Are You Ready to Kick Start Your Culturally Responsive Class Library?
As you probably know, being a culturally responsive educator is very important to me. I love getting to know my students and their families on a deeper level and being able to relate to them in a way that allows me to have deeper connections with them. I also want them to understand me and to feel wanted, valued, intelligent, worthy of all beautiful things in life, and like they are a part of me and our classroom. When I reflect on it, I think that being culturally responsive is very natural and innate for me. It’s something that I just do and have always done. Now, I guess, there is a name that I can attach to it. Being culturally responsive. Building relationships. Teaching my students to love and value themselves. It is essential. It is an honor as a Teacher.
If you are just beginning your journey of being intentional and reflective within yourself so that you may be more culturally responsive with your students and their families, books are always a wonderful place to begin. You can teach so many invaluable lessons from the perspective of children’s literature. It is not only what you read, but how you read it. The intention and delivery of a great story can move mountains in your classroom. Your tone of voice and facial expressions. Are you being sincere? Sarcastic? Serious? Sensitive? Thoughtful? Dramatic? Do you believe in what you are sharing? We know that our students can read us…. well, like a book! They know when we are being all-of-the-above, even when we think that we are not showing it.
So, grab one of these great books! Set your mind on the purpose to be culturally responsive with your students all day, every day! Be ready to change lives and promote self-acceptance, self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-esteem!
Remember: Just because a book features diverse characters doesn’t automatically make it culturally responsive. I found this really beautiful book called Cora Cooks Pancit. Cora is from the Philippines and wants to be allowed to cook like the older children. The books is happy, vibrant, and about family. However, this line appears in the book, “She scrunched up her pug nose and began to think.”. I actually had to stop and re-read that sentence. Pugs are dogs! Pugs are dogs that have wide, flat noses and faces! Pugs are not necessarily the most attractive dog breed! Book ruined. How do you think a Filipino student would feel about themself once we read that line aloud?? Pre-read the books that you want to share with your class. This is so important.
I can share a quick personal account of why this is so important. Actually, this situation is why I try to always remember to pre-read the books that I share. Around 9 years ago, I was teaching a Kdg class. The book, Love You Forever, was either hot off the presses or just gaining traction. You know where I am headed with this right? If you have read this book before, I can hear you shouting, “RIGHT!” Needless to say, I began reading, became extremely choked up, and gently told the students that we would have to stop reading here for the day. LOL Don’t do this! Ha ha
Here is the list of 10 books that you can use right now to be more culturally responsive. You can click on the titles to add these books to your collection. In no particular order and without further ado…
Book # 1
This is a book that I just discovered and loved. It’s about a family that discovers that disconnecting (from all things electronic) is a great way to connect. The book features an African American mother with a Caucasian father. Discover how I used this book with my students here.
Book # 2
This book is phenomenal! I have been so inspired by this very short, sweet, and captivating story. Wanna talk about going against the grain of gender stereotypes of girls and women? This book definitely does that. Ah-mazing sentiment and super-fantastic illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff! Here is the blog post that I dedicated to this phenomenal book.
Book # 3
Will Smith’s heart-felt book about his love for his newborn son has become a classic. It is a lovely story that shows African American fathers in a gentle, sensitive, and humble way that most any parent can relate to. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations will, even more deeply, pull on your heart strings. The illustrations depict African American features, skin tones and hair textures in a diverse and culturally reflective manner. Beautiful!
Book # 4
Book # 5
This book is fantastic for showing children how they can be brave under any circumstance, and for showing African American boys in a manner that they are not often shown in. Just look at the cover illustration. I love that he is shown wearing glasses with a head full of curly hair. Go to the last page of the book and you will see another very lovely way that he is portrayed. These two particular illustrations really go against the grain and reject ethnic stereotypes of our male, African-American students. I became a little teary-eyed (actually, on pretty much every page) on that last page.
Book # 6
This book is the perfect place to begin if you are trying to expose students to the fact that everyone originally came to the United States from another country-Everyone. It is beautifully written, shares the bond that family can have, and has wonderful illustrations. This book is a diamond in the rough!
Book # 7
First off, the illustrations had me at hello! I love this fact because students that are not able to read words well independently, can still “read the story” visually. I am not familiar with the illustrator, but am now really excited to learn more about him.
Now, the story… I am thrilled to have discovered this book! It tells the OTHER side of the side and shares the aftermath of the cultural integration of African Americans into the Major Leagues. What do you think began to happen to the Negro Leagues once integration took place? Honestly, I never even reflected upon that. This book shares the struggle through the eyes of Ms. Effa Manley. **There is actually so much more to this story about this dynamic woman, but I don’t want to share anything that will give it away! This is a must read!!
Book # 8
Unhei is a little girl that has come to America from and struggles with the way that other students, her new peers and classmates, respond when she tries to share her name with them. The colors are as delicate as Unhei and I love the diverse characters that have been included. This book would be great to share with your students/children at the beginning of the school year (or during a time when a new student might join your class) when you begin to “All About Me” activities and introductions.
Book # 9
Take a little peek inside!
Book # 10
I love that this story is cross-generational. It shares the relationship of a granddaughter with her adventurous Abuela, grandmother. The book is primarily written in English, but wonderfully has Spanish phrases seamlessly weaved throughout. The illustrations are lovely and they depict a variety of ethnicities. This is another classic, and for good reason!
Here is a bonus selection of books and a great tip for you!
The title of the book that is out of view is Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
Here is another great example!
A sweet and sassy spin on Little Red Riding Hood where Little Red outsmarts the lion. Honestly, the story is great up until the end. I’m not sure…. I felt like the story just-ended. Maybe ended too soon? Not soon enough? It was still a great story and is definitely worth reading.
This is a “traditional retelling of this Classic. The Woodcutter is included in this retelling. I love the illustrations! My students have always loved them, too. These are the books that my kids will ask me where they are if they can’t find them. You can probably tell that I am a huge art fan, and beautiful and vibrant illustrations get me every time. Mr. Crump has many retellings of classic Fairy Tales with the most fabulous titles like Afrotina and the Three Bears. Brilliant!! Be sure to check them all out!
This is a list of just a few of my favorites. Believe me, I love so many books that it took me quite a while to decide which ones to share with you. I hope that you will come to enjoy these books just as deeply as my students and I do. Let me know how much your students enjoy these stories! All of the books that I have included have links within their title that you can click if you would like to purchase them for your classroom or home. They are Amazon Affiliate links.
Enjoy these amazing stories with your students!