Life Stories for Black Youth: Exploring Cultural Heritage through Storytelling

Period of Performance: 04/05/2009 - 10/04/2010


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

3-C Institute for Social Development
DURHAM, NC 27713
Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): There are 10 million Black children under the age of 18 in the United States. These children face serious academic and behavioral health disparities compared with their White counterparts (Breland-Noble, 2004;USDHHS, 2001). Culturally-relevant programs are needed to decrease behavioral health disparities among Black youth (Carter, 1996;Tillman &Shirley, 2002). Specifically, research suggests that acceptance of Black students and integration into the school community are key environmental factors that promote positive functioning across domains (e.g., Grieg 2003;Carter et al., 1997;Smith et al., 1999). Interventions that celebrate Black cultural heritage, promote acceptance of diversity, and educate students about similarities among cultures can effectively engender an integrated, accepting school environment, thereby fostering behavioral health benefits (Coard, Wallace, Stevenson, &Miller, 2004;Roscigno, 1998). The proposed innovative product, LifeStories for Kids: Black Cultural Heritage Series (LS-BCH), is a school- based curriculum for upper elementary children focusing on Black heritage and culture featuring professional Black storytellers. The complete story library will include both traditional (e.g., stories from the Underground Railroad) and experiential (e.g., acculturation) stories in order to increase self-esteem and school engagement among Black students, as well as promote an integrative, positive overall school climate. Phase I of this project will address two specific aims: (1) Development of a curriculum prototype i.e., Professional Manual (administrative guidelines, lesson scripts, activities), DVD featuring a Black professional storyteller, parent handouts, and web resources, and (2) Feasibility testing of the prototype product (i.e., detailed product evaluation by school professionals involved in curriculum adoption and focus groups with students in grades 3-5 and their parents). During Phase II, the prototype will be revised and expanded based on Phase I findings to include four additional Black storytellers and all accompanying lesson scripts and materials. A randomized treatment-control research study examining changes in children's academic, social-emotional, and behavioral functioning at school, as well as the overall school climate, will also be completed in Phase II. The efforts of the Phase I and Phase II projects will result in an evidence-based, universal, cultural heritage school-based curriculum for children in grades 3-5, LifeStories for Kids: Black Cultural Heritage Series (LS-BCH), which uses the engaging and powerful educational format of storytelling to share stories of Black cultural heritage that, along with accompanying lessons and materials, promote cultural acceptance and integration of Black students into the school community. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Data consistently point to an achievement gap between Blacks and Whites across the nation. Culturally- relevant curricula that speak to key environmental and social factors associated with acceptance and integration into the school community are needed in order to effectively address the disparities faced by Black youth. There is a pressing need for culturally-relevant programs that foster cultural acceptance and integration into the school community. LS-BCH addresses this need and is consistent with Healthy People 2010: Understanding and Improving Health, which emphasizes "a design, implementation, and evaluation process that accounts for special issues for select population groups (ethnic and racial)" (USDHHS, 2000). LS-BCH represents a culturally relevant product to address increasing demographic diversity and the need for culturally competent interventions to help eliminate ethnic and racial behavioral health disparities. The proposed research is also consistent with recommendations by the Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health (USDHHS, 2001). Specifically, the report recommends "tailoring services to meet the needs of all Americans,including racial and ethnic minorities". Universal programs (i.e., applied equally with all children in a school) are particularly needed because they can be applied to every classroom within schools and can affect change at both the individual and systems levels (more cost-effective to implement). Findings from this research will advance our understanding of how to successfully address the behavioral health disparities of Black youth through school-based curricula.