but the common threads tying them together are the shared struggles and the importance of advocacy by and on behalf of people suffering injustice of any kind.
A person’s identity has many facets, and it develops over time. For example, one’s interests, personality, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, politics, and nationality all influence one’s identity. In certain contexts, particular aspects of one’s identity may be more prominent, while in other situations, people may feel pressure to hide parts of who they are. Experiences shape one’s identity, and identity inevitably shapes one’s experiences. This audio story collection focuses on individuals who feel conflict among aspects of their identities. They may be torn between who they are and who others want them to be. Ultimately, by embracing their own personal stories and the complexity of their identities, these figures ultimately come to accept themselves for who they are and make deliberate choices about who they want to be.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is essential to students’ growth, well-being, and success, both academically and personally. CASEL defines SEL as learning to “understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” These stories feature the voices of people who are working to develop these important life skills in a variety of circumstances, from being teased in a school hallway to sitting in a prison cell to rowing across the frigid Drake Passage. Their reflections on the challenges and benefits of actively grappling with the everyday dilemmas of being human are heartening, illuminating, and inspiring.