One of the things we are constantly thinking about at both of our schools is diversity. We know many of you are busy working from home, but in this time of slowing down, I wanted to take a minute to tell you what goes into our thought processes.
At school, we believe that every child deserves to see themselves in the curriculum. Children of color, children with non-traditional family structures, children with disabilities, religious minorities, and others all need to see representations of people and families just like them. In its December 2019/January 2020 issue of the magazine Young Children, The National Association for the Education of Young Children says, “To form positive self-concepts, children must honor and respect their own families and cultures and have others honor and respect these key facets of their identities too. If the classroom doesn’t reflect and validate their families and cultures, children may feel invisible, unimportant, incompetent, and ashamed of who they are.”
At the same time, it is also important for children who do not fall into these groups to see representations of people who are different from them. We, as educators want to foster inclusion, not bias. We do this in many ways. We, from time to time, audit our classroom libraries to make sure they are inclusive of all children, families, and people. We look at pictures in our classroom, from photos to cartoons, and make sure they include depictions of as many diverse people as possible. We invite in guests from the cooperative community to share their skills and expertise with children which gives them access to a wider variety of caring adults than we as a teaching staff represent.
We may conduct what is called a diversity book audit. We look through our books and make a note of who is represented and who is not. The more books we can add that offer diverse representations of people, the better. Many books offer animals as an analog for humans. For example, the book And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson depicts two male penguins who fall in love and raise a baby penguin together. This is a great book, but it complements other books in our library that depict human families headed by same sex couples.
It’s also important to look at who is telling the stories our students read. We try to ensure they are hearing from diverse authors and illustrators who can best reflect their own experiences. Here is some more information on what we may do at school. https://www.teachingforchange.org/selecting-anti-bias-books
If you’re interested in learning more about books that depict many aspects of diversity, may I suggest this website: https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/early-childhood/gender/ Once libraries re-open, they are an amazing resource for accessing these books without spending money.
Kendra Bucklin, Lead Teacher, Cooperative Nature School