Building a truly diverse classroom library is important. Today, the majority of public school students are racial minorities. Aside from race, there are may factors to consider when choosing books.
Do an audit of your current bookshelf and ask yourself: are the main characters in these stories really representative of my students?
Luckily, there are more diverse YA stories being published every year. Talented and exciting new voices have emerged over the last decade. These authors are making it easier than ever to share diverse stories with our students.
There are many things to consider when building a classroom library. Many of the books I mention below fit into more than one category.
Are the characters in the books racially diverse? Were they written by a diverse range of authors? Check out my blog post about my favorite YA novel for teaching Black Lives Matter movement here.
There are a lot of great YA novels that feature characters from different religions. For example, Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali is a story of a young Muslim girl struggling to deal with a sexual assault.
I wrote a blog post about books featuring characters with disabilities that you can read here.
4. Socioeconomic Status
One example of a family facing economic struggles is The Sun is Also a Star. This novel features immigrant characters who are facing deportation from the United States.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a favorite when considering body diversity. This novel is a favorite with middle schoolers, and has a a very positive message.
6. YA Matters
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee is an important new YA novel about Mila, a 7th grade girl facing unwanted attention from her male classmates. A #MeToo story that is perfect for middle school, it is a powerful and relevant story that your students will love.
7. Family Structure
Many students are growing up in single-parent households. Do the books you teach reflect a diversity of family structures?
Are most of the protagonists in the stories you read male? Half of your students are most likely girls. You should consider how much they are represented.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a well-loved and critically acclaimed novel centered on two boys falling in love. It is great for high schoolers.
Last but not least, it is important to remember not to rely on tropes or stereotypes when selecting literature. Are all of your novels featuring African Americans set during the struggle for Civil Rights or slavery? Are all of your books with Jewish characters set during the Holocaust? It’s important to paint a broader picture of the diversity of our world.
What are some of your favorite diverse YA reads? Let me know in the comments!
Betsy L Fish says
Looks like things may be better now as far as diversity. I had thought about offering a lot of variety to middle school students and my mailman almost broke his back with all the books I ordered. Not only were the characters mostly white, but the covers of the books were mostly Caucasian children as well. I spoke to authors at a reading specialist convention about that issue. The authors. replies were that at that time the publishers were not thinking there was a market for books showing diverse ethnicities. One author who overcame this problem was Jonathan Rand with his Michigan and US Chiller Series, All had children as problem solvers who you only knew the age..no physical features so could be any ethnicity. That was quite a hook.