Foster Parenting

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Next Steps in Inquiry: Gathering Literature

This is the third post in my inquiry project. Read the first and second posts to catch up.

What's Next

As I thought about how to bring multiple perspectives to my students, I knew children's literature would give me what I needed.  In search of Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors (Bishop, 1990), I  turned to blogs and websites like We Need Diverse Books, Reading While White, and  A Year of Reading written by Mary Lee Hahn and Franki Sibberson.
I became purposeful in finding children's literature that represented the stories of those who have been marginalized in our White dominant society.  Reading literature with characters that represent many different communities allows students to gain a deeper understanding of those who are different from them, gaining insight not only into their differences, but also their similarities.  I wanted to give my students of color the opportunity to see themselves in the books they read, to feel valued. At the same time, I wanted my White students to see stories and worlds different from their own.  Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop reminds us in Reflections of the Development of African American Children's Literature (2012), "all children have the right to books that reflect their own images and books that open less familiar worlds to them" (p. 5).

New Characters

This summer, I reached out on Twitter asking for book suggestions.

I got introduced to some great characters and new authors.
Dyamonde Daniel (series of 3 books) by Nikki Grimes is about a plucky third grader whose parents are divorced.  She is the new kid at school and she faces challenges head on.  All of my students saw themselves in this book in one way or another.
Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi is a great early chapter book series about a second grader who deals with the every day issues of a second grader.
Cilla Lee-Jenkins (by Susan Tan) is half Chinese and half White.  She's another character full of spunk.
The Carver Chronicles series by Karen English is another great series about kids at Carver Elementary.  They are funny and yet deal with some serious issues.
Stella Diaz by Angela Dominguez is based on the author's experiences growing up Mexican-American.
These characters, among others, have become favorites in my classroom.  We have waiting lists for certain books and I've even had a few complaints that some aren't reading fast enough!  This Padlet has more ideas for book and video ideas.  I can already tell that I need to create a Padlet just for book and video titles.

 Choosing Books

When choosing books, I keep several things in mind:
1.  Is the book by an author who either shares an identity with the characters in the story or has done research on the culture or community they've written about?  (#ownvoice author)
2.  Do the diverse characters take an important role in the story or are they secondary characters?
3.  Are the characters portrayed as sharing the commonalities of being a kid?  (See 28 More Black Picture Books that aren't about Boycotts, Buses, or Basketball 2018)
4.  Do the books I choose portray other diversity besides race?

My third graders have been exploring books as mirrors and windows the last few weeks and I'm excited about the work they are doing.  More to come in future posts.  

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Digging Deeper into Inquiry: Educating Myself

I introduced the beginning of my inquiry journey in my last post.  I knew the first step  educating myself.  One of the most foundational lessons I learned was to recognize my Whiteness and the privilege that follows. I can no longer pretend that race doesn't matter.  Yes, I used to be one of those who said, "I don't care if kids are Black, Brown, pink or purple, I love them all." I've come to understand just how problematic this kind of thinking is.

 I now understand that by ignoring racial diversity, I am  normalizing Whiteness. Remaining silent about race does more harm than good. We know from the work of Beverly Tatum in Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, that all of us unknowingly form biases about different social groups based on our upbringing and social experiences.  These beliefs affect the way we think and act toward others.  What I am seeing now as a teacher is that if I don’t talk about issues around race, religion, sexual orientation or gender, children don’t know there are other perspectives different from their own.  I used to be afraid  to bring up these topics because I worried about offending someone or receiving parental backlash, but now I know it is essential.   Teachers have the responsibility to address these issues because they are important.  We need to have conversations.  We need to read diverse literature to all of our students, not just our students of color. We need to help our students recognize multiple perspectives and points of view so that they all feel included and valued in our school. I began to ask myself where I fit into confronting this issue. “How do I, a White middle class woman, use culturally relevant teaching to help students build understanding and empathy for others, appreciate differences, and recognize others’ struggles and perspectives?

My first steps? Educating myself. I found people to follow on Twitter. I read and read some more...
scholars, teachers, parents. I reflected on my own upbringing and the biases I am living with. It's a
journey that humbles me, especially when I admit to the mistakes I've made. I have a responsibility to do my part in fighting against bias, both implicit and explicit.   I want to know better and do better as a fellow human being.  

I created a Padlet to organize my resources which you can access here.  It is a live document that I will continue to add to as I learn.  In this post, I will focus on resources that have helped me learn and grow.  My next post will highlight resources I've used with my students.

Professional/Personal Reading, Audio, and Video:  

These are some of the resources I've used (or am using) to educate myself on talking about race and culturally relevant pedagogy.  
  • Moving Beyond Colorblindness in Early Childhood Classrooms by Gloria Swindler Boutte, Julia Lopez-Robertson, and Elizabeth Powers-Costello  This article from Early Childhood Education Journal encourages early childhood education teachers to talk to their students about race and colorblindness.  It explores the work done in a second grade classroom around anti-bias education during literacy discussions.  There are some great examples of student work as well as instructional practices.

  • Waking Up White by Debbie Irving is the memoir of Debbie Irving, a middle-class White woman who grew up in New England.  It chronicles her own journey in understanding her Whiteness and her own implicit biases.  She is honest and vulnerable in this book.  I actually saw myself in her story quite a bit.
  • So You Want to Talk About Race: When a Book Calls You Out This blog post by Kelly Konrad was another wake up call to White privilege.  She, like me would never call herself a racist, but after reading So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijoema Oluo, forced her to examine the privileges that come with being White, able bodied, employed etc.  This book has given me many new insights.
  • Interview with Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop by Reading Rockets is full of information about multicultural literature, the need for diverse books in our classrooms, and the importance of digging deep into cultural and racial discussions.  As is always true with Reading Rockets, there are resources for teachers to use in their classrooms.
  • Danger of the Single Story is the compelling Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  In this speech, she discusses the importance of understanding others' stories in order avoid cultural misunderstandings.  None of us is a single story.
  • No More Culturally Irrelevant Teaching (Not This But That series) by Mariana Souto-Manning et al.  I read this book last summer and it has been extremely helpful in my teaching this school year.  The first half is dedicated to Souto-Manning's academic work in culturally relevant pedagogy. The second half contains classroom examples of teachers who are doing this work with kids every day.  It's a book that you can read quickly and have several ideas to try in your room right away.
  • Rethinking Schools is a magazine I subscribe to.  The articles focus on social justice issues.  The articles, written mostly by teacher practitioners examine hard topics and face them head on.  
  • Teaching Tolerance This website is full of lesson plan ideas for social justice issues.  In addition, their magazine is free to all.  You just need to subscribe.  I get a lot of good ideas here.
  • What if All the Kids Are White?: Anti-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families by Louise Derman-Sparks and Patricia Ramsey.  

Blogs/Websites for Teachers and Parents

These are blogs and websites I go to regularly for information about culturally responsive and anti-racist teaching as well as book ideas.  I hope they will be helpful for you.
I have added new people to my PLN on Twitter.  I've learned so much from following them and participating in different Twitter chats. 

Please add to the conversation. Are there resources you've found to be helpful?  My next post will focus on resources to share with children and activities I've tried in my classroom.