Revisiting Your Library:
Decolonizing, Not Just Diversifying
Zaretta Hammond weighs in
Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018.  blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison
February, 2020
Dear RBT Community,

February is Black History Month, and schools have a variety of ways that they celebrate. I want to suggest that it is a perfect time to revisit your classroom and school library and decolonize rather than just diversify your book collection. Why? When we take a simple “multicultural” approach to diversify our libraries, we add books with more brown faces, but we may still be perpetuating stereotypes. The multicultural approach doesn’t position us to analyze our picture books, chapter books, and non-fiction texts for the subtle negative messages and narratives about families of color or immigrant students and families.  
In 2015 (and again in 2018), St. Catherine University’s Sarah Park Dahlen, associate professor of the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program shared her research in a powerful infographic to highlight that “children’s literature continues to misrepresent underrepresented communities.” She did the research to disrupt the notion that just adding more brown characters was enough, but that we need to address the inaccuracy and uneven quality of some of those books. 

For example, too many of the so-called “diverse” books featuring African Americans have limited themes. Most often they are about buses , boycotts , or basketba ll. They are storylines that are often about the challenges of “urban or inner-city” living. Or those books center around a “Black Lives Matter” social justice theme, depicting African Americans during slavery or the civil rights era, focusing on “heroes and holidays”. Lastly, a common stereotypical theme is Black kids and sports as a way to increase reading engagement, especially among boys. These types of books are not wrong to include, but you don’t want them to be the majority of what is in your collection. Because, in reality, Black life is diverse. The Black experience is diverse. Our classroom libraries should reflect that reality too.

So, this month we have the opportunity to move toward being more culturally responsive, and “decolonize” the narratives in our collection. To help, here are a few questions you can use as a protocol to assess whether a book is worthy to be added to your collection (or needs to be removed): 

1. Does the book go beyond typical themes about characters of color? Avoid caricatures that reinforce stereotypes like “the hoopster” or “the fatherless son”. Dr. Alfred Tatum, author of Reading for Their Life: (Re)Building the Textual Lineages of African American Adolescent Males, says we should ensure that texts offer counter-narratives that show students of color as problem solvers, especially boys, and storylines that challenge the “victim mentality”. Check the storyline in addition to the images. Are there children of color doing everyday things? Too often dominant racial narratives about who’s the smart kid in the book don’t include children of color. 

2. Do the children of color look “authentic”? Meaning, do they have varied shades of brown skin and textured hair and are not just white features painted brown. Check that other visuals are not reinforcing dominant narratives or deficit views.

3. Are the texts , especially fictional stories “enabling” ? Dr. Tatum talks about ensuring texts are “enabling” rather than disabling to students. An enabling narrative recognizes, honors, and nurtures diverse students’ multiple identities: academic/intellectual, cultural/racial, and personal/social. It shows these identities as integrated in a matter of fact way and as common rather than having the high achieving child of color be the exception or characterized as a “nerd” or oddball.

These three questions will help you expand the notion of “mirrors and windows” in ways that are more affirming for African American students as well as expand White students’ exposure to the everydayness of Black life in America and around the world. 

Zaretta Hammond
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Culturally Responsive Teaching Resources
Windows and Mirrors: Learning About Difference—and Belonging—Through Books
When there is diversity in classroom materials, students connect to the experiences of others—and have their own reflected and valued.
Christopher Emdin | We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service | SXSWedu 2017
Merging theory and practice, connecting contemporary issues to historical ones, and providing a deep analysis on the current state of education, Dr. Emdin ushers in a new way of looking at improving schools and schooling. Drawing from themes in his New York Times Bestselling book, and the latest album from rap group A Tribe Called Quest, Emdin offers insight into the structures of contemporary schools, and highlights major issues like the absence of diversity among teachers, the ways educators of color are silenced in schools, the absence of student voice in designing teaching and learning, and a way forward in addressing these issues.
Zaretta Hammond "Culturally Responsive Teaching" at the San Francisco Public Library
The author of "Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain" explains how her personal experiences led her to investigate what children need to have an academic mindset. Dr. Hammond also explains how "grit" and "pep talks" aren't the solution when early learners struggle.
How to teach kids to talk about taboo topics | Liz Kleinrock
When one of Liz Kleinrock's fourth-grade students said the unthinkable at the start of a class on race, she knew it was far too important a teachable moment to miss. But where to start? Learn how Kleinrock teaches kids to discuss taboo topics without fear -- because the best way to start solving social problems is to talk about them.
Website Resources and Articles
The New YA: Young readers' editions can change the way we teach history. By Julia Delacroix, Teaching Tolerance, Issue 64, Spring 2020  
Young readers' editions can change the way we teach history.
Finding texts in which children see their cultural & linguistic selves will foster increased engagement in literacy & spur a lifelong love of reading.
A non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
A blog on race, diversity, education, and children's books
"The notion of culturally responsive education is premised on the idea that culture is central to student learning. According to Gloria Ladson−Billings, "It is an approach that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills and attitudes." The use of cultural referents in teaching bridges and explains the mainstream culture, while valuing and recognizing the students' own cultures.
By Liz Kleinrock, ASCD September 2019 | Volume  61  | Number  9  
To cultivate a learning space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their experiences and asking tough questions, there must be mutual trust and respect between the students and facilitator, as well as intentional planning by the classroom teacher.
A bold, brain based teaching approach to culturally responsive instruction

To close the achievement gap, diverse classrooms need a proven framework for optimizing student engagement. Culturally responsive instruction has shown promise, but many teachers have struggled with its implementation―until now. 
In this book, Zaretta Hammond draws on cutting edge neuroscience research to offer an innovative approach for designing and implementing brain compatible culturally responsive instruction.
By Christopher Emdin

Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools.  For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y’all Too  is the much-needed antidote to traditional top-down pedagogy and promises to radically reframe the landscape of urban education for the better.
By Alfred Tatum

"Because African American adolescent males and face their own challenges, they must identify texts that mark their times and their lives. If we create opportunities for this to happen, they will not only begin to trust the texts, they will begin to trust us, too. Then maybe, we'll hear one of them say, Education is on our side,' or, 'I used to keep it gutter, but now I am all good.' This is my hope."  -Alfred Tatum
By Eddie Moore Jr., Ali Michael, Marguerite W. Penick-Parks
Schools that routinely fail Black boys are not extraordinary. In fact, they are all too ordinary. If we are to succeed in positively shifting outcomes for Black boys and young men, we must first change the way school is "done." That’s where the eight in ten teachers who are White women fit in . . . and this urgently needed resource is written specifically for them as a way to help them understand, respect and connect with  all  of their students.  
By Gholdy E. Muhammad
In  Cultivating Genius , Dr. Gholdy E. Muhammad presents a four-layered equity framework—one that is grounded in history and restores excellence in literacy education. This framework, which she names,  Historically Responsive Literacy , was derived from the study of literacy development within 19th-century Black literacy societies. The framework is essential and universal for all students, especially youth of color, who traditionally have been marginalized in learning standards, school policies, and classroom practices. 
By Tracey A. Benson and Sara E. Fiarman
In  Unconscious Bias in Schools , two seasoned educators describe the phenomenon of unconscious racial bias and how it negatively affects the work of educators and students in schools. “Regardless of the amount of effort, time, and resources education leaders put into improving the academic achievement of students of color,” the authors write, “if unconscious racial bias is overlooked, improvement efforts may never achieve their highest potential.” In order to address this bias, the authors argue, educators must first be aware of the racialized context in which we live.
By Bettina L. Love
Drawing on her life’s work of teaching and researching in urban schools, Bettina Love persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements. She argues that the US educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color. Instead of trying to repair a flawed system, educational reformers offer survival tactics in the forms of test-taking skills, acronyms, grit labs, and character education, which Love calls the educational survival complex.
 "Racism in our society and a dearth of cultural proficiency in our classrooms exerts a downward force on the achievement of students of color that must be met with active countermeasures ."
p. 32-39 of The Skillful Teacher, 7th Edition
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