A few months ago, I discovered Grace Lin’s TED talk about “The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf.” I loved the framework this gave me to talk about books with my students, and it reminded me of why it is important to have diverse books in the classroom. Then, last week, I discovered this blog, by fifth grade teacher Jess Lifshitz, “Crawling out of the Classroom.” She posted about having her students analyze her classroom library and analyze the diversity on her shelves. I thought this was such a good idea, I wanted to do it, too.
This week, I asked some of my seniors to stay and help me create a list of books I had and to categorize them. Needless to say, I thought I would have a great amount of diversity–and I was shocked when I realized how much diversity I lacked. My goal this summer is to find more diverse books for my bookshelf so I’ll start the year out with more windows and mirrors.
Here are 5 observations we made about my classroom library:
- Only 25% of my books are by people of color. And, there’s not a huge variety of authors–I have loads of Toni Morrison books, but not a huge representation of different African-American female writers.
- Only 38% of my books are by women. This surprised me. A colleague suggested the publishing industry might be to blame, but I suspect it is my ingrained idea that the Western canon should be honored over all other texts. I need to fix this! 50/50 is the goal for next year.
- Sadly, I only have about 15 books on the shelf (out of 260) that represent the LGBTQ population. My students argued that I gave a lot of those books to students and they didn’t always return those books (which I love–if they find a book they love, they should keep it). I’ve Give You the Sun flies off my shelf, just as Winger does, so those books I tell students about, but can’t always physically hand to them.
- Only 15% of my books are sci-fi/ fantasy, although almost 60% of my students listed a sci-fi/fantasy as a favorite book. I personally LOVE sci-fi fantasy, but I think I mistakenly thought my classroom bookshelf should have more “literary” choices. Sci-fi/fantasy needs more respect! (even from me).
- Only 10% are pre-1900, but I think that is OK–although I teach AP Literature, I think students gravitate to more modern texts when they read for fun.