What to Look For in Choosing Books
Teachers have the great responsibility of selecting children’s books for teaching and developing classroom libraries. What follows are some guiding questions when considering what to read in the classroom.
- In what ways does the book reflect the cultural experiences of the children with whom you work and the complexities of their lived experiences? Keep in mind that there is diversity among and within cultural groups. One book alone cannot represent a cultural experience.
- In what ways can multiple genres represent these cultural experiences and themes? Multiple genres offer different ways of engaging with the same cultural themes.
- In what ways will the book expand the experiences of the children you serve?
- In what ways does the book respond and/or contribute to the underrepresentation, misrepresentation, and invisibility of cultural communities and experiences? In what ways will your teaching of this book address these issues?
- What is the context of the book’s production? Who wrote the book, for what purpose, when, and who is the publisher? How has the book been received in the field in book reviews and recognized with book awards?
- Since all children’s books are social constructions, how will you invite children to deconstruct and reconstruct the words and images to make new meanings and new social worlds?
- How do these texts for children support your curriculum planning? What are your teaching goals? In what ways can your goals be informed by the guidelines above as well as the guidelines we offer for how to read children’s literature?
While books can provide glimpses of life in a place or culture, they do not represent everything there is to know about a place or culture. A collection of multiple books about a cultural experience can offer children a more complex view of the cultural community. Because of the diversity within each cultural community teachers need to be careful not to expect storylines to resonate with all children, even though they are all from the same place. Children might also connect with cultural themes found in texts about other cultural communities. Language variety is also present within each place. Children can be invited to compare their linguistic practices to the ones featured in the text.