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3 Creative Ways Teachers Can Showcase Diversity in their Classroom Library

The school year is almost under wraps and you are in the process of packing up your classroom. Pretty sure there is a large garbage bag in the middle of the room while you rummage through center activities trying to figure out how you (and your manipulatives) survived another year of teaching littles. When it comes time to pack your classroom library, I’d like to send a little challenge your way.

Take an inventory of the books your students have been reading this year. What do the characters look like? How are the protagonists illustrated in the story? Do any of the picture books travel across the globe to introduce various cultures?

Let me be clear. I’m not describing a janky-looking hardcover picture book that was on the “free books for all” table outside of the local library, titled “What is a Dreidel?” with 1980s-inspired illustrations.

Although the jester is kind, outdated materials tend to get overlooked by young (and older) readers.

If you were to put your class picture on display over your classroom library, would you see any comparisons? By offering a wide range of reading materials, teachers can support students' individual learning styles, interests, and identities.

1. Start by acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of your learners.

Students who feel seen and represented are more likely to engage in their learning, starting early. Create a classroom culture that values and celebrates diversity. For example, you can display posters or artwork that depict diverse cultures and identities or develop opportunities for students to share their personal stories and experiences. You can incorporate diverse perspectives and voices in your lesson plans and teaching materials. Think of it as an opportunity to expose your students to different regions of the world without even having to leave the classroom.

You would be surprised to know how many students have never been on an airplane or even outside of their home state! Virtual field trips offer an interactive experience for students to see parts of the world.

The goal is to create a classroom environment that encourages students to engage in meaningful dialogue and challenge their own assumptions and biases.

2. Include books with diverse characters and experiences across multiple genres.

Select books that feature protagonists from different ethnicities, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

This ensures students see themselves represented in the materials and can relate to the characters. It also exposes them to new perspectives, broadening their understanding of the world. Be sure to offer a mix of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and other formats to accommodate diverse reading preferences. This variety will cater to different learning styles and help students discover new interests.

Not sure where to find diverse books? Come on. You know there is a website for that.

Where to find diverse books is easy to navigate and provides a wide variety of books from different cultural backgrounds, age groups, and genres. Keep in mind that your search for diverse books isn't limited to the world wide web. Independent bookstores in your area may provide that wide variety of children's lit that belongs in your classroom library. Hey, you can even take it a step further by incentivizing parents to visit and donate by adding it to your classroom wish list.

3. Involve Students in the Selection Process

Encourage students to suggest books for the classroom library. This allows them to take ownership of their learning environment and ensures that the collection reflects their interests and experiences.

Use online book recommendation tools: There are online tools available that can help students find books that match their interests and reading level. Bookopolis, allows students to create profiles and share book recommendations with their classmates.

Host a book tasting: Doesn't a book-tasting sound like an event that will definitely stimulate your students reading palette? Divide the class into small groups and have them rotate through stations, each featuring a different genre of book. They can read short excerpts and make plot predictions based on the cover. After the event, students can vote on which genre they would like to explore further. The student engagement meter would go through the roof with this idea and you can jazz it up by setting up the right book-tasting ambiance (music, place settings, attire, etc.).

Bonus Thought- Include your book-loving school staff Other grade-level teachers and the school librarian can provide recommendations based on their expertise and access to a broader range of materials. Additionally, they can offer insights into which books are popular among students and which may be underrepresented in your current collection.

Showcasing diversity in your classroom library can be an enriching and rewarding experience for both teachers and students. By incorporating these tips and resources, teachers can create a learning environment that is engaging, diverse, and responsive to the needs and interests of their learners.

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