Last week, I posted a blog about why diversity is so important and why we need more of it. This week, I have been asked to post about my reading life and what exactly diverse reading means to me. To me, reading diversely is getting out of ourselves and experiencing the world from someone else’s point of view. A diverse read is one that will take its reader away from the life that they know and set them squarely in a life that is filled with unknowns. Sometimes the characters are of a different race; other times, the topics are what I see as diverse. When reading diversely, I often find that I don’t quite relate to the full struggle that the main character(s) are going through; however, I find that I can relate to the emotions that are exuded by them during their struggle. I feel heartbreak. I can sense their confusion or, sometimes, their anger. These novels and the stories that they contain open my eyes to a completely new world. As a future educator, this is crucial for me.
That being said, I have a lot of work to do. A lot. Prior to this course, I hadn’t ever really considered what I read. I never actively searched for diverse books. Honestly, sometimes they just fell into my lap through recommendations or library searches. Now, though, I am becoming more exposed to diverse books through the help of book club (go Avengers!) and other classmates. I think that it is sometimes a challenge to read diversely because we are afraid of what we may find. Some topics are graphic to read about and aren’t always appealing to readers. Other times, people find it easier to just stick with what they know. These people will read books by the same authors over and over again or will stick with the same genre. I will admit that I am completely guilty of this; once I find something that I like, I tend to stick with it. But, after these past couple weeks, I realize that I need to branch out. I must read through a window that will give me a glimpse of someone else’s life. This will make me feel more in tune with those around me; after all, we don’t all fight the same battles, and we certainly don’t walk the same path. Reading through someone else’s eyes makes me more empathetic and, quite frankly, knowledgeable. I’m not saying that this is always easy- in fact, I’ve read some diverse books that have broke my heart. But, I do know that it’s worth it. I’ve learned a lot from these books, and I feel that other people can learn from them too. That doesn’t mean that you can’t re-read some of your favorites from time to time. I still pick up Twilight when I’m working in the library at school and get bored (I can still find my favorite pages right away, too). However, it’s important to broaden your horizons as well.
Classroom-How Can I Help Students?
I think that it is incredibly important for our students to have a diverse reading life. When I was younger, I read as both a mirror and a window. I loved meeting characters that reminded me of the people that I surrounded myself with, but I also loved entering into new and exciting worlds that I could never physically go to. Now, as a future educator, I see the importance of reading as a window into not only mystical worlds, but also as a window into another person’s reality. Sometimes, we just don’t know what people are going through, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. I’ve always been the type of person that wants to make everyone smile and feel better when they aren’t happy, but it’s obvious that that is not always an option. We just can’t always know all of the circumstances that those around us are in. Reading, though, can open doors into the minds of other people that have been locked shut. Sometimes, we can see issues come to light when we read. It’s important to be empathetic and understanding of others, and I want my future students to really see the world around them.
In order to help with this, I plan on having my classroom library be fully stocked with books. I plan on having my all-time favorite books in it of course (I am a shameless book pusher), but I will also place books in it that will open kids’ eyes to the world around them. Books that show them not only mystical lands, but also big cities in the United States where bad things happen to people everyday. Books that will place them directly into another person’s shoes to see how they live. These are the books that really teach us lessons. For example, I read Little Peach by Peggy Kern this past week for book club. If you haven’t read it yet, I would strongly recommend it. However, I’m not afraid to admit that I would never have picked up this book on my own. Never. I am so fortunate that my book club decided to read it, because I have learned numerous lessons from it. Talking about this book brought up so many issues and great discussions; it was my favorite book club meeting of the year so far! I want my students to not shy away from books that are different, because if I had done that, I never would have read such an impactful, eye-opening novel. I will have diverse novels available for them to read; I can only hope that they will be impacted as much as I have been.
So, I’m going to challenge myself to read more diversely. This semester, I’ve found that some of my favorite books are the ones that I wouldn’t normally pull off of the shelf myself; whether it’s a story about two young women with special needs who have always been told that they aren’t good enough (Also a great book. Check it out.) or a story about a young girl who trusts the wrong person and gets caught unknowingly in a sex trafficking ring, I learn and grow through these books. I know that I can’t diversify my reading on my own though, so I am always open to suggestions. 🙂 Diverse reading is something that I want to fully make a habit of doing; I know that it won’t always be easy, but I believe that it is essential for both my students and myself.