Teaching Diverse Books

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WHY DIVERSE BOOKS ARE IMPORTANT:

If you clicked on this topic of “Teaching Diverse Books,” you already know why teaching diverse books is so important! As the educator Rudine Sims Bishop says in her famous essay “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” children (and adults) need to see themselves reflected in the books they read and also need to be able to see other experiences outside of themselves in books. Having diverse books in the classroom and as part of the curriculum is crucial, but are there additional things we, as teachers, can do to support our students’ learning, sense of self and others, and love of books?

I believe the answer is YES!

STRATEGIES FOR TEACHING DIVERSE BOOKS:

  • Discuss the Importance of Diverse Representation: Sometimes, we assign books with the assumption that students will understand the innate value of diversity, but it’s important that we talk about why some identities and communities are underrepresented or misrepresented. This means talking frankly about systemic racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of oppression. Fortunately, there are resources that can help with this kind of conversation. I would suggest the following as excellent resources:
  • We Need Diverse Books
  • “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” by Rudine Sims Bishop
  • Rich in Color
  • Cynsations
  • Highlights Foundation
  • Provide Author Information: Authors often have lots to say about the books we write, what our diverse identities mean to us, and maybe even a secret recipe (just kidding–I’ll never give away my mother’s recipe for mooncakes)! I’d suggest pointing students to “Author Notes” and “Acknowledgements” in the back of the book to get insights into why an author may have written a book and why it’s important to them. Often, authors give interviews or write blog posts about their books, and sometimes, there are short videos of authors discussing or reading from their books that you can show in class. Many authors also love to do school visits, so inviting a local author to your school can be a great option (Hit me up, Seattle-area teachers!) or Zoom visits can work well (Love doing these too)!
  • Let Students Choose the Books They Want to Read: No matter how many diverse books you assign, it’s hard (if not impossible) to find a book in which every student will see themselves. That’s why you might consider letting each student choose the book they want to read. This is where a well-stocked library with diverse books is an absolute must. Teachers and librarians are and always have been my heroes, especially now when they are fighting the good fight against censorship and book bans.

I hope you found these strategies to be useful! Please feel free to check out my School Visits page for more information and use the contact form on the home page to reach out if you’d like me to visit your school. Thanks for reading!

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