Young children love great stories. With their natural wonder and curiosity, they easily get excited to jump into new books that will take them on adventures to new and interesting worlds or introduce them to an inspiring new character. Books and stories help children make meaning of their world. They allow children to formulate their own identity. They help children learn about experiences and people that are different from their own backgrounds.
One of the most important decisions educators make is the selection of instructional materials and tools they choose to utilize in their classrooms. For preschool students, books and stories are a cornerstone of these materials as they provide the foundation for social, emotional, and academic development. The selection of books in an early childhood classroom is particularly important as this is the phase of development where children begin to learn about themselves and others. However, the traditional canon of stories and children’s books tends to be culturally limited.
The Need for Diverse, Culturally-Relevant Books
The books early learners have available to them should provide students with both familiar representations that help develop self-identity as well as introductions to people who do not look or think like them. Students should be exposed to stories where the book’s hero or heroine looks and sounds like them. They should also experience stories and images that introduce them to the lives of others in their neighborhoods and those far beyond their communities. Childcare center directors, teachers, and all those who work with young children have the privilege and responsibility to build culturally diverse classroom libraries in their schools.
Introducing Topics and Encouraging Conversation
And when students see themselves in books and curricular resources, they are more connected to and engaged in learning. Books can become a launching pad for conversation and activities with students in a variety of settings and situations. They are a safe way to introduce and explore challenging or new topics for children. Through reading, discussions, and activities utilizing a diverse collection of books, students can listen, learn, and engage in conversations about themselves, their families, their classmates, and the broader world.
To diversify preschool classroom libraries so that they appropriately represent a wide spectrum of cultures, experiences, and perspectives, check out:
Scholastic Books: This curated book list highlights books that teach respect, understanding, and perspective.
The Brown Bookshelf: This organization showcases picture books for young learners and books for older students written by black authors.
Brightly: This list spotlights a collection of books that include diverse main characters.
Expanding your classroom library allows students to both identify with the lessons and stories and learn about people and places far beyond their own home, neighborhood, and community.