Culturally Responsive Teaching in the School Library

Culturally responsive teaching creates a learning environment where learners feel seen and heard. Dr. Geneva Gay developed the culturally responsive approach because of inequities in education. In Cultural Diversity: Dr. Geneva Gay, Gay talks about teaching through a cultural lens. That lens tends to reflect the dominant culture. This creates educational inequities for learners with different cultural frames of reference. Teaching with different cultural lenses will help learners feel included, respected, and challenged.

Dr. Crystal Williams posed an important question on Twitter for educators. Her post captured what culturally responsive educators asks themselves. She tweeted, “Good Morning! Who are your students, & will they be able to identity with or see themselves in your lessons?” Answering these questions helps create culturally responsive lessons.

Why Does Culturally Responsive Teaching Matter?

There are positive outcomes when we connect and engage with all learners. Culturally responsive teaching:

  • taps into background knowledge. This prepares learners to ask questions, solve problems, and learn new ideas.
  • cultivates positive attitudes because learners feel valued, seen, and heard.
  • improves academic and social growth.
  • requires educators to consider how their personal cultural lens impacts instruction.

Amy Hermon produced a podcast about culturally responsive teaching in the school library. Her podcast is called School Librarians United. Hermon interviewed school librarian Fallon Farokhi on the “Culturally Responsive Library” episode. Farokhi shared what it was like for her to grow up as an immigrant in Kansas. She loved school. Her teachers and classmates embraced her culture. They celebrated Farokhi when she got her citizenship. Everyone wanted to know all about the experience. “I never felt ashamed. Which is really nice. And so I want my students to feel that way, too.” (Hermon 2021, 33:05-33:10)

How Can I Be a Culturally Responsive School Librarian?

Wondering how to embrace the cultural diversity in your entire learning community? Here are some suggestions from the School Librarians United podcast.

  • Learn how to pronounce names
  • Make learners feel seen by diversifying the library collection
  • Ask learners what they want to read
  • Curate culturally responsive resources for the school community
  • Greet learners with sincere warmth as they enter the library
  • Challenge all learners
  • Recognize implicit bias when making assumptions about learners
  • Work as a team to support learners

Click here to see the culturally responsive resource list curated by Farokhi.

Reflect on Your Practice

Zaretta Hammond, an educational consultant, encourages educators to think about the word “responsive.” In her post “Start with Responsive,” Hammond asks educators to humanize interactions with learners.

  • Record your lessons. Be curious while watching the recording. What do you notice about your interactions with learners? Who is doing most of the talking?
  • Survey learners and ask how they feel about the class. Another educator can administer the survey to encourage honest feedback.

Lesson Ideas

Here are two culturally responsive lesson ideas based on picture books:

  • Watch author Valerie Bolling read her book Let’s Dance. The book introduces dances from around the world. Readers will enjoy the cinematic illustrations. Colorful rhyming text make the book a fun read-aloud. Consider collaborating with the physical education teacher to explore the dances with learners.
  • Read Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali. Here you’ll see a culturally responsive educator in action. She invites learners to share their favorite day of the year. Each presentation is a celebration of different cultures. Learners discover more about each other along the way and become friends. After reading the book, invite learners to present their favorite day. Provide different ways for learners to express their story. Some may want to paint or draw, while others might prefer to write or perform.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Get ready for Multicultural Book Day! This is a day that brings attention to diverse literature. The next Multicultural Book Day is January 22, 2022, and they need your help! If you enjoy reviewing books, sign up to review a diverse book. They’ll send you a book to review, and you get to keep it!

Please share how you respond to learners so they feel seen, heard and challenged.


Author: Maureen Schlosser

Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
Skillshare Teacher:

Categories: Blog Topics, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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