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Tips for Selecting Diverse Literature in the Classroom

Updated: 21 hours ago

"When you know better, you do better"

American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou

Original publication date: Fall 2018

Petrea Hicks at NAEYC Conference 2017

Petrea Hicks was named Child Care Exchanges Leadership Initiative Master Leader in 2015. She is a Quality Assurance Specialist with Maryland EXCELS, Maryland's Quality Rating and Improvement System where she offers technical assistance, monitoring and coaching to enhance the quality of child care programs. hicks creates an conducts approved professional development training for early education agencies and Maryland State Department of Education. She is the CEO and Training Specialist at XYZ Childhood Training LLC.



As a child of the sixties, I have seen lots of changes. The Civil Rights movement, school integration and the first African American President of the United States of America. I wrote "The Importance of Fostering a Positive Self-Image in Young African American Males through Literature and Imagery' for child Care Exchange Magazine to represent that timeline. I reflect on what has changed and, most importantly, what remains the same. All children need to see themselves as displaying autonomy. This builds a positive self-image--one of the foundations of school readiness. However, imagine not being consistently represented in the children's books that are part of your entire childhood experience.


After learning of the low representation of diverse literature in the classroom for children of color, I am on a mission to educate early childhood professionals, parents and anyone who advocates for children. I first conducted the training, "The Importance of Fostering a Positive Self-Image in Young African American Males through Literature and Imagery" at Maryland's Abilities Network Conference and the Virginia Head Start Conference in 2016. I was further energized soon after attending the Ready at Five 2017 School Readiness Symposium "Building Equity in Early Learning" featuring Dr. Walter Gilliam, Ph.D., Director of the Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Gilliam addressed how African American males are expelled at disproportionately higher rates than any other group and ways this impacts the achievement gap. I shared a poster presentation with early childhood professionals who traveled to Atlanta, GA for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) 2018 Annual Conference. Recently, I received approval to conduct this training with the D.C. Office of State Superintendent of Education. In June, NAEYC accepted my proposal to conduct a 1.5 hour training at the NAEYC 2018 Annual Conference in Washington D.C. in November 14-17 2018.



Here are my top tips for selecting diverse literature in the classroom featuring African American males:

  • Intentionality is key

  • Provide multiple books with African American males as the main character. All children benefit from regularly seeing positive images in their day-to-day lives.

  • Place books throughout multiple learning spaces that create consistent positive self-imagery opportunities.

  • Place books throughout multiple learning spaces that create consistent positive self-imagery opportunities.

  • Share books that illustrate everyday occurrences. Respect and partnerships emerge when African American families also see themselves in the books children bring home.

  • Make books available throughout the year, not just during Black history month or Dr. King's birthday.


In my position with the Maryland State Department of Education Office of Child Care and as a member of NAEYC's Black Interest Forum, I am working to not just do better but be better.


 

The training referenced above titled, "The Importance of Fostering a Positive Self-Image in Young African American Males through Literature and Imagery" later morphed into two trainings that XYZ Childhood Training currently offers:



story voices self-study

"Story Voices:

The Importance of Selecting Culturally Responsive Literature for All Children"

Available for group trainings In-Person or Virtually and via Self-Study Online Program






 

addressing and eliminating the opportunity gap among African American males in Maryland

Addressing & Eliminating the Opportunity Gap Among African American Males in Maryland

Available for group trainings In-Person or Virtually





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