In today’s technological world, we can constantly connect with people from all over the globe. Students can collaborate often with their peers on the other side of the world. For that reason, it is more important than ever that we prepare our students to be informed, empathetic, and compassionate contributors to this global community. We can work towards this goal in a number of ways, some of which are outlined below.
Provide access to diverse books
We are excited to live in a time in which we can all advocate for a multitude of perspectives and varied experiences in the books we read. Movements like the We Need Diverse Books campaign are powerful because they are an example of how people’s voices are coming together to encourage access to a wide range of experiences in all our reading lives. We must transfer the momentum and energy of this discussion into our classrooms. Our classroom libraries should allow our students literary access to a diverse range of voices, perspectives, and cultures.
Our Inspiration Director, Pam Allyn, has partnered with our friends at Booksource to create book lists that support diverse voices in the K-2 grades. You can find them here.
Another helpful resource is this list of books from the New York Public Library.
Here is a small sampling of some of our all-time favorite titles that reflect a wide range of experiences and voices:
The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
Dumping Soup, by Jama Kim Rattigan
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Wonderful tools like Skype Classroom enable our students to interact with peers, writers, teachers, and friends around the world. Our partner organization, LitWorld, hosts World Read Aloud Day every March, and on this day, tools like Skype enable students to enjoy read alouds from authors and discuss books with students in other countries.
Online blogging platforms also make it possible for classrooms and students around the globe to share their writing and thinking with each other. Teachers can moderate and supervise these classroom blogs and allow their students to share what they are thinking with others. Students can also comment on the pieces of their peers and can reflect on the learnings and wonderings they develop during their reading experiences.
Give students space to share their own stories
One of the best ways for students to practice compassion and empathy is to actively listen to the stories of their classmates. As teachers, our most important job is to honor the experiences of each of our students and to promote the importance of individual storytelling. In her book Your Child’s Writing Life, Pam Allyn writes that, “Language brings us together. The details of our stories are different, but by sharing them we can find one another across any gulf of distance.”
In today’s global world, it is essential that our students recognize the power of language and of their own stories and that they develop compassion and respect as they listen to the stories of others. Ensure that all students feel comfortable to express themselves in your classroom, and devote specific time to sharing, talking, and reflecting. Host classroom celebrations of student writing frequently; allow time and space for student-to-student conversation; think actively and frequently about your classroom environment. Honor the narratives and experiences of each child, so that they will know to honor their own stories as well.
Let’s continue to share ideas and to advocate together for the voices of our students. Let’s work to ensure that all of our students see their experiences represented in the literature they read and that all of our students are exposed to unfamiliar experiences and voices in that literature as well. And let’s actively embrace all the gifts and resources of our global community.