So I came across an article from The New York Times last week about a self-published author from Queens, New York who convinced the Department of Education (with a lot of determination and business acumen) to approve his books for a school’s reading list. Within in two years, the NY public school system brought more than 50,000 copies of his books. The stories were meant to reach out to children, to hold their interest, to make them say, “Hey! I know that guy! He’s just like me!” The author was a man of color and this was in 2009.
We are now in 2013, and I’m left wondering, ‘How much has changed or improved in connection to multiculturalism in public schools?’
Interestingly enough, I stumbled across an actual lesson plan called, “Multiculturalism and Diversity”. I chuckled when I read this description:
“Today’s classroom is more diverse than ever before. We’ve compiled tips from experts, lesson plan ideas, and ready-to-go activities that speak to the backgrounds of all your students.”
Doesn’t this sound very commercial? Like someone talking about some new educational breakthrough? I guess multiculturalism and diversity are considered “a part of the curriculum” as opposed to being a part of your child’s everyday life. Schools are now acknowledging the “differences” that are found in every classroom.
I am a mother to three children (one in elementary school and the other starting JHS this year). At the end of each school year, the school gives the kids a list of books they should read during the summer so they don’t suffer from “Summer Slide!” You know that disorder. It’s when your kid’s brain goes to mush from not picking up a book for the entire break. LOL!
I reviewed the summer reading list and was pleased to see a fair amount of multicultural books blended into the mix. Such as:
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi (my kids love this!)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kampwanba
My Name is Gabito: the Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Monica Brown
And books that talked about someone who was not Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. (No offense but there are so many more of us; so many more stories that deserve a moment in the educational spotlight!)
Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story by Janet Halfman
The Rainbow People by Lawrence Yep
The Great Migration: Journey to the North by Eloise Greenfield
The Tree Is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico by Naomi Shihab Nye
I must say that it did my heart good to see that diversity was being implemented into their reading and curriculum. Though there is still a long way to go, at least steps are being taken to get our children where they need to be. Perhaps one day “our books” and “their books” will hold equal footing on the shelves.
Now there just needs to be more of us publishing books… I think I’ll address that topic another time! J