I teach at one of the most diverse high schools in the state of Connecticut. We serve a large population of students with a wide range of racial and economic backgrounds, a rarity in our state where schools tend to be either predominantly one or the other.
While our diversity creates many challenges at times, it is also our school's greatest strength.
Our students are able to draw upon a wealth of varied experiences from their peers in their formative years and form meaningful relationships with kids who are quite literally from the other side of the tracks.
My students need books they'll engage and connect with. The school I teach in is arguably the most racially and economically diverse in the state of Connecticut, but our English curriculum doesn’t match that. The books we offer up to our students for assigned reading is by a "bunch of dead white guys" as one of my students once responded when I asked the class what he saw as problematic in the English curriculum and why he didn’t seem interested in any of the books we had to offer.
When I initially created the Fantasy and Science Fiction course as a way to drum up excitement among my students who cared little for the readings that the school curriculum offered them, I didn’t take the idea far enough.
Where were all the female authors? What about all the great African, Chinese, and Caribbean fantasy authors out there? Where were the authors that looked like my students? 50% of my students are female, but the books we offer up are predominantly by male authors. Nearly half of my students are minorities, but there are almost no non-American/British authors to speak of.
The books I’m requesting are aimed at some of my most disenfranchised and disengaged students: students of color and girls. These students choose to listen to music and watch video content produced by people who look like them, act like them and think like them; why shouldn’t they read books in the same way? This class library will offer up new worlds and new possibilities for my students. Not only will they be able to explore the genres that they’re most comfortable and interested in, but it will give them an additional incentive to engage with books again because the authors are people who they can connect with as well.
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