There is so much misinformation circulating around the world these days. Hate has always existed but in today’s environment, it is front and center because of social media and other forms of technology that enable lies to spread in seconds. No matter what the political agenda or deep-seated history behind people’s beliefs, their rash words and actions often serve as catalysts for anger, frustration, and in the worst case scenarios, violence. I’ve written about diversifying reading lists before, but lately, I feel an even greater urgency to promote reading as a means to spread love and togetherness.
Books can be the guiding lights we provide for our students in these turbulent times. As school librarians and avid readers, we know that well-crafted words can weave their way into our hearts and open up a flood of empathy and knowledge. Helping our younger generation experience this through reading will provide them with power, information, knowledge, and the critical thinking skills to parse ideas and empathize with others who are different from them. The adolescents of today appear to be more open minded and accepting than their older relatives. According to the Pew Research Center, people born after 1996, known as Generation Z, “are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and they are on track to be the most well-educated generation yet” (2020). It would seem, then, that there would be less racial and cultural animosity among them, especially since “most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing” (2020).
Despite this glimmer of hope, there are still far too many clashes between people of different backgrounds, especially as they hide behind the shield of a screen. One crucial action, which deserves its own post, is to largely increase teaching of information literacy to students and their families to help them resist the harmful, false news pieces that perpetuate hatred and deception. Reading, though, is an even greater tool. Consuming all types of literature will help students absorb the stories from populations around the world. By showering our students with fiction and nonfiction books while we still connect with them in a school setting, we can make a difference by fostering their natural curiosity. They will start to learn about, celebrate, and lift up voices from every culture and region. It’s our duty to share diverse titles that will amplify the principles of every group of people.
Some of the lists I’ve sent out this year include recommended reading for Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, and Pride Month. I share each list in as many digital venues as I can, and make sure that each individual book cover image is an active link to a review. In addition to nationally spotlighted months, I create recommended reading lists before every school break, with an extensive one for the summer.
With our help, students can educate themselves and open up their minds so that instead of being the ones to spread misinformation, they’ll be the voices of compassion, hope, and truth.
Parker, Kim, and Ruth Igielnik. 2020. “On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know about Gen Z So Far.” Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/05/14/on-the-cusp-of-adulthood-and-facing-an-uncertain-future-what-we-know-about-gen-z-so-far-2/
Author: Karin Greenberg
Karin Greenberg is the librarian at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. She is a former English teacher and writes book reviews for School Library Journal. In addition to reading, she enjoys animals, walking, hiking, and spending time with her family. Follow her book account on Instagram @bookswithkg.