Broadening and Deepening Your Reading Life by Katie @ The Logonauts
I think I was always a reader. I carried books with me on car trips, to my sister’s gymnastic meets, even while camping! But I wouldn’t say that I was a particularly savvy reader. I didn’t have specific strategies for finding or evaluating books, and I often found myself in reading ruts, returning to a favorite series again and again. (Baby-Sitters Club, anyone?)
I also can’t recall reading many books that featured diverse characters, and I was rarely, if ever, asked to question my quiet, suburban beliefs. While college opened my life to new people and new experiences, my personal reading life took a back seat to heavy tomes and the assigned “classics.”
It wasn’t until well after college (and, sadly, well after my teacher education classes) that I began to understand the importance of diverse books. My third grade curriculum covered world geography and world cultures, and I eagerly sought out books to match as we moved through the year. Our classroom read alouds and discussions covered big issues like friendship and empathy. We read about refugees and immigrants. We learned about kids who faced huge challenges and those who made huge impacts on the world around them.
And I started noticing that my students’ own reading habits changed, too. Some students were drawn to the books that resonated with their own personal and family connections, while some students made it their personal mission to find books about kids in the many different places we studied. One of my second-generation students from India insisted on being the teacher for a day and reading aloud Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth to the class. Another student became obsessed with trickster tales and tried to find ones from every continent we studied.
We might not like to admit it, but diverse books are rarely a child’s first choice when choosing their own books. While many children are drawn to “mirror books” (the books that feature characters more like them), fewer seek out “window books” on their own (the books that allow them to see into a different experience). It is often the adults in a child’s life, the parents, teachers, friends, and librarians who push that one extra step, who book talk all kinds of books in exciting and interesting ways, and who encourage that child to try a different kind of book.
In order to be that adult, we need to commit ourselves to reading widely and deeply. We cannot honestly and whole-heartedly recommend books until we have read them ourselves. We need to be intentional in our efforts to broaden and deepen our personal reading lives.
Thankfully, there are a growing number of resources devoted to promoting and encouraging the reading and publication of diverse books. We Need Diverse Books offers book lists, programs, and new book awards devoted to diverse books. The #diversekidlit hashtag highlights high-quality diverse books and resources shared with the Diverse Children’s Books twice-monthly linkup, which seeks diverse posts from bloggers, authors, and publishers.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day (Jan. 27, 2017) is a one-day event designed to shine a spotlight on diverse books, authors, and publishers. (Teachers, bloggers, and parents can currently apply for a free diverse book to read and review.) The site also hosts lengthy book lists and reading-related activities for all age groups and interests.
How will you strengthen your commitment to diverse books? I encourage all teachers, bloggers, and readers to make conscious book decisions that promote and support diverse books and authors. Push yourself to seek out diverse book recommendations and discover new titles and authors.
For me, I am still proud to be a reader. Now when I look for new books, I use strategies for finding favorite authors, seeking out book recommendations from trusted bloggers, and following book award announcements. But I strive to do all of these things through a diverse lens, paying attention to who is represented in the books I read and the books I share.
As we diversify our own reading and book-buying habits, we can better support the readers around us in their own quests to find both window and mirror books that can teach them about the world and about themselves. We can also challenge our views about the world and better understand the experiences of others. I hope you’ll join me!
Katie @ The Logonauts is in her ninth year of teaching but her first year of embracing the unique challenges of middle school. She is a life-long reader and enjoys ensnaring others in the web of life-long reading. As a traveler, photographer, and former archaeologist, she has visited five continents, numerous countries, and 41 of the 50 US States. Katie loves introducing her students to the wider world and fostering their excitement about other people, countries, and cultures. She is also the founder and co-host of the Diverse Children’s Books twice-monthly linkup, a place for bloggers to share and discover posts about diverse books.