In 2017, I created Diversify Your Bookshelf, a small Facebook group where parents, librarians and educators exchange about children books. I wanted to share my passion for books and connect with other adults who are committed to increasing the amount of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors for their kids at home, at school, and in the community. As I continue to increase thoughtful representation through the texts I present to my students, I thought it may be useful to share what books are sitting on my classroom bookshelves at this point in time.
Whether acquiring a book for my children or for my students, my essential questions are:
- Which identities are represented in the story (race, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, class, immigration status, religion, ability, body, family structure, age, place, etc.)?
- Who wrote the story?
- Does the story help break stereotypes about these identities?
- Do people with identities belonging to historically marginalized groups have agency, i.e. are they in charge of their own story or are they props in the story?
For a more in-depth guide by Learning For Justice to thinking critically about texts in your classroom, click here.
Here are some examples of books that don’t pass the test put forth by the above essential questions:
- A book that perpetuates the “white savior” complex, i.e. a white character travels to a Black or Brown country and saves the day while learning compassion or gratitude.
- A book that portrays any culture as a “poor but happy”.
- A book that portrays girls as prizes for boys or where girls exhibit stereotypical behaviors.
- A book where a disabled character is “saved” by an abled character.
- A book that perpetuates heteronormative narratives, such as “Anne has a normal family with a mom and a dad”.
- A book where illustrations are not thoughtful.
Does this mean my library is bias-free? Of course not. There is always bias in any text, no matter who creates it. You and I are full of biases. I am simply striving to be intentional in choosing the books I display in my library by reading them and thinking deeply about how they do or don’t provide mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors for my students.
When choosing language readers for your classroom library, read reviews by the Language Learner Literature Advisory Board (LLLAB). This diverse team of multilingual educators produces thoughtful reviews for books in French, Spanish, German.
My library is organized by genre, not by level.
09/2022: this year, at my students’ request, I am also adding color dots on each book: Green = Easy & Glossary; Yellow = Intermediate & Glossary ; Blue = Challenging & Glossary ; Red = No glossary (please note, “Intermediate” in this context has nothing to do with a proficiency level).
Click on the images below to access books I have on my shelves. I hope this post helps someone get a library started, or perhaps audit or add to their current library.
Note 1: I have linked each book to its Publisher or Author, CPLI.net, and last resort Amazon. Please feel free to investigate better prices on your favorite book provider site. If you are planning to buy 5 or more books, it is always better to contact the publisher/author.
Note 2: If you don’t see a book you know of, it could mean two things: it either did not pass the test or I have not read it yet. Don’t make assumptions and please do your homework 🙂 Feel free to comment or get in touch with me.
Note 3: If you choose to purchase an #authres book via one of the very few Amazon links provided, I receive a 4.5% commission. This commission is not taken from the author’s royalties nor is it billed to you. It is taken from Amazon’s share.
I love your digital record of what is on your bookshelves! You have given me the idea of creating a similar record of my shelves, allowing my students to remotely browse my library. This could eliminate traffic jams at the bookcases, and encourage students to look beyond the front couple of books. They could also check the digital shelves to see where to return the book they have borrowed.
Funny how this post triggered an unrelated idea, good for you. If you want more ideas on how to avoid traffic jams, here are browsing strategies you can use with your students: https://towardproficiency.com/2019/11/11/teachers-as-librarians-browsing-strategies-that-help-your-students-become-independent-readers/
[…] posted a list of questions for you to ask about your […]
I never realized so much of this… and I am a little embarrassed at myself for it. Thank you for this post! It does really make me reflect about what I have on my shelves, and how I was unwittingly perpetuating stereotypes. This is one of the most valuable posts I’ve read in a very very long time. Merci!!
Thank you so so much for sharing your titles! I’ve been trying to research the best titles on my own, but reading and buying takes more time that I have to offer! I can’t wait to get my own library started! Merci mille fois!
Thank you for this post. I’ve read it multiple times and finally decided it was time to show my appreciation. I’ve already purchased and read the first Abiola book to my students over Zoom. We all enjoyed it so much that I purchased the other two and I’ve got several other titles from your list in my cart to purchase later this summer. It would be lovely if you could update your slides with any new books you add including your own. I’ve ordered Camille to finish out your trilogy in my library. I’m excited about a body positive book for girls to add to my library. Goodness know we need it!
I am so thrilled to read this, Shanda! I am updating the list slowly but you are right I forgot to put my own book in there! Thanks for the reminder. This book is very personal because in the 90s I was that dancer with the “non typical ballerina” body. I wish I had had more role models back then like Lizzo, Lizzy Howell, etc.
Anyway, stay in touch, I can’t to hear what else you put in your library!
[…] characters. And so, while the rest of my curriculum has been steadily providing more and more mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors to all my students, my SL stories have continued to primarily feature either cis straight […]
Hello! I realize you organize by genre, but I also am buying a whole new library. I would like to know if you have a list of your books organized by level so that I can gauge how many to buy. Thank you!
Bojour, Mike Peto and Martina Bex maintain a list of all readers by level here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1PqWy3TUr6CXfdpBthGahL8B7ACVfnes86SfN4xbd-UY/htmlview#