I have been a teacher in the South Bronx in New York City and then moved to Washington State where I am currently teaching 3rd grade. From both extremes one coast to the other, I have seen only a few similarities- one of the them being that it is extremely difficult to find books with families or color in them to read to a class. Even in New York City where 95% of my class was African American and Spanish, I still did not have options for books with characters of color.
It made reading books really difficult for children in my class because they did not really have anything to relate to. We had to try really hard to even find books that we could read aloud or have in our classrooms that students would be able to relate to, but mostly, there weren’t any.
Recently I discovered a company called Loving Lion Books. This company allows you to create a book about families and it starts with choosing mother & father, mother & mother or father & father. Right off the bat telling you that this book is accepting of all types of families across the board. Then you go to the next screen and you can pick what the parents look like. They give a few choices of skin color and hair color to match best with what the parents would look like.
Not only can you pick what the parents look like, but you can pick what the child and grandparents look like as well. This is a pretty cool process if you have never built a book before. I have never had the option to create the type of people in a book and personalize it to my family.
I read this book to my class and they were pretty amazed of how there were different races of people in this book as they had not seen many other books where children or adults in the pictures had been anything other than white. I really wish I had this book when I had taught in the my other school as maybe they would have been able to better relate to reading if there had been children or family members just like them in the books that they were reading.
I full heartedly believe that in order to love reading, there has to be something that you can relate to. Whether it be the pictures, the characters, the setting, the scenario, etc.. it still needs to be something that you can think about that you loved when reading the book. For students of color and bilingual, there are less options for students to relate to and even harder to find picture books that can be read to a class of student who are a multi-race class.
So, how can you integrate books for families of color into your classroom? Well, to start you should build a book. Having at least one book is a great place to start. Then you start searching through Scholastic, Amazon, and Barnes and Nobles for these books. Understand that these books are not so easy to find, so you will most likely not see them at a thrift shop or on the dollar sale items at Scholastic. However, it is worth the money to invest in a few books that you can share with your students who are biracial and show that you are looking to make connections with them.
Being able to provide items in their classroom that relate to their culture shows that you want to bond with them and are understanding of their backgrounds. This quality right there makes you an amazing teacher. It is not just a book, this is a connection. A connection in a classroom goes so much farther.
Being a classroom teacher means that you are going out of your way to make connections with all different types of students. Being able to have a company like Loving Lion Books at your disposal is a great resource to have. Check it out and consider adding it to your classroom library.
[this is a sponsored post. this post is 100% my honest opinion. please visit my disclaimer page for more information.]