Creating Culturally Responsive Learning Experinces
By Olivia Gillespie, Literacy Content Specialist at CDE
I thought I should follow up Part V with tips for decolonizing our classroom libraries, whether those libraries are in our physical classrooms, online, or a combination of both.
In no way am I suggesting that any of us are intentionally choosing overt racist or deficit minded reading material for our students to engage with. Nor, am I suggesting that our current reading lists are not relevant and complete with narratives, messages, themes, etc., not worthy of analysis simply because the author, journalist, poet, playwright, biographer, editor, or writer is a member of dominant culture. What I am saying is as ELA/Literacy educators at all levels of our education system, we must become cognizant of the subtle messages that reinforce deficit views of people of color and immigrants. We want our students to feel and know they are valued as citizens of our local and global communities. While we cannot change history, we can however, use history to inform current practices in order to shape the future we want for our students, our colleagues, and our society.
The question then becomes, how do we decolonize our classroom libraries?
Here are a few things we can begin to use to assess a book’s worthiness to our vast collection of reading materials. The suggestions are based upon the work of Dr. Alfred Tatum, author of Reading for Their Lives: (Re)Building the Textual Lineages of African American Males Students.
The problem, according to Dr. Tatum and Zaretta Hammond, is that while there are more diverse books out there, typically there’s a theme. For example, books with African Americans typically revolve around sports (i.e., basketball), civil rights-era activities, or African American historical heroes. There’s an overrepresentation of low-income, urban communities. It’s even more limited for Latinx students. And, let’s not even talk about authentic books at Indigenous/First Nation children or Pacific Islanders students.
An enabling narrative recognizes, honors, and nurtures students’ multiple identities, academic/intellectual, cultural/racial, and personal/social. It shows these identities as integrated in a matter of fact way and common rather than having the high achieving child of color be the exception or characterized as a “nerd” or oddball.
The aforementioned are just a few important criteria to use to review books. A HUGE SHOUT OUT to our LIBRARIANS! You are essential, integral, and important contributors to our effort for educational equity in the area of literacy.
Curriculum & Instruction