Over the summer my son, a rising first grader, read one book each week. While he read to me this morning, he kept stopping to comment on how different characters looked like certain friends. The book he was reading is called Next Stop: Second Grade! It’s a cute book about the concerns different boys and girls have about entering a new grade level.
Finally I asked him, “Have you seen anyone that looks like you?”
“No.” He replied.
“How does that make you feel?”
“Well, kind of sad. How do I know that I will feel good? I don’t think anyone will explain how I will feel when I’m going to go to second grade.”
“I see. Well, let’s look at the cover of the book,” I replied. “Do you see anyone who looks like you?” I saw a little brown boy and assumed my son would pick out that child.
Instead he said, “No, Mommy. I don’t.”
So, I pointed to the brown boy and said, “What about him? Does he look like you?”
“Ok? Describe someone who looks like you.”
“He would have short hair like me, light brown skin, and a round face.”
I smiled at my innocent boy. “I see.”
As a classroom teacher, coach/consultant, and certainly as a parent, I pride myself on creating spaces that are culturally responsive. Diverse. Inclusive. I realize that every face, every race, every religion won’t be represented all the time, but how can we try?
So, what about me, teacher?
An important part of creating a classroom environment where students thrive is making them feel like they belong. This requires intentional teaching: being intentional about texts you choose to use in the classroom. A couple of great places to start are the classroom library, read alouds, and novel studies. Ask yourself three questions about the text you will include.
1. Is this a mirror text? For which students?
2. Is this a window text? For which students?
3. Is this a map text? For which students?
Asking these three questions is a great way to be intentional about the text you are choosing to use in your classroom. Taking these three questions to grade level and department meetings continues the conversation beyond your classroom.
Concerned that you need new books, but don’t have the funds? Here are a few solutions:
- Do a classroom library swap with another teacher.
- Borrow books from the school or local library.
- Read eBooks. Sites like Planet eBooks, Open Library, and Open Culture are good places to start.
- We are Teachers has also compiled a great list! Check it out.
Being intentional in all of our teaching practices shows the students how much we care. It shows that coming to school is more than just textbooks, test prep, and teachers talking.
As a mother, I pride myself on knowing my children well. As a diversity and inclusion practitioner, I pride myself on understanding the importance of diverse literature, and it’s role in magnifying and reinforcing the beauty in each child. This morning my son reminded me that creating a truly diverse learning atmosphere is a never-ending journey.
Let’s begin our journey by being intentional with the books we use in our classrooms.
Cheers to using diverse and inclusive books!
Ready to get intentional? Check out The Intentional Teaching Series.