In teaching literacy courses in the College of Education, I am always thinking about the importance of examining literacy learning in our diverse world. In recent years an emphasis has been placed on the need for more diverse texts for students (Cooperative Children’s Book Council, 2015). As teacher educators, in our work to prepare future teachers for the diverse classrooms they will encounter, it is important to provide them with tools and resources for integrating diverse texts in classrooms. Rudine Sims’ seminal work (1990) on the representation of diversity in books taught us that children need texts that function as both mirrors and windows in order to embrace their own identities and to learn about the lives of others. Because of this, in our work with pre-service teachers we should strive to prepare them to engage their future students in diverse texts and to begin to explore diverse texts themselves.
February provides us with many opportunities to embrace the ideas of diverse books in K-12 classrooms and in higher education. During the month of February, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) sponsors the “National African-American Read-In” which invites schools, libraries and the community to engage in public readings that feature African-American writers. Scholastic will also sponsor “World Read Aloud Day,” a perfect opportunity to engage in the sharing of diverse books with students. For educators having trouble finding diverse texts, the website hosted by “We Need Diverse Books” not only promotes diverse books in classrooms, but also provides resources on where to find books across a range of topics including disability, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc. As we celebrate diverse books we celebrate the diversity in our students. Diverse books can open conversations that allow students to share their stories and learn from each other, creating communities of learners who value not only similarities, but our brilliant differences as well.
Dr. Christy Howard
Department of Literacy Studies, English Education, and History Education
To read more about the importance of diverse books see my article, “Black Tween Girls Building Black Girl Power: Reading Models of Agency in Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer” in the January 2017 issue of Language Arts.
Bishop, R.S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives: Choosing and Using books for the Classroom, 6(3), ix-xi.
Cooperative Children’s Book Center. (2015). Publishing statistics on children’s books about people of color and First/Native nations and by people of color and First/Native nations: Authors and illustrators. Madison, WI: Cooperative Children’s Book Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved from http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp