First of all, my blog platform switched up its format, and I have mixed feelings about it. Actually, I'm harboring a fiery rage toward it right now, but I'm sure it will pass. I'm sorry if you hate it too. We're all doing the best we can.
Second...yesterday I did something I almost NEVER do - I ordered books from Amazon. I know that doesn't seem so weird, especially given our quarantine circumstances, but you guys...I live one block from my public library and ALWAYS get my books there. Since things have shut down, I've been reading only resources (obviously) only, and I think it is actually bothering me. I ordered five titles and got tears in my eyes when I though about holding them. That was probably too much information. Oh well.
Thirdly (and I hate it when people number their points in writing, but I believe my brain is honestly starting to turn to mush from the lack of human interaction, so...sigh), I can't wait to dive into this series with you all! As we start, I want to make one thing clear: I am not an expert here. I am researching, learning, and evolving as I go. From my experience and education, I think this is an important topic, and I want to arm you with as much information as I can, but I will never claim to "know it all."
When we talk about "diversifying your collection" (the name of this blog series in case you missed last week's post) my goal is to get you thinking about what books live in your library (personal or classroom), how they got there, what they're promoting, and potentially what they're missing. Think of this as the beginning of a conversation you'll be having with yourself over the next several weeks...because honestly, who else are you going to be talking to at this point?
But seriously, all joking aside, curating a diverse and inclusive book collection is important. Books represent an opportunity to experience life in a way that transcends our own personal circumstances. A great equalizer of sorts, through literature, we travel to distant places, see the world through different eyes, and get an inside look into the thoughts and lives of people we may never know in real life. Books offer escape, education, imagination, freedom, creativity, analysis, reflection, strategy, and fun.
An article from the Schools Catalogue Information Service website entitled "The importance of multicultural literature" summarizes the benefits of diverse and inclusive books into these categories:
promotes empathy and unity
promotes cross-cultural friendships
helps students look critically at the world
encourages identity formation
An article from On Our Minds, a blog run by Scholastic, quotes one reader as saying, "Books have the power to encourage students while at the same time enlighten other readers of the truths about lives they don't live." (Jennifer H.) A student who sees herself represented through literature in an accurate, respectful, and relevant way feels the power of possibility. It reinforces the positive view of herself she already possesses, and encourages a feeling of acceptance into the larger society. For another student, experiencing an accurate, respectful, and relevant portrayal of a character different from himself breaks down stereotypes, weakens generalizations, and begins to weave a connective thread between the reader and the "other" person.
It matters. Thoughtfully putting together a diverse and inclusive library extends far beyond just collecting your favorite books. It means introducing the children in your home or classroom to the potential, value, and importance inherent in all people. It means laying a foundation upon which to build understanding. It opens up the world.
I want to encourage you to dig into this on your own. Diverse and inclusive lit matters to me. It's something about which I feel passionate. Maybe you do too, or maybe you don't. Below are a couple articles I found helpful in better understanding the move to diversify libraries and book collections. Many of these articles also have reading lists of their own, so you can do as deep as you want to. From here, we'll talk about the practical steps you can take to improve your personal or classroom libraries. Stay tuned for next week when we start talking about what's missing from your collection.
Resources and articles:
School Library Journal: Can Diverse Books Save Us? In a divided world, librarians are on a mission.
Ed. Harvard Ed. Magazine: Hooked on Classics - The push to modernize reading lists is challenging traditional definitions of literature.
Schools Cataglogue Information Service (SCIS): The importance of multicultural literature
The Lantern (an Ohio State student-published website):Diversity in literature is essential to student learning.
Eastern Michigan University (thesis paper): The Effects of Multicultural Literature in the Classroom
Education Week: Teachers Push for Books with More Diversity, Fewer Stereotypes
On Our Minds (Scholastic blog): 14 readers tell us why diverse books are so important
National Council of Teachers of English: Students Have a Right and a Need to Read Diverse Books