Diversity in the Classroom

I Hope You Dance

When I taught a Special Day Class there were children in my classroom with a variety of differences. I think back on my time with fondness and deep appreciation because I learned that growth is not always measured by a test. I learned so much about patience, acceptance, compassion and inclusion from my exceptional students. They showed me what determination is and how to keep going when the going gets tough. I remember the way they cheered each other on when their classmate’s effort resulted in improvement. They smiled easily and didn’t shy away from taking a risk because they celebrated all effort. They taught me to do the same.

I learned not to limit them, because they had large imaginations that never ceased to amaze me. . They loved being exposed to possibilities. When I saw that the previous teacher used scripted copies of black and white text, I asked for real books. I was told that is was, “subject to debate.” I incurred the wrath of my principal when I asked to be on the “debate” team. I simply wanted my students to have access to the same books that other students were getting. Here is my favorite quote on inclusion:

I hope every child gets to dance.






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Children's Books, Diversity in the Classroom

Children’s Diverse Fairy Tales

No big changes from what you would expect from a telling of The Little Mermaid, but it is set in the Carribean with vibrant island colors and a notably dark-haired and darker-skinned Little Mermaid. I love the illustrations by Nivea Ortiz, they are vibrant and keep little ones who aren’t reading independently yet enthralled.


A funny re-telling of the classic fairy tale Princess and the Pea. Set in Peru and with a dash of Spanish words throughout the rhyming text tells the story of a prince who is being prepped for marriage and his mother who is making sure that only a real princess makes the cut. The queen is absolutely a monster-in-law, but the sweet prince makes up for her and then some. This book is a fantastic read-aloud, and I can’t give it away, but there might be a funny twist at the end too.

There are no twists or changes made to the classic tale and the text is short enough for a circle time read. Children adore the rich colors used in the illustrations and I love that there are no big changes to the story, simply a different lens and location.
A retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears that takes place during Chinese New Year. Goldy Luck is asked to take some food over to her neighbors but when they aren’t home curiosity gets the better of her and she gets into all kinds of trouble.
A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood that has a sick Auntie with spots and it’s up to Little Red to get her what she needs. Instead of a wolf, there is a Hungry Lion who has no clue what he’s getting himself into!  Kids love this book, the illustrations are hilarious and the story is fun. I don’t think it’s particularly African, in the way that Rachel Isadora’s books successfully incorporate cultural references in a much deeper way, but this is a fun read that has a brave little heroine and is definitely worth reading and finding a place for it on your bookshelf.
This is a story about respect and how there is a difference between being comfortable in other people’s houses and crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Beautiful book that celebrates these lessons and the West African culture of Ghana.
In this version of Stone Soup a fisherman gets tricked into helping to make soup. This book is told from the point of view of the fisherman but the illustrations show a different point of view. (China)





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Diversity in the Classroom, Literacy Resources

Diversity in the Classroom

Every Voice Heard — We are a Family

A school culture that promotes diversity in the classroom teaches students something that’s important: how to live and work in a society where every individual is unique. Diversity in the classroom teaches students to appreciate different perspectives and draw stronger conclusions. Challenging students to consider different perspectives can also teach them how to interact with their peers on a social level, and equip them with skills they’ll use for the rest of their life.

*********If it’s difficult to change your existing curriculum, use the opportunity to ask students why different perspectives aren’t included and challenge them to apply critical thinking skills.


  • Shut down discrimination whenever you hear it. Speak out against slurs and derogatory comments.
  • Use language that promotes positivity and doesn’t reinforce existing stereotypes (for example, the phrase “boys will be boys” shouldn’t be used to justify sexism or aggression) .
  • Respond effectively to inappropriate comments or actions. Take infractions seriously and inform parents when necessary.
  • Encourage students to include all of their peers if you see division forming along racial or economic lines. 
  • Remove existing markers of inequality in your school. (For example, make sure students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs aren’t singled out and made to feel different.)

Resources:

  1.  https://www.embracerace.org/resources/16-ways-to-help-children-become-thoughtful-informed-and-brave-about-race?gclid=CjwKCAjwhMmEBhBwEiwAXwFoEYMKMfRZlLSr6Mz-KZLe-9Xmjo_XnbUBZR4Z3wNolDKmth–f4kujBoCsecQAvD_BwE  
  2. https://www.embracerace.org/resources/young-kids-racial-injustice
  3. https://www.gcu.edu/blog/teaching-school-administration/4-ways-celebrate-diversity-classroom
  4. https://www.naturespath.com/en-ca/blog/15-activities-kids-learn-different-cultures/
  5. https://blog.brookespublishing.com/8-ways-to-show-young-children-that-diversity-is-a-strength/
  6. Printables:  https://www.teachervision.com/subjects/social-studies-history/culture-diversity
  7. Activities: http://www.sbhihelp.org/files/Diversity88Ways.pd






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Children's Books, Diversity in the Classroom

Children’s Books on Diversity

Our world is a tapestry and each of us contribute to the whole. These are books that celebrate our unique identities that are more alike than different.

Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Leslie Staub. This book takes the reader around the world, showing how we may all be different in so many ways, but we have so much in common as well. The sweet message is accompanied by vividly colorful illustrations showing diverse people, families and homes
Written by Maria Dismondy and illustrated by Donna Farrell. This book, inspired by a true story, follows a young boy who moves to a new school where everyone speaks a different language. One of the other boys in school doesn’t want to accept him, but he soon learns an important lesson of friendship and kindness from his peers reminding the reader how beautiful cultural diversity can be.
Written by P.K. Hallinan. This sweet story shows why we should strive to gather a rainbow of friends. Diversity is beautiful. The adorable illustrations and simple rhyming text introduce the idea that we have lots of different kinds of friends, and they are all special.
Written by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly. This book uses simple text and colorful photographs to introduce young readers to the many different shades of color that skin can be. This is a great toddler children’s book about diversity.
Written and illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka. This story celebrates the wide range of skin colors in the world, as well as all the beautiful colors found in nature. The lyrical text is combined with beautiful illustrations highlighting all the beautiful colors.
Written and illustrated by Calida Garcia Rawles. Lida and Lisa are first cousins who do everything together. When they play dress up one day, they start to see the differences in their appearances. Their wise grandmother helps them see that they can be different and still the same.


Written by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Lauren Tobia. This rhyming book shows a diverse group of babies who are all happy in their skin. The sweet illustrations and rhyming text show readers all the ways that our skin is similar.



Written by Carmen Parets Luque. All families are different, but all families are special in their own way. The author introduces readers to the many different types of families in the world through simple text and creative illustrations of stick figures and buttons.

Written by Carmen Parets Luque. All families are different, but all families are special in their own way. The author introduces readers to the many different types of families in the world through simple text and creative illustrations of stick figures and buttons.

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Children's Books

Multi-cultural children’s books

Teachers should carefully select books for their classroom that teach about other cultures.

USE  The Horn Book Guide to identify the right books for your age group.  Click on the links to explore.

Horn Book Guide Online       http://www.hornbookguide.com/cgi-bin/hbonline.pl  

CCBC = Cooperative Children’s Book Center https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/multicultural.asp

These are a few samplings of my favorites:

Favorites for Ages 2-5



Favorites for Ages 5-7



For Ages 7 – 9




For Ages 9-12




Here are some resources for ebooks online. Just click to visit the sites.

Fiction.usClassic ReaderChildren’s Books Online  

 ****•Magic Keys •International Children’s Digital Library






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