How to Have Courageous Conversations Inspired by Diverse Books

How Educators Can Have Courageous Conversations Inspired by Joyful and Diverse Books edLeader Panel recording screenshot

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Culturally relevant books are essential for all children in the classroom. Every student needs exposure to books that reflect the mosaic of our society and prepare them to see themselves as active citizens in their communities, their country, and all around the world. These books should be part of every classroom library.

Effective classroom libraries should include a minimum of 750 print and digital books covering a rich array of genres reflecting diversity. In addition, a classroom library should offer students easy access to diverse stories. Unfortunately, most only have, on average, 300 books, and these may not reflect the student population.

The challenge for educators and school leaders is finding culturally and linguistically various books and learning how to implement them while enhancing students’ and teachers’ conversations with these texts. In the edLeader Panel, “How Educators Can Have Courageous Conversations Inspired by Joyful and Diverse Books,” the presenters discussed securing resources that align with district goals and reflect all students. 

Culture of Literacy

Libraries play an essential role in creating awareness and inclusion. Creating a culture of literacy is critical to helping students with diverse backgrounds and needs to succeed and feel accepted by themselves and others.

The presenters recommend linguistically, culturally responsive, and respective teaching tips such as making classrooms a safe and positive environment, supporting the developing language and skills for diverse language learners, recognizing and seeking to counteract implicit bias, and engaging all children in speaking, listening, and moving.

Being Color Brave

Recognizing the similarities and differences that distinguish one person’s experiences from another and one text from another is critical. Estephanie Mosquera-Ortiz, Elementary Educator and Rising Voices Mentor, said color brave is a bold acknowledgment of children’s varied experiences in the classroom and the texts they read. It is also essential to show empathy for characters in texts to help children learn how to express care and empathy for others.

Dr. Maria Armstrong, Executive Director of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS), said that color bravery is the notion of being able to speak openly and honestly about race. “Once we’re able to do that, when we share our own experiences, because they are our own, we find that there are connecting threads across the human experience,” she stated.

Nury Castillo Crawford, Director of Academic Support for Gwinnett County Public Schools (GA), adds, “Helping our students become color brave is helping them have the self-esteem to speak up. So, for me, it is about being brave but allowing our kids to be brave, helping them understand that it is part of who they are. So, they need to not only accept it but champion it.”

Teaching with Diverse Texts

The presenters recommend committing to being color brave and supporting children as they learn about the world around them honestly and openly. Educators should consider their practice by extending the worldview of diversity in other texts in and out of the classroom, including news resources, books, and magazines, and look for educator resources that help undo unconscious patterns of thinking.

One hurdle for educators is finding the right avenues to procure diverse resources to support the work and align with district goals. Dr. Armstrong recommends making securing resources a priority by getting the word out and having these conversations amongst staff, school boards, and the community, and working collaboratively and in partnership to utilize the federal and state funding available to schools.

The presenters echo an Ebony Elizabeth Thomas quote, “It’s not just kids of color, kids from margins who need diverse literature and media. It’s all kids who need stories about all kinds of people.” 

Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “How Educators Can Have Courageous Conversations Inspired by Joyful and Diverse Books,” sponsored by Scholastic Education Solutions.

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Blog post by Eileen Belastock based on this edLeader Panel