Reading Is Resistance at Portland Village School
This term we worked with a new partner, Portland Village School, to begin the process of building more diverse classroom libraries for students in two first grade classrooms. Our goal was to help to promote equity by providing literature with diverse protagonists and family structures. We hoped to find ways to get students, teachers, and parents involved in the process to encourage autonomy, cooperation and sustainability.
Portland Village School (PVS) is a public charter school in Portland serving kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is an arts-integrated school offering students opportunities to supplement their core subjects with art, music, drama and more. PVS states that their mission is: To advance an arts-integrated education that teaches respect and reverence by developing the head, heart, and hands in children from all backgrounds and cultures.
Tons of research has been conducted over the last 50 years about the importance of classroom libraries in early childhood education. The elementary school is often a child’s first exposure to the world of libraries and classroom libraries help to foster a lifelong love of reading and learning. However, as Crisp, Knezek, Quinn, Bingham, Girardeau, and Starks (2016) explain, “[t]he world depicted in children’s books is overwhelmingly White. It is also a world that is predominantly upper middle class, heterosexual, nondisabled, English-speaking, and male” (p. 29). As community members, parents, and educators, we have a responsibility to provide a wide array of diverse books that represent the diversity of the students in the classroom and the world around them to help them gain a healthy, accurate world view. “All children deserve to see themselves and the people they love represented (in multiple ways) in the books we bring into our classrooms.” (Crisp et al., 2016, p. 40).
Over the last several weeks, we researched extensively looking for books that represent varying races, family structures, gender identities, and socio-economic statuses. We created an Amazon wish list and spreadsheet for the teachers highlighting these books, along with their reading levels and themes.
Next term, we plan to call out to get parents involved — primarily requesting book or monetary donations to build a diverse classroom library. We also hope to extend this project to several other classrooms and grade levels at Portland Village School. Finally, we hope to get Portland State students involved in the classrooms to read to kids and share our enthusiasm for these incredible books with them.
Crisp, T., Knezek, S. M., Quinn, M., Bingham, G. E., Girardeau, K., & Starks, F. (2016). What’s on Our
Bookshelves? The Diversity of Children’s Literature in Early
Childhood Classroom Libraries. Journal of Children’s Literature,42(2), 29-42.