The need for Diverse Books

Everyone should be able to see themselves represented in media: books, television, movies, and advertisements. As a librarian, I feel strongly that children need to be exposed to literature that reflects their own lives. They need to see people who look like they do and know that they are valued. There hasn’t always been a diverse representation of people, gender, abilities, and culture in books for children and teens but publishers are starting to change that. In the last few years book review journals, blogs, and websites have promoted diverse books and put out the call for more, which publishers are starting to answer.  

As a librarian, it is becoming easier to find quality titles that represent a wider proportion of our student body and community. Now we just need to promote them and get them into the hands of our students.

A few useful resources:

WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS offers a wealth of information, and resources, and has been one of my go to sites for finding new titles.

Read Diverse Books is a blog by Nazahet Hernandez that is full of quality book reviews and book lists. Hernandez shares a powerful message that I love –  “I want us all to read books written by authors whose roots collectively span the world. Let us not limit our reading experiences to that which is familiar and comfortable. Let us experience the world through the eyes of a young, middle-class Nigerian woman moving to America. Or a woman born during the 18th century on a Jamaican sugar plantation. Or a Mexican-American teenager who befriends a boy who will help him discover the secrets of the universe. Let us read these stories and allow our lives to become richer and our perspective more nuanced because of them.”

Call Number is a library-inspired book subscription that celebrates contemporary black literature and authors. Although this site may be geared to build one’s personal library, we are using this subscription service to add diverse titles to our school library collection. Each package also comes with promotional materials which we use in displays and as give aways (think book club swag, contests, etc.)

Rainbow Book List promotes GLBTQ books for children and teens. The recommended lists include picture books, middle-grade fiction, young adult fiction, non-fiction and graphic novels. Appropriate grade levels are noted, and the committee is sponsored by the American Library Association.

VOYA magazine always has great book lists. The June 2017 issue included a book list – Exceptionalities Part 3: Uncommon Illnesses and Conditions, which had dozens of diverse titles.




How to introduce your library

Every year I get the same comments from students – Where are the fiction books? How do I know which books the library has? I didn’t know I was supposed to check out the book. And each year I struggle with finding a way to remind the students (and inform new students) how to use the library so, that in December, I’m not still hearing those comments. This struggle is amplified by my strong desire to avoid getting on stage to make an announcement in assembly, that would quickly be forgotten. So, this year I decided to make a video that reminded the students WHERE the books are, HOW to look one up, and WHERE to check them out. It was easier than I thought to get my colleagues to participate in the video, filming took less than an hour, and we had a lot of fun!

I wanted the video to be informative, slightly spooky, and also humorous.

LOVE your library!

What made me a reader?

After reading blog posts from both Jennifer LaGarde and Gwyneth Jones’ AKA The Daring Librarian on what inspired them to become readers, I decided to take my turn.

Jennifer’s post is so well put, I couldn’t agree more with what she had to say. I too, did not become a reader because someone held me accountable, offered me “points”, limited my reading choices in anyway, or forced me to write book reports.

I became a reader because I loved listening to stories. Being read to was magical! I absolutely loved being read to as a child, I liked losing myself in the stories I heard. Even today, there’s something special about hearing a story; weather it’s an audiobook or hearing a storyteller, I will always love listening to stories.

Yet, being able to read myself was even better. Reading gave me independence. The library at my elementary school felt massive at the time, with walls and walls of books to choose from, and once I was a reader the choices seemed endless. I cannot recall all the stories I enjoyed as a child but I do have fond memories of hearing The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Wilson Rawls Where the Red Fern Grows. Both stand out as two stories I escaped into, and replayed over and over again in my head. I was also lucky enough to have parents who frequently took us to the public library. It was a great summer the year I discovered Keane’s The Family Circus and Keene’s Nancy Drew series .Two very different types of fiction, but that’s the beauty of a library – the serendipitous discoveries!

There was quite a long stretch in my school years, when the required reading of academics and sports took over, leaving me precious little time to enjoy reading. But then I was handed O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and I instantly developed a love of historical fiction and my need for and love of reading returned.

As both Jennifer and Gwyneth wrote in their blogs, let’s encourage students (and teachers) to become readers. Let’s fill the shelves with books and allow students to make serendipitous discoveries, give them a choice what to read, encourage them, allow them to see us reading, and share the stories that made us readers.

Again, a big shout out to Jennifer LaGarde for her post Learning To Read Alone Is Not Enough. Your Students Need a Reading Champion, and Gwyneth Jone’s Reading: A Passionate Love Affair.

keepcalmHappy reading!