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Thinking About a Classroom Library

Nadia By Nadia Published on November 12, 2015

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As a teacher who loves books and reading, I constantly come up against books that reflect the majority culture. I suppose that I am more sensitive to this than other people because I am a WoC. I have memories of reading as a child (and loving it) but also feelings of isolation because there was nobody like me in the books that I read. Today, may years later there is a small improvement but not as much as I would like to see. 

I whole-heartedly believe in the power of books and using books especially in a classroom as a powerful tool to expose children to people and situations that they are not familiar with. The debate that I get into with my S.O. (who is White) is that there is a need for these books. His argument is that book such as Winnie the Pooh are classics for a reason and as readers we should not choose to get rid of these books because they have become a larger part of society. While I agree with him in that we should not get rid of those book because they are valuable in their own way, I also think that books featuring minority characters should also be chosen (perhaps even more) because they reflect the experiences of those children who do not get any coverage in the media. As I stated earlier reading there types of books in the classroom expands each child's scheme. An example that comes to mind for me is a few weeks ago I read the book Lailah's Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi which is a children's picture book about a young girl participating in fasting for the Muslim holiday of Eid. After reading this story many of the children were very interested in why the little girl wasn't having lunch at school so we had a quick discussion about it. A few days later it came up organically in class and one of the student's referred back to the book. I cannot tell you how wonderful that made me feel; that a child's scheme was expanded because of something that was read in class.

I suppose my point is that moments like that are only possible when a child is exposed to people that are different from both themselves and people they know. I think the most powerful way that children can be exposed is through books; not through a total takeover of a classroom library and putting books in there that only feature minority characters but through careful curation of those books along with the classics. 

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