Dr. Gholdy Muhammad Brings Joy to Education

Leyla with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad (left) and Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul at the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan 

On January 24, Dr. Gholnescar (Gholdy) Muhammad, a renowned educator and author, discussed her latest book with an audience of New York City teachers. The book is called Unearthing Joy: A Guide to Culturally and Historically Responsive Curriculum and Instruction (Scholastic Professional, 2023). 

Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul, also an educator and author, interviewed Muhammad about her book. They spoke to teachers at an event at the New York Public Library (NYPL) in Midtown Manhattan. The program was hosted by Scholastic Inc. and the New York City Department of Education.  

Unearthing Joy is a sequel to Muhammad’s first book, Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework (Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2020). Both books offer an instructional model that celebrates the joy and genius in each child.

In her work, Muhammad conveys the need to provide learning materials that ensure children of color see themselves represented positively. “Black joy is really important,” the author has said, “because of a history of misrepresentation, underrepresentation, oppression, violence, [and] racism.” 



Before Muhammad addressed the audience, I had a chance to talk with her. I asked what inspired her to write Unearthing Joy. “My love and passion for education,” Muhammad said.

An associate professor of language and literacy at Georgia State University, Muhammad worked for several years as a classroom teacher, among other roles in education. She believes, she said, in the “genius and brilliance of teachers and children.” She also highlights “the need for our education system to [strive to] be better and better.”

Muhammad told the assembled teachers that “we still have disparities, low proficiencies, and mental-health issues” because the focus in schools is often solely on skills. Educators also need to help children “build identity,” she argued, and “understand, question, and disrupt oppression.”

Muhammad said that once kids know who they are, and that they can make a difference, they will experience “a sustained happiness.” She added that “joy is why we have schools in the first place.”

Muhammad told the educators that she hopes Unearthing Joy will inspire them to “teach with joy.” She believes that teachers play a vital role in society because they help students learn and grow. Children, she added, “each have something beautiful and special to give to this world.” 

Photo courtesy of Scholastic Kids Press