For the past several years I have been quite passionate about offering my students diverse literature. I strongly believe that books need to be both mirrors (so that we see ourselves in books) and windows (so that we see others different from us in books). When I choose picture books or long-term read alouds for our classroom this is always a factor.
Given that this has been a priority of mine for several years now and we have a ridiculously large classroom library, I was feeling confident that my students have a plethora of diverse choices.
In that classroom library I have an ‘endcap’ (I’m calling it that now thanks to a friend who was, in a previous lifetime, my manager at a bookstore – endcaps are the displays at the end of rows). Each month I highlight a different author. For October (when I got it rolling this year) it was Kate Messner. We read Marty McGuire and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt so my students were familiar with her books. She has an impressive range of genres and reading levels to offer students.
As I prepared to change the endcap for November I wanted an author of color. I wandered my classroom library and realized the only one I had a basket for (in all the baskets of various authors) is Carole Boston Weatherford. My other author baskets are all white authors (Mo Willems, Jan Thomas, Cynthia Rylant, Laura Numeroff, Ezra Jack Keats, Raina Telgemeier, Jon Scieszka, and more). That was quite a blow. Clearly I was not making the effort I believed I was in this area.
But I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I headed over to the bookshelf in the corner that holds all the books I keep in reserve for reading aloud, sure I’d find some good options there. Nope. I have plenty of books by authors of color, but not a pile by any one author ready to display for my students.
The result of this disappointing realization, of recognizing how my passion was not being lived as I believed, was twofold.
- I still wanted to set up my endcap with a new author (and I’m saving Carole Boston Weatherford for a little later as her books, while they are picture books, are beautifully challenging and I want my students to have the ability to savor them). So Kate DiCamillo gets the honor this month. Like Kate Messner she has written a lovely range. We’ve read aloud Bink and Gollie and I’ve book talked Mercy Watson. She’s got wonderful books to offer.
- I did some ordering. Soon we’ll have many titles from Jacqueline Woodson for a future month. And I’m considering who is next. I like to highlight authors who write both picture books and chapter books at various levels so that all of my readers have options. Some of my favorite authors don’t fit for us as the majority of their books are not for third graders (like Matt de la Pena and Meg Medina).
Do you have a favorite kids’ book author of color? I would love recommendations.