Welcome to Colorful Pages! Are you ready to create a Colorful Classroom?
Recently our nation has been plagued with some horrific events, especially for people of color. Sometimes it seems as if every time it gets better, there is something lurking to smother color and culture. As teachers, librarians, and parents, we want to make sure we counter this in our spaces.
We want every child to feel seen and appreciated in our schools and homes. Think of our spaces as a colorful haven that will help grow these little ones into changemakers and diversity warriors. A colorful space begins by focusing on creating an environment that cultivates crosscultural empathy for everyone and cultural empowerment for children from minoritized groups.
In this post, I will be specifically focusing on creating a Colorful Classroom, but this information can be applied to any setting. Here are three steps to start to create a Colorful Classroom:
1. Check and Change Your Classroom Library
What races and cultures dominate your classroom library? Are protagonists of color in the majority or the minority of your library?
Check your classroom library and see how many of your books feature people of color and/or are written by people of color. Strive to have the majority of your books be multicultural literature from all categories of the Spectrum for Multicultural Literature. In a world where children of color are constantly minoritized, we want to create a space where their identities are in the majority.
From now on, a good rule of thumb is to only buy multicultural books. In my experience, you will always have or be gifted books featuring white protagonists because they are easier to find and the books that most people think about buying first. However, if you make a deliberate resolution to only buy multicultural books, I promise that you will see the makeup of your library change significantly.
If you want some good recommendations for multicultural literature, check here often or subscribe to our blog below.
2. Make Changes to Your Lesson Plans
What and who do you focus on in your lesson plans? Do you only pull out multicultural literature for MLK Day or [fill in the blank] Heritage Month?
While it is important to use multicultural literature during those times of the year, it should not be the only time that children of color see themselves in our lesson plans. We want our students to feel empowered by their race and culture and help others appreciate different races and cultures. In order to do this, we need to look at the books and content in our lesson plans and how we are using them.
Just like above, try to make sure that the majority of books you are using feature protagonists of color. You should include a wide range of books from all three categories of The Spectrum for Multicultural Literature: Representation Books, Exploration Books, and Conversation Books. You should not teach about race and culture only in the lens of racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Include Representation Books and Exploration Books in your lesson plans, so your students see people of color in positive and everyday situations too.
Another big change that can help create a more Colorful Classroom is Ethnic Studies. However, I could dedicate a whole separate website to that, so I will post about that another day (I also teach full-time haha)!
3. Get Your Students and Families Involved
Have you asked your students what they want to read? Have you asked families to lend copies of their favorite books for your classroom?
This is an easy way to create a colorful classroom that simultaneously empowers those around you. Ask students and families, especially students and families of color, the following questions:
- What books do you want to read in our classroom?
- What books do you read at home?
These questions will allow for student and family voice. It can also point you to some books you would’ve never heard about. In order to prevent barriers for some families of color from participating, try your best to get the questions translated for your families who require translation support.
In addition, ask your families and students to loan the class their favorite book they read at home. This will allow students to bring their family’s culture into the classroom, which will empower them and allow everyone else to catch a glimpse into a diverse range of identities.
If you do these three steps, your classroom will be on its way to being a Colorful Classroom where every student sees themselves and learns from others. Comment below and tell me which step you are most excited to try!