So, you just realized that there are some massive gaps
in your bookshelves and in the lessons you teach.
The next step is to get a little uncomfortable and make a plan to learn.
I did this by reading Own Voices books, learning online, and luckily had an amazing graduate school that allowed me to dig deep and learn more in 2 years of schooling that I had in all of my previous education.
For my master’s thesis, I decided to develop curriculum and a resource guide for educators to assist in the development of their own Anti-Bias Anti-Racist (ABAR) lessons for their classrooms. The project was created to assist educators on their journey to implement diverse literature and social justice ethics into their classroom culture. I have provided lists of children’s books, adult books, as well as media recommendations like documentaries and websites that can be visited to learn more.
It is the responsibility of the educator to do the research and work themselves, rather than put the onus on the marginalized community to educate them.
However, I recognize that it can be difficult to know where to start in your personal anti-racist journey. Hopefully, by creating this resource list, I have made it easier for teachers to integrate these books into their classrooms and create education spaces that embody the ideals of social justice and work against white supremacy and racism within schools. This list is nowhere near comprehensive, but it is my hope that this will be the springboard that early education teachers need to dive into this work. It is also my belief that educators should if able, join together to create a study group and do this work together.
Teachers are able to choose the language that they use when reading books aloud, especially for young students that cannot read; for instance, changing pronouns to make the book’s character gender-neutral, or censoring a word that is not used in the classroom (stupid or dumb). However, they cannot change the illustrations. Thus, it is crucial for accurate and comprehensive representation in early childhood books. Conscious effort is required to provide a varied experience through books. Written and spoken language influence gender socialization by providing direct information about the existence or invisibility of people in various societal roles.
If children never see Black female doctors, they will not think they exist, and young girls of color will not see this career avenue as a possibility.
When working with younger students specifically, it is the educator’s task to build a foundation of critical thinking as well as developmentally appropriate knowledge of various power structures in relation to oppression. Active ignorance thrives on socially sanctioned practices, such as the perpetuation of curriculum that enables white supremacy. Educators need to be held accountable for their efforts to show their students the many intricacies of the world in which they live. Teaching students of any age to question and critique what they are told will begin to build this foundation for awareness of implicit bias and epistemic ignorance. Postructural feminism beseeches pedagogies and educators to look to the margins and find those students who have been forgotten (MacNaughton, 2001).
Giving children the agency and power to articulate their own needs guides them to embody their intellectual potential. This must include promoting equitable policies that truly integrate positive representations of marginalized groups into every classroom, every day. Instead of a one-time celebration of surface level cultural exploration, the work is an everyday requirement in order to adequately prepare children for the world in which they live. This includes sharing the authentic lived experiences of historical figures of color, same-sex parents, disabled and neurodiverse people, as well as gender diverse professionals, all presented in an age-appropriate manner (Pat & McBride, 1993).
Books play an important role in gender socialization by providing children with information about ethical societal values, as well as providing role models for what they can and should do as adults (Pat & McBride, 1993). If these essential elements are held at arm’s length, we are doing great damage to our planet, and our community.
Speaking truth to power engages students and
empowers them on their journey towards embodying compassion.
Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice. New York, New York. Teachers College Press.
MacNaughton, Glenda. (2001). Rethinking Gender in Early Childhood Education.Newbury Park, California. SAGE Publications.
Pat, M.B.; McBride, B.A. (1993). Gender Equity in Picture Books in Preschool Classrooms: An Exploratory Study.Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association.