Here, I share ideas about how to use books to expose students to diversity and engage in conversations with children about equity and social justice. This article does a nice job of highlighting the current lack of diversity in children’s literature and the need for it. While I do encourage parents to read books from diverse perspectives with their children, I must also stress that the best work that we can do to encourage equity and unity is to seek out diverse communities where our families’ relationships thrive on the commonalities that we find among diversity.
I have not vetted all of the books on below lists. Through my work with the National Writing Project and the Heart of Texas Writing Project I am fortunate to be a part of a professional community that engages in the work of using literature to teach for social justice in schools. As I have seen colleagues share book lists on social media or through other channels, I have begun to save those lists and I share those links below.
I would caution anyone who is to buy books with the intent of teaching for equity and social justice to think critically about the ways books portray women and people of color. The way we talk about the books we read is as important as reading them. Below are some guiding questions that can help us all to build our critical literacy skills. To further educate yourself about how to look at books in this way with young children, read this article: Taking On Critical Literacy: The Journey of Newcomers and Novices which has guided my developing understanding of this social justice lens.
It is also important to remember that we want to expose our children to books of diverse people from diverse backgrounds living the lives of ordinary people. Our country is very segregated and children’s understandings of people from backgrounds different from their own are developing based on what they see around them, which only offers a very limited experience of diversity that may reinforce negative stereotypes.
Critical Literacy Questions:
- What is the setting?
- When does this book take place?
- Whose perspective is the story told through?
- How are white characters represented?
- How are people of color represented?
- Do they correspond to someone in history?
Where to find diverse books:
Here is another article that speaks to the need for more children’s books that feature kids of color being themselves.