It’s that time once again, a new school year… a new beginning. As you open the classroom door and scan around the room, what do you see…all students exactly the same? No, of course not, you look around and see all types of students; all makes and models. Male, female…blondes, brunettes, red heads…a variety of ethnicity and religions…from all different socioeconomic classes and family structures. America is known as the melting pot, therefore of course you wouldn’t expect to have a classroom full of exactly the same types of students.
And with this realization, would you expect all these students to have the same interests and desires? The simple answer to this question is…no. So why would you believe that all students would benefit from reading the same types of literature?
In 2017, there were approximately 50.7 million school children who attended public
schools (“Digest of Education Statistics, 2016”). That amounts to 50.7 million different learning styles, 50.7 million interests, 50.7 million dreams, and 50.7 million students who have not had the chance to be exposed to everything and everyone that this great world of ours offers.
Today’s America is more diverse then ever. It is important that students are able to read books that mirror their lives; books that students are able to feel a connection. Students need to feel like they are a part of something and literature is one avenue that allows this. Students who are not reading books that have characters they can relate to, start to feel less important…an outsider. They feel isolated and lonely; they gain a feeling of worthlessness.
Students also need to be able to connect to others that are unlike themselves. I know in a rural, conservative community like the one in which I reside, students are not exposed to as many different cultures, religions, backgrounds and sexual orientations as students in large cities. Therefore it is extremely important for students to be allowed to read diversely in order to become more informed, aware, and empathetic of others that are unlike themselves.
As elementary and high school teachers, it is our responsibility to help get students ready for the real world. Diversity is one aspect of this world. In order for students to feel valued and have an understanding and appreciation for others around them, we need to allow them to read as diversely as possible while they are in their formative years. I know that the more diverse literature that I have read and come in contact with, the more I have learned and become in more appreciative of all the different types of people in the world. The world will continue to become more and more diverse, and with this trend it is more important than ever that we incorporate diverse literature into the classroom to meet the needs of each and every student.