Revisiting the New Year’s Resolution: Building a Diverse Home Library

My New Year’s resolution was to stock my daughter’s library with diverse books and, I’m happy to say, this is one resolution I’ve been able to keep. In particular, here are three books that we’ve added recently that my daughter really likes.

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Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim

My favorite part of this book is the roly-poly little girl who sings a song with her dad before bedtime.

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Please, Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee

This book is a good one for babies who are turning into toddlers with a little girl who makes every toddler-move in the book.

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Ten Nine Eight by Molly Bang

I remember reading this book as a child and this bedtime countdown book is becoming a classic.

Our home library is filling up with well-written and delightfully illustrated diverse board books. However, I’m still on the hunt for books that feature multi-racial families.

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Reading to the Zoo: Authentic Diversity in Children’s Books

I came across the question the other day: Do diverse animals in children’s books help kids appreciate diversity?

It’s a fair question, considering that it seems like there are more kids books with animal characters than human ones. And, it would be nice to think that the parade of animal pals in the Llama, Llama books or on Daniel Tiger are teaching the value of diversity. But, the answer isn’t that simple.

While a motley crew of animals may be a good read, it’s important for kids to see diverse human characters. The point isn’t for kids to see lots of different faces, but for them to see faces and situations that mirror their own lives or make them ask questions about what other people are like. (And, kids figure out pretty quickly that animated cats and owls don’t really play together in real life, just like they don’t talk or go to the doctor.)

Also, as most of the books with animals for characters appeal to younger readers, it’s important that we don’t rely on animals for diversity. As Teaching Tolerance points out, kids between the ages of three and five are forming their ideas about gender roles, while kids in early elementary school (grades K-2) are forming their identities and defining what’s similar and different in the people around them. They need books to help them define what’s normal, and reading about all the ways animals can be friends isn’t enough.

Toddler Time: You Know You’re Reading with a Toddler When…

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It’s happened—my baby has become a toddler. And, despite my desire to sit and read stacks of books, the way we used to before she was mobile, our reading has changed.

You know you’re reading with a toddler when:

“No” Comes into Play

Before toddlerhood, she accepted most books that were put in front of her (to be fair, she’s always had a few titles that she refused to read). Now, many of the books that I choose are met with a vigorous shaking NO of her head.

It’s Time to Play Favorites

No longer do I get to choose what to read, now my daughter has the books that she wants to hear, and that’s it. We’re starting to diverge on our favorites. Enter the “If I have to read If You’re Happy and You Know It one more time…” phase.

No More Captive Audience

My daughter is also no longer a captive audience. She’s figured out how to squirm off of a lap or the couch, so if she’s not 100% interested in what The Little Blue Truck is doing in the city, she’s off to the next big thing.

Time to Take Initiative

On the other hand, she’s still seeking books out on her own and spends time reading them—flipping through the pages, looking at pictures, and making little motions to go along with some of them. All this can only mean one thing—she’s forming her identity as a reader.

(Photo from http://www.vegbooks.org)

In January, I made my New Year’s Resolution to build a library with diverse board books. Here are some of the books that I’ve added to our library:

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I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, the fun in this book is in the message as well as in the little girl whose features and coloring are not clearly defined.

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A You’re Adorable by Martha Alexander, the illustrations in this book do contain kids from multiple backgrounds.

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Baby Faces by DK Publishing, true to the title, this book features a range of baby faces.

Maybe because I’m specifically looking for African American diversity, those texts seem easiest to find. Some other books that feature African American diversity:

Peek-a-boo Morning by Rachel Isadora

Who’s Toes are Those? By Jabari Asim

Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

One, Two, Three, Crawl! By Carol Thompson

What board books have you found that have a range of diverse images?

How to Address the Single Story

After the last post about the danger of the single story, I’ve been thinking about how to counteract this. Especially considering just how much information is covered in one school year, it’s easy to see how students may develop single stories all the time. So, how to present multiple perspectives, all the time ?

Here are some resources I found around addressing the single story in the classroom:

I’d love to find more resources—please send them along, or share in the comments!

Addressing the Single Story

In this TED Talk, novelist Chimanda Adichie explains the idea of a single story, or what happens when we don’t have a balanced, diverse understanding of a people. Adichie’s own experience, growing up in Nigeria, but only reading stories that were written by British authors, showed her how “how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story.” As she grew up, Adichie saw how she became the representation of others’ single stories (for example, about Africa) and how she saw others as single stories (as in a trip to Mexico).

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Single stories, says Adichie, are created when one representation of a people is told again and again, until this becomes a reality. “Single stories,” Adichie says in her talk, “create stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

Diverse literature is part of the antidote. Diverse literature opens up single stories and makes them more complex. They raise questions about the nuances of a group while broadening and widening our understanding of a group. They take away the power that a single story has to shape our feelings towards a group.

Reflecting on this talk, I can see how single stories could be perpetuated (unknowingly) in classrooms. One character is presented or one story becomes the narrative for how a people “is.” Or, stereotypes are challenged in a basic way, with the dismissal of the stereotype, rather than a thorough building out of knowledge through stories, questioning, and research. Time moves fast and few teachers feel they have time to linger in literature. That said, avoiding the single story is important, both for children’s development, their intellect, and their understanding of the world.

In a recent The Reading Teacher article, scholars Fenice Boyd, Lauren Causey and Lee Galda outlined three ways to bring more diverse literature into classrooms:

I would add to that list: make yourself aware of the single stories that your students have. What do they think they know about a group? And why? Then, consider how you can bring in stories—literature, video, media—to help them confront and reshape those single stories, one at a time.