Diversity Through Literature
By 2050 the Census Bureau estimates that the US will be more racially and ethnically diverse than at any other time, becoming a majority-minority nation for the first time during this period.
Therefore, It is absolutely essential that our educational resources reflect the changing makeup of our classrooms to ensure that students feel welcomed and supported in an inclusive and diverse environment.
What benefits can be gained from embracing diversity in schools?
Educational professionals who create varied and vibrant resources from a wide range of cultures and countries contribute positively to their class’s world view in two important ways.
Firstly by creating a community of accepting, tolerant young people who view difference as experience and develop an appreciation of the customs and beliefs of those that are foreign to them.
Secondly, by providing representations in literature of a range of young people in the classroom, teachers enable students to find their unique identity and to develop pride in their roots and origin.
Our world is diverse, accepting and celebrating this difference prepares students for the outside world, makes the contributions of minority groups feel appreciated and recognized and adds depth and validity to classroom discussions.
Problem-solving activities become more meaningful and layered when people from different backgrounds, cultural traditions and standpoints work together to achieve a goal, we all benefit when we listen to a range of opinions, rather than stagnating in an ideological vacuum.
Our classrooms are micro-societies reflecting all of the rich tapestries of modern life, as educators, we must ensure all children feel represented, seen and supported, an excellent way to do this is to provide a comprehensive, inclusive class library.
Building a class library that celebrates diversity doesn't mean throwing out classic or classroom favorites, it simply means adding in books that represent all learners and which ensure students feel “seen”, valued and included.
It is wise to look over your collection and dispense with any titles that have become very outdated or that may marginalize students in your class.
The following list provides a selection of books for a range of age groups, all of which are excellent classroom staples to include in your diverse library:
Young Learners (Ages 3-5)
Top tips: Draw young children’s attention to pictures that show unfamiliar clothing, hairstyles or cultural traditions, talk about them as well as encouraging children to share their own experiences.
- “My World, Your World” by Melanie Walsh
- “Baby Says” by John Steptoe
- “Quinito's Neighborhood = El Vecindario de Quinito” by Ina Cumpiano.
Top Tips: Children at this age are beginning to look outside their own egocentric worlds to understand their friends and neighbours. Help them to recognize and appreciate difference all around.
- “Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children” by Sandra L Pinkney.
- “Cleversticks” by Bernard Ashley
- “Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding” by Lenore Look
Top Tips: Children can now begin to recognise differences in appearance, culture, family background and customs. Ask students to look carefully at illustrations that encourage them to ask questions and begin to think critically about the world.
- “Something From Nothing” by Phoebe Gilman
- “Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad” by Monica Edinger
- “Looking Like Me” by Walter Dean Myers
Top Tips: Students at the top of the elementary school can begin to explore issues of prejudice, discrimination and belonging. Encourage them to also reflect on their own unique identity.
- “Ninth Ward” by Jewell Parker Rhodes
- “Boys without Names” by Kashmira Sheth
- “The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond” by Brenda Woods.
Literature is a safe space to talk about diversity, students can enjoy a story, talk about the pictures and motifs, the characters and plot, whilst being immersed in another world or sometimes in their very own world which until that very moment had felt unappreciated at school. When it comes to building a more tolerant and supportive society we need to begin at school level by reflecting our multicultural communities in our classroom, we can start today, with the literature choices we share.