Building a Robust, Diverse Classroom Library
The classroom library is a place for students to explore and grow as readers. However, many classroom libraries do not reflect the unique backgrounds and interests of the students who utilize them. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), about 73 percent of the characters in children’s books published in 2015 were white1.
Through books, students can learn about themselves and their peers. It is extremely important that the literature in a classroom library serves as “windows and mirrors.” Window books allow children to expand their understanding of others and gain new cultural perspectives. Mirror books, on the other hand, provide children with the opportunity to see representations of themselves and their experiences2.
Does your classroom library contain a mix of window and mirror books? Do those books accurately and authentically portray the cultures and experiences of their characters? Selecting quality literature is not a simple task. To help, our literacy classroom library experts over at Steps To Literacy has compiled a few key questions to ask yourself when selecting books to help you build a diverse classroom library full of high-quality titles!
They have also worked with us to create some specially curated diverse library sets, which you can purchase and learn more about by clicking here.
Questions to Ask When Building a Diverse Classroom Library
Does the text or its illustrations contain generalizations or stereotypes?
Never judge a book by its cover! Read through the books you are selecting for your students. Consider if the text or images depict individuals with distinctive, not stereotypical, features and traits. Even if a book shows visual depictions of diversity, the story may carry biases.
Who is the author? Does the author have a connection to the culture that is being depicted?
Authentic literature is the best literature to choose when building a diverse library. Be cautious of books written by authors who do not have any connection to the characters or experiences in the story. If the author does not have a direct connection to the culture being depicted, consider their attitudes and point of view toward the story and its characters. Check out #OwnVoices! This hashtag is great tool for finding diverse books created by authors and illustrators who share the identities of their characters.
What is the publication date of the book?
When selecting books for your classroom library, look for titles with newer publication or copyright dates. Not only are they more likely to be relevant, but they are also more likely to be quality, diverse books. According to the CCBC, the number of diverse titles published jumped from 14% in 2014 (the start of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement) to 31% in 20173.
Is the book historically, socially, and culturally accurate?
The books in your library should contain current and correct information. If the title is fiction, ensure that the characters and events are depicted accurately within the historical context of the setting and/or time period.
Does the book connect with your students and their interests?
Look for books with human characters that can relate to your students. Books should be age-appropriate and reflect your students’ experiences. Consider stories about school, community, family, and friendship!
As you choose books or evaluate your classroom library, keep these questions in mind. By filling your classroom library with authentic and diverse books, you can teach your students understanding, compassion, and empathy.
Don’t have time to sort through a bunch of books? Steps To Literacy’s team of certified educators have created some ready-to-go diverse collections for us here at S&S! Get more information on them here.
1 Huyck, D., Park Dahlen, S., & Griffin, M. B. (2016, September 14). Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 Infographic [Statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison]. Retrieved August 3, 2018, from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/picture-this-reflecting-diversity-in-childrens-book-publishing/
2Wanless, S. B., & Crawford, P. A. (2016). Reading Your Way to a Culturally Responsive Classroom. Young Children, 71(2). Retrieved August 3, 2018, from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/may2016/culturally-responsive-classroom
3Publishing 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. (2018, February 22). Retrieved August 3, 2018, from http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp