Last year, I stepped away from the classroom after 10 years of teaching. It wasn’t part of my plan. I was angry, frustrated and sad. Angry for spending countless hours last summer to prep for an unknown school year, frustrated for not spending more time with my own children, sad to not be teaching and doing what I love, sad to not be with my teammates/coworkers, and a handful of other emotions.
I am so thrilled to say that I will be returning to the classroom this year! Not only returning to teaching, but to my old classroom, with my amazing teammates, in my wonderful school, and in my absolute favorite grade, 2nd grade. I took last year to focus on my family, teach my own children during remote/hybrid learning schedules and had the chance to really focus on writing my book, learning about the publishing process and spend time watching this dream unfold.
This writing process has allowed me to meet so many incredibly talented and wonderful people. One of those incredible people is Felicia Lee. I met her through a writing conference and she talked about how books need to be windows and mirrors. Windows to allow for readers minds to open to other people’s lives/situations and mirrors as a connection to the readers own reality. Felicia Lee suggested doing a “bookshelf audit” both at home and in the classroom. Books that are windows and mirrors allow for increased empathy and a sense of affirmation and belonging.
During a bookshelf audit you really look at the books that you have available to your own children and your students. Her suggestions were to look for:
1. nontraditional gender roles
2. people of color as main characters
3. variety of jobs/trades
4. characters with different abilities
5. multiple family structures
Another incredible woman I met during the writing conference was E. Danielle Butler. She had some amazing points that blend in nicely with doing a bookshelf audit:
1. Diversity includes: communication, background, intelligence, behaviors, socioeconomics, religion, sexual orientation, family structures, abilities/needs
2. topics can be everyday, simple topics but the characters can be diverse
3. Illustrations can tell more of the story and allow for discussion
I have been working on updating our home library as well as requesting more books with diverse characters/themes from the library. If all children can both find themselves in books and see the beauty in others, oh my goodness…I think we are on the right track to repairing and creating a kind culture.
During my time away last year, I was able to run a few book campaigns through Donors Choose and Scholastic to get over 100 books for our school on the topic of diversity. The books live in our counselors office and can be checked out at anytime by any teacher. There are so many incredible books out in the world, 100 books is nothing, but it is a start.
This week I challenge you to do a bookshelf audit at home or if you are a teacher, in your classroom. Books are expensive, so start by requesting books from your library or setting up a book campaign through a fundraising option.
Let’s celebrate our differences, support each other and be kind to one another.