#WeNeedDiverseBooks Project

I am developing lesson plans and activities to bring this project to light.

Photo of Jennifer Bartell

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In this project, Reading Seminar students learn about their own identity through books with diverse characters, analyze the need for diverse characters in today's YA and children's literature market,  write their own stories featuring characters that are similar to them, and share those stories with a middle school audience. The demographics of my Reading Seminar class is 66% Black, 22% Hispanic, 9 % Multiracial, 1% Asian. YA Author Jacqueline Woodson once said that students need books that serve as mirrors and windows in their classrooms.  The mirrors reflect who they are culturally and the windows give them access to see others whose identities are different. This project serves as that mirror. We will read books with characters that are Black, Hispanic, girls, and disabled (or differently-abled) to help them not only see themselves, but to also write characters they can identify with. 

Once students write their own stories, they will travel to middle school libraries in the district to read their stories. This will serve as a direct response to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks problem, and hopefully inspire younger students to write their own stories.

Books we will read and analyze in Literature Circles will include: 

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacquline Woodsoon

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Bajo la Misma Estrella by John Green

Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida by Victor Martinez

Wonder by R.J Palacio 

Mexican White Boy by Matt da la Pena 

and more 

Here's my #WeNeedDiverseBooks Empathy Resources worksheet

and here's my pitch video: #WeNeedDiverseBooks Video Pitch

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Empathy Book Trailers


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Photo of Emily McManus

Rudine Sims Bishop originally wrote the quote about books as windows, mirrors and doors. Not Jacqueline Woodson, although she's brilliant, too!

Photo of Jackie Parker

Hi Jennifer,
I am really excited about your venture, and recently collaborated with Harvard and other college students to get a similar program going.
Would love to get in touch!

Photo of Jennifer Bartell

Hi all!
Here's a link to my empathy resource template. I'm still buidling and would love more feedback!

Thank you!

Photo of Erin Quinn

The addition of the LGBTQ perspective would also be a great voice to include. Simon and the Homo Sapien Agenda is a great one! Or depending on the age of your students, Dante & Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a beautiful book.

I wonder if this would be an opportunity to have students look at making some impact around this concept. What percentage of the school library's books serve as mirrors for your 66% black students? Public library? Is it representative? After reading one of the books you've listed, what if this launched an inquiry into this topic - why is it important for us to have ready access to texts that serve as windows and mirrors? If they were to add more books to your library that would serve as windows and mirrors for the students in your school, what would they be like? Perhaps this could spark a letter campaign to your school admin or librarian to persuade them to add more diverse titles to the library's collection. What about engaging students in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Twitter campaign?

Thanks for sharing your idea - all these questions your idea is sparking means it's a good one!

Photo of Jennifer Bartell

Yes! These are all great ideas! Thank you for your the book suggestion; I'm always on the lookout for good books. I definitely want students to engage with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Twitter campaign. Lots of great suggestions here. Thanks!

Photo of Lorena Swetnam

I love your idea! Please count Blythewood Middle School as a library for your students to share their stories.

Photo of Jennifer Bartell

Lorena! Thank you for your offer. It was great discussing our projects with you at our Prototype session! I look forward to our collaboration!

Photo of Marjorie Rehlander

I find reading is so Social! Reading a good book with a friend is so much better than reading by yourself. Having adult role models share their own favorite books, and how they found them sparks great conversation. There was another idea on the teachers guild about the Danger of a Single Story.. This is such a powerful perspective, I think she would be a great asset to your team!

Photo of Jennifer Bartell

Thank you!

Photo of Jessica Lura

Yes! This! Picture books, chapter books, and young adult books that reflect ALL students. And not just for those students but for all students. It's how we learn about each other and learn about each other's points of view.

Have you see the Just like Me! Box? For younger students but serves a similar purpose: https://www.justlikemebox.com/

Photo of Jennifer Bartell

Thank you for the link to the "Just Like Me" site!