A few ideas and ways to increase diversity in the classrooms
It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity, there is beauty, and there is strength. - Maya Angelou
In the article We Need Diverse Diverse Books by Mathew Salesses, Christopher Myers said: "The children I know, the ones I meet . . . see books less as mirrors and more as maps. They are indeed searching for their place in the world, but they are also deciding where they want to go. They create, through the stories they’re given, an atlas of their world, of their relationships to others, of their possible destinations.” He suggests that we are not giving children of color maps with which to explore possibilities. The danger of the single story remains. We have some diverse books, but we have little diversity within diverse books."
During my podcast interview with children's book author Paula Karll, we talked about diversity in books, but also in schools, since Karll is a mom, author, and special education teacher.
In her children’s book Ellie Meets the New Baby, Ellie struggles with embracing her new sibling. Mom and Dad encourage her and communicate to Ellie the baby's needs. Ellie starts to learn and enjoys being a big sibling. The author incorporates an inclusive depiction of a multi-cultural family that allows readers to become familiar with characters that may seem a little different or simply have a different kind of family but are basically the same. This book also incorporates discussion questions and learning activities to support parents to communicate with their children. It is important for parents to communicate with their older child to help him/her adapt & adjust to a new sibling. Caring for and nurturing the older sibling is just as important as caring for the new baby.
"We are a multi-cultural family with different shades of skin hue who embrace love," Karll said.
To Karll, diversity reminds her of the variety of colors in a rainbow. Each shines bright with its own unique ray of colors. I think of people as being just as colorful as the rainbow with a sparkle of shine that glows brightly depending on the angle and lens you look from.
And although some people still struggle with being accepting of other people who look and think differently than them, when it comes to communicating with children, according to Karll, one of the ways we can incorporate more inclusive communication is through books & focusing our lesson plans or teaching children at home & incorporating positive topics that speak to the children about themselves about others who may look different, who speak differently, or who have different mobility. In doing so we can teach children about empathy, acceptance, & love.
Karll added that it is important to increase the number of diverse books like hers by reaching out to independent authors who have a voice that speaks & who is intentional about positivity & inclusiveness. Karll is also working on building a diverse library, which was inspired by the limitations of accessible fun books in different formats for diverse learners. Building a diverse library is also meant to help children in underserved communities with difficulty accessing diverse books in different formats.
To find out more about Karll's mission to promote diversity through her books and in the classroom environment, as well as how you can contribute build a diverse library, please listen to the full episode on Seeds of Sunshine.
Disclaimer: Seeds of Sunshine is Carmen Micsa's multigenerational podcast that she started together with her daughter.