My students are 9th and 10th graders living in an urban area. Our school is diverse, with recent immigrants from Somalia, Eritrea, Russia, and Guatemala, among others, alongside multiple ethnicities whose families have been here for generations. Sixty-two percent of our students are enrolled in the free and reduced price lunch program.
Our students have their fingers on the pulse of culture at all times.
No matter what their backgrounds, most of our students have access to technology (maybe too much!). They are creative, they are social justice activists, and they have a diverse set of dreams and goals for themselves.
I have been practicing Reading Apprenticeship, and the Reading and Writing Workshop models, which most of my students have experienced throughout middle school, if not elementary school as well. These methods of teaching help readers develop efficacy, confidence, independence, and appreciation for reading. A missing piece of the puzzle, however, is access to books. Though we have a school library, having a classroom library, with books available to us right there in that key moment, when students are telling me what they might be willing to read, and we are setting a goal and making a deal . . . that is not the time to say, "Well, make sure you go by the library later." No, that is the time for me to walk over to the shelves in our classroom, pull out The Hate U Give, and say, "Try this one. Check out the cover, read the first ten pages. I think you'll like it. It will help you reach your goals." The classroom library is key to meeting students where they are at key moments.
Literature is where writers explore what it means to be alive, and to be in relationships in a complicated world.
Reading helps us make sense of our own experiences and learn through others. It helps us understand by stretching our exposure to ideas and cultures and places. It helps us think through our own identity, morals, and values. And it builds a sense of being part of a continuum of human community.
The books I've chosen for this project are taken from student suggestions and lists from the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature, to ensure all of my students have a chance to see themselves and their interests in the books we have available, but also to expand their experiences.
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