Political polarization in the US is at an all-time high. A Pew Research Center study tracks partisan differences across ten specific political values. The study shows the partisan gap has more than doubled between 1994 and 2017. The divide increased from 15 to 36 percentage points. In such divisive times, we are all looking for answers to bring our nation together.
Librarians often cite a 2009 study highlighting the positive effects of reading fiction. The research finds that “Readers of fiction tend to have better abilities of empathy and theory of mind.” Perhaps promoting stories with diverse opinions might be just the thing to begin to bring unity to our country. Librarians have the unique opportunity to provide books that tell the story of underrepresented and disenfranchised groups.
Books I am reading that have furthered my empathy include The Hate U Give by Angela Thomas, a compelling story that can help students empathize with the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Another important read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez provides insight into the lives of the teenage children of Mexican immigrants. Tradition by Brendan Kiely could help teens understand how the “Me Too” message might affect the lives of those around them. At least two of these books touch on the genuine issue of teen depression and suicide. These are just a very few of the many books that can help with empathy.
School Librarians and Teachers Are Creating These Movements in Their Schools.
Cicely Lewis is a school librarian in Georgia. She created the “read woke” movement at her school. Her inspiration was Essence magazine’s “Stay Woke” edition. Cicely challenges the reader to read books about the volatile world we live in and empathize with underrepresented or oppressed characters. Another group, Project Lit Community is the brainchild of a Nashville, Tennessee, English teacher, Jarred Amato. The Project Lit Community asks “what if we invested in inclusive libraries” and “what if we gave all students choice in what they read?”
Community Members Are Creating Unique Movements to Highlight Diversity in Reading.
Marley Dias leads the 1,000 Black Girl Books social media movement. Her book Marley Gets It Done (And So Can You!) includes an extensive book list in the back that is great for collection development. Alvin Irby is the creator of Barbershop Books, “the nation’s most innovative solution for inspiring young black boys to read.” Barbershop Books provides reading materials for young boys waiting for a haircut. The Barbershop Books Blog provides fabulous reviews and recommendations.
Finally, the group We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization founded in 2014 through a collaboration between Ellen Oh and a group of children’s books authors. The WNDB website provides a booktalking kit and collection development lists.
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.