It’s easy to get cynical about educational trends because it seems they change as quickly as headlines. Who hasn’t heard the terms: college and career ready, makerspaces, STEAM, 21st-century skills, diversity, equity, digital literacy, etc.? I don’t think any who focus on these trends are wrong to do so–quite the contrary. However, it is understandable if educators lack the commitment to them because, in a year, the next big thing will come along.
Today’s focus is on being inclusive. Inclusive of whom? Most people think about multiculturalism, but the concept is more significant than that. It includes LGBTQ, those who are gender nonconforming, English language learners, economically disadvantaged learners, students with disabilities, those from different religious backgrounds, and immigrants. A school’s curriculum must reflect multiple perspectives, authentic experiences, and marginalized voices. Being “inclusive” is a buzzword many companies and organizations employ to resonate with the public.
So that is why it is critical schools not purchase packaged curriculum from “experts” covering these topics. It is too easy and tempting for principals to buy this type of content, which they do not vet. And the quality of these rushed-to-publish resources and texts may well be questionable.
So here is where school librarians can come in to be the quality experts of content. For example, the book Proud to Be Deaf is about disabilities. Educators may think this is the perfect book on the topic of students with deaf disabilities. However, the book El Deafo by Cece Bell is not only a funny memoir that engages students but it is also an appealing graphic novel format. Which book will our kids check out? And which book has a children’s author who can come for school visits? Additionally El Deafo has a page on Teachingbooks.net with links to author interviews, lesson plans, and more!
School librarians may not be able to decide the anchor texts for classrooms, but we sure can suggest titles to supplement and extend student learning. We have the time and expertise to curate digital and print resources, inclusive of all perspectives. And while the curriculum and public discourse may change tomorrow, the needs of our students do not. School librarians provide the consistency and authority our students crave and trust.
Author: Leanne Ellis
I am a School Library Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and am program coordinator for MyLibraryNYC, a program administered with our three public library systems.