Let’s Organize Our Classroom Library

We will find the right books that are culturally inclusive for your home or classroom library. We will explore some of my favorite resources about harnessing a more inclusive framework. Make sure that the books you have on your shelves at home or in your classroom honor and reflect all people. I’ve got some bonus resources that I’ve added to my show notes that you can download right now and get this process started right. Let’s get this broadcast started quickly got to get that cultural process. You know me; I have no shame. Hashtag, you’re welcome. 


Looking for books can be overwhelming. Some of us feel that if it doesn’t show up on an ethnic holiday or month, they can’t see any other original titles. Well, here’s the beauty of this. One. Amazing author Jill Eisenberg from the Peers and Pedagogy Blog says that adding more culturally responsive and relevant books to instruction does not have to be overwhelming, expensive, or time intensive. I agree with Jill, because when she says that our library bookshelves should feel intentional both at home and at school. It should be purposeful and transforming. We need to start re-evaluating our books, classrooms, and home libraries to see if our intentions cause harm to all. Okay, this all sounds well and good, Jeb. I know my listeners are saying this to me. 


And I feel like I’m on the right track. But how do I know if I’m making any progress in ensuring that my students or family members at home have books and resources that are appropriate and not causing further harm? My most extensive advice for you, my dear listener, is to evaluate what you have on hand. First, the Metropolitan Center for Research on equity and transformation of schools has designed the culturally relevant curriculum scorecard. I’m telling you, it’s like a gem of a resource. And it’s free all. This scorecard has seven categories that help school organizations and community members tailor to fit the needs of their schools and even their other organizations. as caregivers and educators. You can use this scorecard. You can print it and share it with your school districts, curriculum departments, or even your parent-teacher associations to help evaluate the culturally responsive materials they already have on hand. 


Another bonus with this curriculum scorecard is that they used research-based articles with STEAM standards and best practice focus. Suppose you’re wondering, okay, what does this acronym steam stand for, Jeb? And it stands for curricula in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. And I love some research-based practices that work. Okay. Trust me, I’ve been in the teaching scope and to see things that have been run with best practices. It gives you that insight that yes, it’s been proven, and it works. So just a reminder to all of you listening right now, I have this court scorecard in my show notes that you can download today. Now, it is a pretty big scorecard. There’s some good meat to it. There are about 30 pages, but like I said, you will thank me later.


 Now while you are evaluating the books that you already have on hand, I want you to check out the older diverse titles, books that happen to be diverse, but older than 25 years might be time for those titles to retire. Alright, last time I checked, I think Peter, by Ezra Jack Keats, is looking to get his 401k in order. So let’s make sure that our titles are relevant to our students. Now, like I said, some of us might have to let go of those book characters we loved so much as a child because it could be causing harm to our groups of students. Our BIPOC students are in different marginalized groups; stereotypes from those book characters could send a message to your current students and your children that don’t reflect how we want our classroom and home communities to feel right now. So with that being said, we have our evaluations in order with this curriculum scorecard. 


But you also have to go with your gut. And books that you remember reading as a child may not be appropriate for your students and your children now, so I was hoping you could take this next step, start searching and get some excellent books, you don’t have to spend a pretty penny, go to your public library. If you’re on a tight budget. I like to cross reference my Scholastic Book lists with the list I’m about to share. So if it’s open book night at my school, or if I am trying to make a wish list for my teacher wish list for the beginning of the school year, I will have those books on my favorite wish list. That way, if families decide that they would like to donate a book from my classroom library, it’ll be right there. Now, if you’re trying to figure out what is culturally appropriate, relevant books, my favorite blogs that have amazing resources of books are, We Need Diverse Books and The Conscious Kid. Both are great nonprofit organizations whose overall mission is to promote literacy and awareness to publishers and book lovers to provide diverse representation that reflects and honors all children. Now that’s a quote from the We Need Diverse books.org website. You will find countless book lists from both organizations with fun titles written by diverse authors. 


Some books out there have diverse characters, but it is so poignant that we go the extra step and find those diverse authors. We’re actually writing about experiences with diverse people. So please make sure you dig a little deeper when you are on your search for new books. Avoid this misstep when organizing your library by assuming a particular group shares the same perspectives.


 In the article Diversifying your classroom book collections, the author, Padma Venkataraman shared, in her 2018 blog posts, that diversifying bookshelves does not mean just checking off one book for each census category. That really stuck with me because I feel like many educators and parents at home are thinking, Okay, I have this group of people from this background. So that’s a good check. And then I have another one of these checks. And I want you to think about this that, you know, people in these various groups are not a monolith. All right, we are individuals. So you must have multiple facets of stories and narratives from different groups. So it means listening to and learning about and loving individual voices, which deliver within our race within gender, within every label that can be used to group people. This opinion is relevant because we naturally see titles and groups more by category and not by genre. 


Do you find yourself asking? Do I have enough titles that focus on that group? Do I have too much focus on this particular group of people?So you really need to be very critical. And use your critical thinking skills to help weed out the outdated, stereotyped, troped characters those need to go. And I’m not saying bring it to a donation site where you drop it off so somebody else can get you, you know, can get more harm. Get rid of it. Recycling is your friend. So bring in these new books that you know your students can access that are culturally relevant and reflective in a way that brings new voices and narratives to your students or children that you have at home that we all can relate to in a more impactful positive way.