Summer is a great time to recharge and set some goals for your mental, physical and emotional growth. For kids, taking the summer to expand their minds is extra important. If you haven’t already made a book list for family summer reading, I am here to help with how to build a great diversity reading list. We have even turned it into a fun Bingo game challenge! This way, you cover all your bases, expand your mind and foster that growth mindset.
Why is (diversity) reading important?
Reading is amazing! When you pick up a book. you can enter another culture, universe or even a person’s mind through diversity reading. When we read, we are able to foster empathy, gain perspective and simply be transported elsewhere. Books make us laugh, cry, scream with rage. You can experience a range of human emotion within the pages of a book. Books open windows to the world outside and hold up mirrors of our own experiences. The possibilities are equally endless and inspiring.
Take things a step further with diversity reading and turn your focus to the windows and mirrors of literature. Specifically, the experiences of those who are “other” than you. For teachers, it is critical that we teach our students about what matters and how to talk about it. As a life long lover of reading, college English major and ELA teacher- the lack of representation of characters of color and diverse experiences is striking. This is especially notable when we consider the texts that have historically been required classroom reading. In order to appropriately teach our students and our own children how to be empathetic and well- rounded adults, throw the windows wide open.
Why windows and mirrors matter
Lack of diversity in the accepted canon of required reading and classic literature runs deep. The long term effects of this are that many voices go unheard. Stories, and themes are undervalued, deemed less important. This continues the systemic whitewashing of literature and permeates into our greater society. If we can’t explore and identify with the experiences of those who are different than we are, nothing changes and our growth stalls, remains static. By curating an array of diversity reading material, we fully include our BIPOC students thus empowering ALL readers to see themselves in literature.
When thinking of windows of diversity reading, consider:
- Who are my students?
- What are their interests?
- What do my students find curious?
- What can we build together with our shared knowledge?
- What connections to prior knowledge can we make?
- Through what ways can I learn different things about my students?
When thinking of mirrors of diversity reading, consider:
- What more do I need to know about my students?
- How does intersectionality live in our learning spaces?
- How do my students see themselves?
- What activities can I design to help students explore their identity/identities?
- How can I prepare myself so I can best support students in this process?
Critical thinking of texts and literature
When selecting literature on any level, apply critical thinking to your selection process. Anti-racist teachers and educators know that there is a dominant culture in our country and society. Understand who you are and what your role is in this capacity. Teachers with this self- awareness can combat racism in the long-standing oppressive standards and policies that have impacted students from learning with a full grasp on effective growth mindset.
Literature selection guidance for diversity reading
Just like when considering how to apply windows and mirrors to student learning, there is a similar process for selecting literature in the classroom. Granted, many schools and school systems have an existing curriculum in place that includes pre-selected reading material. However, these questions are valuable when you meet with departments to plan or simply choosing texts for yourself and your family to read.
- Author– Who wrote it? Do they have credibility and the right to speak for BIPOC voices?
- Character(s)– Who is the protagonist and are they represented appropriately? Does their character development misrepresent them, perpetrate stereotypes or false narratives? Do the characters look like your students?
- Themes–Do the text’s themes make readers feel like they must conform to the ideas of the dominant culture?
- Celebration and joy– Do the stories showcase the joys of BIPOC and their unique experiences? This is especially important to explore beyond designated to heritage months.
- Language– Is the language positive or negative in it’s overall message? How is language of other cultures represented?
Have fun with making choices
Our MTTES team is all about encouraging growth mindset. We also love having fun with our students and our children. To help us explore diversity reading this summer, we created a Diversity Reading Bingo game so you can check off what you’ve read and what you want to read this summer. Some of the suggested story ideas include the following. I am also linking a book title to get your started!
- A main character takes a journey
- Main character is Latino
- Native American protagonist
- A character who is an immigrant or refugee
- A story that defies gender stereotypes
- A character who has Autism or Asperger Syndrome
- The story takes place in Africa
- A story that celebrates Pride and inclusivity
What to follow
As an educator, librarian and parent to small children, I turn a keen eye towards what I read our children. I am privileged and grateful for the amazing book lists, blogs and experts out there suggesting strong diversity reading material. I would be remiss if I neglected to mention one of the pioneers of multicultural children’s literature, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop. Her contributions to exploring the windows and mirrors of literature and reading are unparalleled.
There are titles upon titles of amazing reads out there on all age levels. We hope you enjoy our Diversity Reading Bingo with your families and that it inspires you to explore some really great summer reading. Drop us a line in the comments with some of your favorite titles, book lists and recommendations for diversity reading!
Happy reading and happy summer, fam!
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.