Archives For Diversity

What’s your name?

It’s a question we are asked and ask many times in our lives. But how often do we consider all the layers of story and identity connected with the answer?

Some strangers may not even bother to learn your name but size you up by the way you look. You may be identified by your first and last name on paperwork and be judged on that basis. Colleagues might know your name but not your nicknames. Friends might know your nickname but not the story behind them. Family might know the history behind the name but maybe not your feelings.

Each and every name carries a world of stories, feelings, histories, associations, cultures and identities. Here are five ways to mine the richness in a name so that individuals can be seen and known for a tiny, yet monumental, part of who they are and how they feel they belong or don’t.

  1. Ask Questions. What does your name mean? Who were you named after? Why? How do you feel about you name? Has your feelings towards your name changed?
  2. Use These Poems or Story Excerpts as Writing Prompts: 
    • House on Mango Street’s “My Name” chapter By Sandra Cisneros
    • Z is for Zuri in Damitra Brown Class Clown by Nickki Grimes 
    • The Name I wanted by Richard Blanco 
    • Ismi by Suheir Hammad in Born Palestinian, Born Black 
    • His Long Tapered Fingers by Fan Chiang
  3. Have the students or group create a visual representation of their names and their feelings about it and make a name quilt
  4. Investigate historical or contemporary situations where groups or individuals have had to change names to “belong”
    • Ellis Island or Angel Island and current immigration to the U.S
    • Native American “assimilation process”
    • job, loan, and other forms of paper work discrimination based on perceived ethnicity of name
  5. Role play and examine the negative impact of name calling and brainstorm creative ways to be an upstander in those moments

And in case you want one more. Here’s a bonus activity! 

Read any of the books from this “what’s in a name” bookshelf and start a discussion with whomever you are with. ( click the image for book summary.)

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And by the way: my name Samantha means listener in Aramaic. I was named after the Bing Crosby Song “I am a one gal guy” from the musical High Society. When I was a reporter I used the byline Sam because I liked the gender ambivalence. And when I hear my full name, it’s usually because I am in trouble with my mother.

Feel free to add your own name stories to the comments below or share other name activities.

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Transforming Your Space

after the Class Room Audit

So you’ve read your classroom for the silent messages that your room is sending. ( see here for how to do so)    You’ve determined how welcoming a place it is for multiple identities. Now what?

Here’s the fun part. Think about one thing you can add to your space that will make it a more inclusive environment?

Does that seem overwhelming?

Don’t worry, I’ve tried to make it easier for you.

I’ve  compiled  a sampling of diverse and inclusive resources to provide your students or your own children with mirrors that reflect and validate their own identities and windows that allow a view and an appreciation for identities different than their own. I have tried to provide a variety of materials in various disciplines that would be appropriate for a preschooler to a middle schooler. Click on the picture for my pinterst board of resources and enjoy celebrating all identities.

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After window shopping and gathering inspiration and ideas, fill out your wish list here.

 

 

So you’ve identified the gaps on your shelves. (If you haven’t, click here to find out how.) You know you need certain windows and mirrors. You’ve determined that you should add some missing voices. And you don’t have as many multiple perspectives on a topic as you’d like. Now what?

Don’t panic! I’ve done some of the work for you and am sharing it with you now. I’ve compiled an ever- growing list of resources that I personally use to build an inclusive and anti-bias library. However, the list is only as good as my own research and it’s also hindered my own blinders or sweet spots.

For example, even though I’ve consciously been building diverse book collections for a long time, it was only a few years ago that it occurred to me to analyze the bookshelves for class bias. Focusing on other sweet spots of collection development impacted the children I teach. They did not have access to windows and mirrors that encompass the range of economic diversity. The books on my shelves mainly contained the default in most books: the middle class. While it’s tough to find books that portray a variety of socio-economic circumstances in positive light, it is our job to seek them out.

My list of resources and my own analysis of my collection is also only as strong as my blind spots. Recently, I asked attendees at a MSLA workshop about creating cross cultural collections. They identified some gaps, mirrors and windows, and missing voices that I had never even considered.

Why? First, because we all have our own biases whether we want to admit them or not. Secondly, the librarians, teachers and administrators who were present at the conference, serve different communities than I do. So of course, they quite rightly have different identities on their radar.

What I love about this work is when we share our concerns; we can pool our knowledge and broaden each other’s horizon.

Someone in the workshop said she was looking for Cape Verdean resources. Sadly, you aren’t going to find these books when you walk into a Barnes and Nobles. So I started to dig. I had never researched books for this identity before. I was thrilled when I found out that Janet Costa Bates, a woman whom I often see at New England SCBWI conferences, had published a book about her grandmother’s experience of emigrating from Cape Verde.

I was delighted to discover this fact for a number of reasons.

  1. Another person helped me think outside my own boundaries and inspired me to seek out resources for which I might never have looked.
  2. I discovered that it is hard to find windows and mirrors through traditional sources; but with some work they are out there. (Here’s Mike Monteiro’s list which is also included in the resources below.)
  3. There are some (though too few mirrors) available for the Cape Verdean community that you might serve.
  4. This is a perfect example of why we need to share our personal stories. I’ve casually chatted with Janet over the years. But it wasn’t until writing this post that I understood what mirrors she was offering a community of Massachusetts residents. If it wasn’t for the participant in my workshop who caused me to think in a new direction and if it wasn’t for Janet quietly writing her story, my students may never had a chance to experience a life so different and similar to their own. Because of course, I am now adding the Lee & Low new voices honor award winner, Seaside Dream to my own library collection!

So please, enjoy the resources I’ve compiled thus far. (If you share them with others just cite my work). But more importantly, share with me your resources. Tell me what you looking for so together we can grow a comprehensive list for every identity and every single story that adds to the multiplicity of that identity.

And don’t forget to check back here periodically as I am continually updating the below Symbaloo resources for developing diverse bookshelves! (click on the image for the topic links)

Anti Bias Articles

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If you are a in a school, don’t miss out on the link to access your school’s demographic data and a multicultural appendix B list for the common core.

Race & Ethnicity Resources

The icon for each ethnicity links to multiple resources.

The icon for each ethnicity links to multiple resources.

LGBTQ Resources

There are other resources in the gender and family structure sections.

There are other resources in the gender and family structure sections.

Gender

Some of these resources deal with questioning  gender identity while others deal with more traditional gender stereotypes and related issues.

Some of these resources deal with questioning gender identity while others deal with more traditional gender stereotypes and related issues.

Family Structure

Many more resources on the way.

Many more resources on the way.

Religion

Only a few religions are represented so far. More are coming. Click on the religion's icon for more resources.

Only a few religions are represented so far. More are coming.
Click on the religion’s icon for more resources.

Ability

There are multiple identities within the community of the differently abled. Here is the beginning of a list to provide windows and mirrors for this group of individuals.

There are multiple identities within the community of the differently abled. Here is the beginning of a list to provide windows and mirrors for this group of individuals.

 

English Language Learners & Bilingual Resources

Sites to purchase materials in various languages and articles about bilingual topics.

Sites to purchase materials in various languages and articles about bilingual topics.

Class

 

Examining for class is tough. Most books have a middle class default. It's important to see out a spectrum of economic realities.

Examining for class is tough. Most books have a middle class default. It’s important to see out a spectrum of economic realities.

 Diversity Blogs

Some blogs I follow to stay current on diverse resources to build an anti bias bookshelves.

Some blogs I follow to stay current on diverse resources to build an anti bias bookshelves.

General Resources

These sites could help you build your collection in various areas of identity

These sites could help you build your collection in various areas of identity

 

 

You may have heard about the Lego debateor the mixed reviews  about Goldieblox or most recently the up and coming “design and engineer your own dolls house”,Roominatewhich, while brilliant in concept, still panders to the marketing of “girl colors.” And then of course, there’s the maelstrom that erupted when journalist Peggy Orenstein published Cinderella Ate My Daughter

All these are examples of attempts to look at what “stories” or messages we are giving children. 

And I say children deliberately. Much of the focus in these discussions is appropriately about what role models, stereotypes, and gender identity constrictions we are giving girls. But these not so conscious but conscious prescriptions also perpetuate a particular world for boys.

When Jean Kilbourne pointed out the advertising messages I was consuming about what it meant to be a women back in 1983 with her first Killing me Softly, I never saw the world the same again. I am deeply and eternally grateful to  her for making  the smog I was breathing obvious. But I abdicate how to fix the world of media messaging to the likes of her and Peggy Orenstein.  I also I leave the valiant attempts to encourage girls and women in STEM to the likes of the female engineers of Stanford such as the creators of Goldieblox’s, Debbie Sterling and Roominate’s Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen.

But I won’t let those who interact with children off the hook.

I challenge you to ask the following questions when you pick up a book for your self, for your child or for your students. These questions are geared to picture books but with imagination can be adapted to any story or message you or the child in your life is consuming.

I also challenge you to think about your reaction to the fact that I wrote this post in pink! Did it bother you if so why?  Feel free to share your gut reactions if you have managed to ignore the color and read this far!

When you read a book take a few minutes to ask yourself or the child you are with these or other questions about gender roles. Pay attention to what difference it makes to your experience.  Should you be asking yourself these questions all the time now that you have started to pay attention? 

  • What do the women/girls look like?
  • What kind of work /activities are the women/girls doing?
  • What objects/toys etc are the women/girls playing with interacting with
  • What do the men look like?
  • What kind of work /activities are the men doing?
  • What kind of work /activities are the men/boys doing?
  • How do women and men interact with each other?
  • What sort of emotions do you see expressed on a woman’s/girl’s face?
  • What sort of emotions do you see expressed on a man/boys face?
  • What messages do you think the book is sending about the gender roles of men and women?

In honor of Presidents’ Day this week, I thought I’d share some quotes about difference and commonalities from various presidents through the ages.

Abraham Lincoln 16th U.S. President (1809-1865)

“Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th U.S. President (1961-1963)

 “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

 

Hubert H. Humphrey 38th U.S. Vice-President under Lyndon B. Johnson (1965-1969)

 “Fortunately, the time has long passed when people liked to regard the United States as some kind of melting pot, taking men and women from every part of the world and converting them into standardized, homogenized Americans. We are, I think, much more mature and wise today. Just as we welcome a world of diversity, so we glory in an America of diversity — an America all the richer for the many different and distinctive strands of which it is woven.”

Jimmy Carter 39th U.S. President (1977-1981)

“We are, of course a nation of differences. Those differences don’t make us weak. They’re the source of our strength.”

Bill Clinton 42nd US President (1993-2001)

 “Justice may be blind, but we all know that diversity in the courts, as in all aspects of society, sharpens our vision and makes us a stronger nation.”

Barack Obama 44th US President  (2009–)

“What the American people hope -– what they deserve -– is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.” State of the Union Address, Jan. 27, 2010

“We can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things.” Remarks at University of Michigan, May 1, 2010

I wanted to include this last quote even though it is not from an American President because if we all follow the advice, I believe the world could be a better place.

Andrew Masondo, African National Congress, Freedom Fighter, survivor of
Robben Island imprisonment along with Nelson Mandela

“Understand the differences; act on the commonalities.”

Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/o/obama_barack.html#mATJmI3mptUmu4hW.99 or http://thinkexist.com

Call me naive. But I just don’t understand why people are so threatened by a book that can expand a child’s understanding of the world. I am talking about the hullabaloo surrounding the magnificent picture book, Golden Domes, Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors.  domesWhile I am late to the controversy, I want to add my two cents to the conversation. Mainly because the whole brouhaha is a perfect example of why we MUST give children all sorts of windows and mirrors. If we do not share stories from a range of multiple perspectives, then fear will flourish and people will wage war rather than create connections.

If, like me, you are just discovering that there was both a twitter battle and a parent who returned the book in disgust, you might be imagining a very toxic book. However, Hena Khan’s powerfully simple, rhyming text merely shares with the reader traditions and colors of Islam. The artwork by Mehrdokht Amini bathes the reader in the beauty of this way of being in the world.

Yet certain “gatekeepers” feel like it is their obligation to protect children.

But what could be possibly threatening about a culturally specific example of the universal concept of helping those in need?giveneed

I can only imagine the fear that makes someone react to a recommendation or purchase of the book with the stance that “Islam is dangerous” (part of the twitter battle with author/ former educator Kate Messner) or  “I don’t want this culture around my children,…Learn to read and write before we start teaching (about) the fanaticals.” (Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Father upset after child finds Muslim book at school fair.)

While there are individuals in any group who may have extreme views or behaviors if we as the adult “gatekeepers” don’t expose children to multiple stories about multiple ways of being, we are accomplices in perpetuating intolerance and terror.

I have a dream that if I share enough stories that connect, inspire and educate, then the world will become a better and kinder place. And who better to inspire and connect than Martin Luther King Jr?  So I am sharing a few personal favorites that I hope move young audiences to become new advocates for peaceful change.

ImageMartin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Bryan Collier’s stunning mixed media illustrations and Doreen Rappaport’s simple but poignant text make for a powerful tribute to King’s life. Ideal for the young  and older audience alike, the theme that “hate can not drive out hate. Only love can do that” is highlighted by Collier’s  award winning use of different collage elements to forge unlikely connections. Even students in the second grade can grasp how his technique brings power to this hero’s story.

martin-and-mahalia-02_1200x450

Martin & Mahalia: His Words  Her Song

By Andrea Davis Pinkney Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

This talented husband and wife team have once again combined talents to bring to life hitherto unsung parts of history.  In a story of how Mahalia Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr’s lives mirrored each others, the power of an individual’s voice to make a difference comes through loud and clear. It is no surprise that is takes a duo not unlike the subject matter to play off each other to make the world richer for us all.

It is embarrassing to confess that my school library collection has state books that are twenty years old. But I am more willing to admit that my collection is woefully out of date because publishers are still publishing books that are filled with bias.

If in 2014 I can’t find an updated series that is inclusive in its representation and history, I’d rather keep my old ones.

lousiannaDuring my recent search for new state books, I was at first seduced by Children’s Press’s (an imprint of Scholastic) Blast Off Readers. It offered some compelling features for the budding researchers in my school. I liked that it had:

  • A table of contents
  • An index
  • Useful and interesting topics including history, the land, landmarks, wildlife, food, festivals, work, play, and fast facts
  • An up-close map of the state, with some major cities, and surrounding states
  • An insert map of where the state is located within the U.S.
  • Attractive photographs
  • A clean and simple appealing lay out (so many books have confusing or cluttered design.
  • It had a nice balance of text to visuals.
  • Clearly presented text which wasn’t so simple that it didn’t say much and not too complex for my younger students.

I was ready and excited to blast off with the series. But then I was saddened and even a bit disgusted to I realize the series did not stand up to the anti-bias test.

In fact, I hadn’t even officially run it through my checklist. Yet flipping through the Louisiana book I was struck by how few photos of African Americans were included.

Louisiana’s population is approximately 60% white so having 2 photos of African Americans out of 9 photographs or drawings of people is almost not egregious. However, one of the two photos is a small insert (eve though the caption does give credit to Louis Armstrong for being one of the most famous jazz musicians of all time).  The other photo of a jazz band in New Orleans has some of the African American musicians but several of them are in the gutter of the book and therefore the visual focus of the photo is of the Caucasian audience.

Why is this a big deal you make ask?  Because I worry about what conclusions children are unconsciously drawing. I am guessing that they are probably picking up some of the same messages the publishers, designers, writers etc. are unconsciously perpetuating.

(At least I hope they are unaware of the impact of their choices.)

So I started to closely examine the book and put it through my anti bias check list.  Such scrutiny is more than one posting so I will share my findings on Thursday.

Looking for more than just sugary tales to celebrate All Hallows Eve.or Day of the Dead? Never fear; pick the treat just right for you, whether it be a window or a mirror.

 

Los Gatos Black on Hallowen by Marisa Montes

Looking for spooky Spanish vocabulary, then this Bilingual Halloween poem is for you.

Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi

When A Korean-American boy trick or treats in his grandfather’s mask, “Talchum,” a traditional Korean mask dance, meets up with American trick or treat culture.

Shy Mama’s Halloween by Anne Broules illustrated by Leane Morin

Halloween is the way a Russian immigrant family finds acceptance.

Closet Ghosts by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Shiraaz Bhabha

When you move to a new country and find ghosts in your closet, it is time to call on the Indian Hindu monkey god,Hanuman.

Ghost for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki, illustrated by Shelly Shinjo

In 1920’s California, a Japanese-American boy and his father investigate a field of ghosts and confront their fears.

Ejoy a spooky night

After expanding their cross cultural knowledge base, my students were almost ready to face the paparazzi. (See this post for how they got there)

In other words, they were nearly ready to play the “Get to know a Hispanic Hero/Heroine bingo game” that I created for them. But first they needed to do a little more work to be an expert.

  • They re-read their mini-biographies and reviewed why their person was famous. They had already highlighted keywords in the paragraph to determine that as the main idea of the paragraph. ( In case you forgot, I found their age appropriate biographies at Scholastic’s site for Discovery History Makers.)
  • They then identified at least one fact about their Hispanic Hero/Heroine that they thought their classmates should know. I had already told them they were going to be “interviewed” by the paparazzi (their classmates).
  • Students then received “Get to know a Hispanic Hero/Heroine bingo game”. Click here for a downloadable version.

hispanicherobingo

  • Once they had found a teacher, or astronaut, etc., they asked the student the name of the Hispanic Hero/heroine that he or she was portraying and recorded it in the appropriate square.
  • They then interviewed the Hispanic Hero/Heroine and recorded the “interview”.
  • The goal was to get a bingo and be able to boast about how much they knew about as many Hispanic Heroes/Heroines as possible.

This week, students will take their paparazzi questions and turn them into “WHO WAS/IS clues” to scatter around the school. Each clue will say ask a third grader for the answer.

This way each child can take pride in the beginnings of their journey as they expand their cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of Hispanic Heroes/Heroines.

Obviously, this unit on learning about Latinos/as can be adapted to any group of individuals. I particularly like thinking about windows and mirrors and groups that aren’t often addressed in the mainstream curriculum. So feel free to adapt this idea for differently abled people, or Cambodian contributors, or whatever under-represented group that you feel passionate to share with the world.

Let me know how it goes.