As a librarian I have the unique responsibility and pleasure of creating the universe. Arrogant? I don’t think so. I create the universe because I curate the library. I pick the books that students read to understand the universe. From a very young age, we understand and are taught that if it is important it is in a book. So, if I don’t read histories that include positive and accurate portrayals about people who look like me, talk like me, and live in places like mine then it is like I don’t exist, or rather I can begin to believe that there is nothing positive about people like me. I could also reject books entirely, because I know that there are positive, interesting and fantastic things about me and people like me, but they aren’t found in books.
Librarians MUST be advocates for all children. Not only for students that may be marginalized, but also for those students in the dominant culture, because they can grow up with a false sense of entitlement. Those kids grow up and become teachers themselves and tell their students things like “we don’t need another black president”. The take-away being that we’ve done that already, lets get back to the real business of white only, male only, Christian only politics. Read More
As we create the universe through the books we choose to place in the our libraries and on our classroom shelves we must be sure to:
- Acquire titles that show diverse perspectives of historical events – On Columbus Day and prior to Thanksgiving be sure to display books from the perspective of Native Americans. Patriotism is not a religion. We make ideas available. Children should be allowed to look at history from every angle and make up their own minds.
- Choose books that reflect the real lives of your students – Don’t shy away from books that deal with racism, rape, incest, drug addiction and the like. We have kids in our schools who have been raped. We teach kids who are struggling with or have parents struggling with addiction. They need to know that they are not alone.
- Make sure that there are diverse reflections of all kinds of students, even if you don’t teach them – If you have an all-white population it is important that your kids have books by and about people of color and vice versa. If all kids consume is Teen Mom and Cops, white students will grow up to fear people of color and children of color will grow up to hate themselves (yes, I said it!)
- Recognize LGBT students – You have a gay student. Again, you have a gay, lesbian or transgendered student. You may not know who he or she is, but they are there. Let them know that they exist in the world by choosing fiction and non-fiction books about their experiences. A review of the Stonewall Riots is essential in your non-fiction section. Take it a step further and choose titles on first amendment rights of students and then display it during Pride Week.