It’s no secret, I love books! I’m like obsessed. There’s nothing I love more than getting lost in a great book. I’ve been this was as a little kid (I even taught myself to read. True story). I just love books. My favorite thing is to buy books under the guise that I’m buying them for my classroom library, which isn’t totally false. I even had to stop myself from buying multiple books every time I got paid to fund my classroom library but I love books and I want my students to have an arsenal of books to choose from.
This post isn’t only useful for teachers; parents can buy diverse books too for their children. Since I’m not a parent yet and since I teach ELA, this post was written with teachers in mind. It’s not only important to have books readily available to students, they should also have a diverse set of books to choose from. I believe in the notion that representation matters, so my classroom library should reflect my students lives. Even if my students may not exactly live like some of the characters in books, at least they will be exposed to diverse thinking. I want my students to feel seen and to find someone or something that they can identify with.
Now when I say diverse, I’m not just talking about different races. I’m talking about books with different circumstances. Circumstances like mental illness, homelessness, mixed race children, disabilities, being in foster care, being a part of the LGBTG+ community, and much more. For example, I have one book about a boy with autism. I have another about a Malala (the muslim girl who fought for girls’ rights to an education). I have a book featuring an Afro-Latina because like I posted in one of my last posts, black people come in many different shades and from different cultures. You want your students to be able to identify with some character. It will help them feel seen or like they have a place.
I love giving a reading inventory to my students at the beginning of the year. That way, I can figure out if they like books or have ever identified with a character in a book. If I’m being totally honest, an overwhelming majority of my students have never identified with a character in a book. No wonder so many kids hate reading. It’s sooo boring to only read books by some dead old white guys (no offense). I like to see what they’re interested in so that I can find books about some of their favorite topics. It breaks my heart when a reason why a student hates to read is because they couldn’t identify with a book.
Our students come from all walks of life. None of them have the perfect cookie cutter life that’s been mostly portrayed in the media and in literature. I mean, some are dealing with teenage pregnancy, abuse, racism and prejudice, some have disabilities, mental illness, are from homes with divorced parents or are being raised by other family members that aren’t their mom and dad. Some have dealt with death in the family or even rape/sexual assault. I remember once I was reading a book about a girl who was in foster care because her mother wasn’t in the right mind frame to take care of her and someone told me that they couldn’t believe that some children would read books like that in elementary school? Why not? It’s real life and guess what, real life is messy. Kids shouldn’t read stories that are totally unrealistic or make them feel bad about their life’s circumstances. They should be able to see themselves in the characters and see how the characters got through whatever situation they were in and maybe, just maybe will give them hope.
They don’t necessarily have to go through a situation as well. Having diverse books can help create empathy for our students. They can see life through the lenses of someone else and maybe see not only their struggles but also their triumphs. And on another note, not all books have to be about hardship. I mean one group of people don’t only deal with negative and horrible conditions. For example, I never grew up in the ghetto but reading stories about people who have has opened my eyes to what life is like for them. We need to see more books about woman in the STEAM filed. Give our students something to strive for.
Where can you find these books? Well, there’s lots of places. One of the most convenient is Amazon. I got the majority of the books I buy from Amazon. You can also find books at Barnes and Nobles, Goodwill, thrift stores, garage sales, Target, Scholastic website as well as the book fair (one of my favorite times of the year) and online thrift bookstores like Book Outlet (although they have been caught up in controversy lately over some not so nice comments about Black vloggers), or Thriftbooks. I have a ton of books given to me by donations from one of my friends that I met here in Orlando as well. As you can see, there’s lots of places to find diverse books, you just have to know what you’re looking for.
If you would like a list to help you get started, The Secondary English Coffee Shop blog posted a list of 60 books here. If you want to know if your classroom library is diverse, you can do a book audit like Ashley Bible has done. It’s a great way to see how diverse or lack there of your books are. Just check out her Instagram page. She has a highlight that takes you step by step to make one of your own and it only takes about 10 min. to make!
Below are just a few of the books I have (my other books are at the school). I highly recommend any book by Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, and Elizabeth Acevedo. You can’t go wrong with any book from them.
What are some of your favorite books? What books do you wish you read about in school?
Also, if you’re looking to help me out with providing more diverse for my classroom library (because teachers don’t get paid that much), check out my wish list on Amazon! I’d really appreciate it and so would my students!