Recently, the Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME) released the 2020 MISelf in Books List. MAME is an affiliate of AASL and works with librarians across the state of Michigan. The MISelf in Books List is an annual list of diverse books that were selected by a committee of certified school librarians who are members of MAME. For those who do not know MI is the abbreviation for the state of Michigan. The books included are all published in the last two years and written by #ownvoice authors. This list includes books for all grade levels: PreK-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12.
When you open the list. It is divided by grade level and then in alphabetical order by title. There is a short description of each book as well as a link to more information. When possible the titles were linked to the author or publisher’s website.
Here ae six more things you might want to know:
This list was created by a committee of fourteen MAME members. There were seven members who reviewed books for preschool through fifth grade. Then seven members reviewed books geared at sixth through twelfth grade. These members represented a variety of library types and worked with a range of student demographics. I had the opportunity to serve as a co-chair along with another amazing MAME member, Kerry Guiliano.
We as librarians see the need to allow all of our students to see themselves in books. We also see the benefit of our students seeing those who are different from themselves represented. It can be a challenge to find titles that include authentic voices that are reflective of all. It can also be difficult to make sure the books that are purchased do not include stereotypes and bias, especially when you are not a member of the group being represented. You want to make sure you are providing high-quality literature at all levels. MAME saw a need to help school librarians achieve this task.
The goals set for this committee were:
- Find books that have been published in the last 2 years
- Each book had to be read by a committee member
- All books were written by #ownvoices authors
- Each book would be reviewed for bias and stereotypes
- Lay the foundation for this list to continue into the future
As a committee, we started by defining what was meant by diversity. We decided to use the definition found on the We Need Diverse Books website. Additionally, we spent time discussing what was meant by #ownvoices. From there, we focused on the identities that we planned to look for and what each of those identities represented.
We recognized that we, as a committee, were not members of many of the identities we would be reading about. The committee wanted to make sure that we could look at each title individually while using the same criteria to evaluate it. We did not want to trust our own best intentions but instead have something concrete to use to help in our work. It was decided that using a rubric would allow us to be more objective.
We started by looking at the rubric from Teaching Tolerance called the Reading Diversity Tool for Selecting Diverse Texts. This rubric is geared toward evaluating classroom libraries but gave us a framework to start.
From there, we developed the MISelf in Books Rubric. This rubric was created through discussion by the committee members. It was how each book was reviewed. Since multiple people read and reviewed many of the titles this rubric allowed us to compare our thoughts easily.
Then this was converted into a Google Form. The reviews from the form were collected into a Google Sheet. This made analyzing and discussion much easier. One small change that we would recommend would be to create a list of genres for reviewers to choose from. It will provide more consistent responses when looking at the data in this area.
This rubric could be used in your library as well. I used it so many times as a part of this committee that now I continue to go through it in my head when I am making purchases for my school’s collection.
With the help of one of the amazing committee members, Kelly Boston, we were able to develop an app. The MISelf in Books App allows you to explore the list by grade level, title, and identity. If you click on the title you can see a short description and what identities are represented in the book. You can also find additional resources such as book trailers, teacher’s guides, and author interviews. This app can be updated to include new titles in the future. Make sure to check it out!
The Screen-Reader Friendly Version
Since this list is reflective of all, the committee felt it needed to be accessible by all. The original list is organized in a table to allow for it to be visually easy to read. However, screen-readers and tables do not work well together so a screen-reader friendly version was also created.
I am excited about the work that was completed. Although I was helping to lead this committee, I felt like I learned more than I led. A new group of MAME members is already forming to create the 2021 list, and I am sure it will continue to be a great resource for librarians moving forward.
Teaching Tolerance. 2016. “Reading Diversity: A Tool for Selecting Diverse Texts.” https://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/Reading-Diversity-v2-Redesign-WEB-Nov2017.pdf
We Need Diverse Books. 2021. About WNDB. https://diversebooks.org/about-wndb/
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, MAME.