I just want to start out today by saying how grateful and humbled I am that you've given some time to sticking with this series. Now more than ever, putting books that accurately reflect our society in the hands of young readers is something we can do educate, inspire, and initiate change. Thank you for your commitment to doing this. (Insert huge hug from me!).
In this, the third installment of the Diversify Your Collection series, we're building on all that we've talked about so far regarding beefing up your classroom library. And why I say "beefing up," I'm talking about adding more diverse and inclusive literature. As a quick review, Post 1 dove into all the benefits diverse and inclusive lit brings to the classroom. Post 2 talked about ways to assess your current collection and identify gaps. And how here we are at Post 3, looking at who is actually doing the reading.
Recently, I interviewed a teacher who works with underprivileged kids at a local school dedicated solely to that purpose. In our conversation about diverse literature, she said to me, "People are supposed to find themselves in books." This statement, more than any other I've comes across, sums up the importance of representation in literature. Kids need to be able to identify with a book in some way, some way that encourages possibility instead of reinforcing stereotypes.
Creating a diverse and inclusive collection takes into consideration a host of factors. Gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, culture, religion, dis- or different abled, socioeconomic background, and language are just some of the varied elements that make up a comprehensive library. And that doesn't even include reading level or interest! It also takes into account the way in which diverse characters are represented (we'll take a closer look at this in a future post). It's not enough to have a diverse face on the cover; you need to look at how that character is represented in the text itself.
This may sound incredibly intimidating, and you're already overwhelmed. But take heart! Here are three simple steps you can take to start thinking of your library as it relates to your readers:
Start looking at the faces of your kids and comparing them with the books in your room. Do they match up? Can they find a similar face in your collection? If not, start looking and researching for authors and titles (my next post will give a comprehensive list of sources for diverse and inclusive lit).
Pay attention to what kids are currently taking off the shelves. Are there books that haven't been touched in years? Why? What books fly off the shelves? What books do you have (or need) multiple copies of? Do they have something in common? Are there other books that may represent similarly?
Give a Reader Interest Survey. Ask your kids, especially at the beginning of the year, what interests them, and then order books that match the interest and some aspect of the kid. One teacher I talked to actually orders titles from Amazon right as her kids recommend them. If you're looking for a solid Reader's Interest Survey, you can find one here, as part of a larger unit (disclosure - I wrote in it conjunction with Teacher's Discovery.)
Now you might be saying to yourself, "Leslie, my library does reflect my classroom. I have few diverse students in my community." Keep in mind that representation works two ways: 1.) It affirms who we (readers) are and what we experience as individuals, and 2.) It exposes us to different ways of thinking and being in order to expand our experience and understanding. It's that second benefit that advocates for a more diverse collection, even if the make-up of your classroom tends to be homogenous.
Books show us who we are and who we want to be. They allow us to learn more about ourselves as well as the world around us. They equip us to deal with reality. Seeing ourselves in a book is one of the best, safest ways for us to see ourselves in the world.
I'm so grateful for the support of you loyal readers. Thanks so much for sharing and bringing awareness! Follow Story Trekker on Facebook. Get innovative resources for teaching diverse and inclusive novels and follow the Story Trekker store on Teachers Pay Teachers.