This post is authored by Gloria Pereyra-Robertson, a bilingual kindergarten teacher from Medford, Oregon, who sees the real benefits of books that represent an array of experiences and cultures every day in her classroom.
As a child, I did not have the opportunity to have access to diverse books. Everything I was required to read and what I had access to did not reflect my ethnicity, culture, language, traditions, or heritage. Bottom line, I had difficulties understanding and relating to what I was reading because I couldn’t relate to anything. Why? Because it wasn’t a reflection of myself and my life experiences. This had a huge impact on my life as I tried to assimilate to societal expectations in order to fit in at the cost of suppressing the realities of my heritage.
As an adult and educator, I have realized that the realities of my life experiences reflect the lives of many of the students I teach today. This is why it is important for me to teach with intent and provide my students with opportunities that I didn’t have as a child. I give them access to a world where they can learn more about their own culture, traditions, and ethnicity through diverse books.
Diverse stories also give my students the opportunity to learn about people whose lives are different than their own. As children recognize themselves and others in books, this helps them build and develop new understanding and relationships with people like and unlike themselves. When this happens, mindsets change and empathy, equity, and inclusion begin to grow and flourish.
As an educator, I’ve seen how meaningful it is when a child connects with a book. Yet I know it is often challenging to find great diverse books to share. I spend a lot of time looking for titles that help all my students feel valued and welcome. NEA’s newly rebranded Read Across America highlights diverse authors and books to help educators, parents, and students find great stories to read together and celebrate our nation of diverse readers.
Like NEA, I encourage educators and parents to fill their bookshelves with authentic, diverse books that allow children to explore the world and see themselves and their peers in stories, empowering them to engage with the world in an authentic way in order to become the global citizens of tomorrow. Read Across America is not just a day to celebrate reading. It’s a way of thinking, reading, and sharing diverse books that create windows and mirrors for all children throughout the year.
Fit reading diverse books into your calendar daily, weekly, or monthly and include big celebrations of reading on March 2 (Read Across America Day) and throughout National Reading Month in March. To get you started on your own Read Across America celebration, here are some of the diverse books I’ll be reading with my students:
I’ve seen how these books ignite and engage readers who are discovering for the first time the way people unlike themselves bring a different experience and beauty to the world. When any child, no matter what their ethnicity, language or lifestyle can say: This story is just like mine; like my family’s; like how I live, it provides educators and parents the opportunity to discuss similarities and differences between all peoples in order to create a window for others to see, learn from, and understand their peers.
ABOUT THIS POST
This post is authored by Gloria Pereyra-Robertson, a bilingual kindergarten teacher from Washington Elementary School in the Medford School District 549C, Oregon’s 2017 State Teacher of the Year, a recipient of the 2019 National Life Group’s Life Changer of the Year Award, and the recipient of a 2018 NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. Gloria is a passionate advocate for all students who continuously works to ensure students receive instruction that is rigorous and culturally rich. Follow her on Twitter @GloriaOTOY17 to see how she uses diverse books in her kindergarten classroom and visit NEA’s Read Across America for book recommendations for older readers.
Toyota Family Learning Program
Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.
Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities
Dollar General Literacy Foundation
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.
The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.
Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.Go to Dollar General Literacy Foundation's website
PNC Grow Up Great
PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.
PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.
NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.PNC Grow Up Great
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
NCFL has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation since January 2016. The Foundation is currently supporting a dynamic two-generation family engagement initiative that expands NCFL's Family Learning model into select Head Start programs nationwide. NCFL's model presents an innovative way to support Head Start programs in meeting outcomes aligned with the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.Visit the Foundation website
Better World Books
Better World Books selected NCFL as its domestic literacy partner in 2005 and has raised more than $1 million to support NCFL’s work and donated more than $15 million to support literacy and education efforts worldwide. Better World Books is a triple-bottom-line online bookstore, working equally for people, planet and profit. Each book purchased powers literacy across the world.
Better World Books’ support of NCFL has provided books and workshops to families after Hurricane Katrina, donated large book donations to literacy programs and families nationwide and fueled innovative family literacy and learning programs and resources in libraries, schools and community-based organizations. In addition to their work for literacy and education, Better World Books diverts books from landfills and offers carbon-balanced shipping.Better World Books
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
In 2013, NCFL began a partnership with the Gates Foundation to ensure that our network of students, teachers, and families thrive among recent shifts in standards-based education. NCFL will leverage the unique strengths of our award-winning Wonderopolis® platform to build upon the growing teacher network that uses the resource for core daily instruction and as a basis for professional growth.Foundation Website
NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.
The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University