Guidelines for Developing the Resources in Your Tutoring Library

  • Think critically about how characters and themes are being depicted. Check the content and illustrations:

    • Look for stereotypes
      • Stereotypes are oversimplified representations and generalizations of a social identity group (gender, race, ethnicity, ability/disability, class, etc.) and apply to all people in that group. Stereotypes and misinformation dehumanize people.
      • Think about and list the stereotypes you already know about various groups of people and use this to guide your review of the book. If you aren’t sure what those stereotypes might be, do some research: historically, what are some of the stereotypes that are associated with that group?
      • Negative stereotypes may be easier to spot, but this also applies to “positive” stereotypes (e.g. “all Asians are good at math”). Stereotypes prevent us from seeing others as whole human beings. Additionally, “positive” stereotypes are often used to limit individuals within that group (e.g. “good girls” are quiet and polite and therefore should not express ambitions) and to pit social groups against one another (e.g. “model minority” myth)
      • Negative stereotypes in books can be especially harmful for children who are members of the social identity group being negatively depicted. What message is a student with a disability receiving when people with disabilities are depicted as unable to be independent or are pitied?
    • Look for tokenism
      • Tokenism is the symbolic act of including one member of a social identity group to give the appearance of diversity. A token character in a book may be the African-American friend to the Caucasian protagonist in a book where the rest of the characters are White. Tokenism may also appear in your library as having only one “go-to” book about an entire group of people (e.g. having one book about Hanukkah in your library to represent all Jewish people and experiences). Tokenism feeds into stereotypes, and it provides only one view of social identity groups and ignores and makes invisible the diversity found within all social identity groups.
    • Look for invisibility
      • What isn’t seen or depicted in books also matters – it signals who is and isn’t important in our world. Present-day Native Americans and single-parent households are examples of social identity groups that are often made invisible by not being represented at all.
    • Consider the Author’s or Illustrator’s Background & Perspective

      • Consider whether or not the author is from the culture being depicted. All authors (like all people) bring a cultural context to their perspectives. A cultural insider is more likely to accurately and authentically depict the culture being represented. Look for biographical information (jacket flap/back of the book) or author’s/illustrator’s note that explains the author’s/illustrator’s connection to the content and the sources of information that formed the basis for the work.
    • Ensure that the book itself and your collection as a whole acknowledge the diversity of experiences within social identity groups

      • Not all people who belong to a social identity group have the same experience. Our books and stories should reflect that! Not all stories about African-Americans should focus on runaway slaves or civil rights leaders. Nor should they all be about “inner-city children” who love basketball. However, often when Black history month rolls around each year, that’s what is depicted.
      • Texts should be precise about cultures being depicted. Does a book about a Latinx family only include generic descriptions that are meant to signal an overgeneralized (and thus stereotypical and inauthentic) “Latino” experience? As another example, a children’s book depicting Native American characters should depict a specified native nation as opposed to generic Indians.
    • Consider the effects on children’s self and social identities

      • Does the book promote a healthy self-image for the readers?
      • Does it reflect an awareness of the real world (socio political context) that validates their experience?
      • Does it highlight assets and the cultural capital of communities and social groups? (as opposed to being deficit-focused or ignoring/erasing/minimizing these assets)
      • Will all of the students/children you serve be able to see themselves and their families in your library collection? Will they see one or more characters with whom they can positively identify? Are children’s various social identities affirmed?
    • Evaluate historical accuracy and look for honest depictions, particularly around themes that deal with historical oppression

      • If issues of human rights and oppression are central to the story or theme, the dignity and the resilience of the oppressed group should be emphasized
      • At the same time, the text should deal honestly and accurately with the way social groups have been marginalized and avoid sugarcoating or minimizing oppression
      • They should avoid suggestions that there are simple or easy answers to complex sociopolitical historical contexts
    • Assess the quality and appeal of the book

      • While these guidelines are primarily meant to assess diversity in books, ensuring a book does not contain negative stereotypes does not ensure it will be a good read. It is important that the books you select are quality books that children will want to read and will enjoy. The plot should be active, interesting, and accessible. Characters should be well-developed and memorable. Stories should depict different kinds of people who are integral to the story and whose cultural identity is part of who they are, not the only thing they are and not necessarily the main topic.

 

The checklist below was developed by SCALE and draws from various sources (see the resources tab). The templates tab contains a printable PDF version. For another checklist example, see Lee & Low Books’ post about assessing the cultural responsiveness of your classroom library. Find their Classroom Library Questionnaire here.

Checklist for Developing the Resources in Your Tutoring Library*

  • Think critically about how characters and themes are being depicted. Check the content and illustrations:
    • Check for stereotypes
    • Check for tokenism
    • Check for invisibility
  • Consider the Author’s or Illustrator’s Background & Perspective
    • Does the author/illustrator come from the culture being depicted?
    • If not, what is the author’s connection to the culture being represented?
  • Ensure that the book itself and your collection as a whole acknowledge the diversity of experiences within social identity groups
    • Is the text precise about the groups/cultures being depicted?
    • Does your collection depict a variety of experiences of various groups/cultures?
  • Consider the effects on children’s self and social identities
    • Does the book promote a healthy self-image for the readers?
    • Does it reflect an awareness of the real world (socio political context) that validates their experience?
    • Does it highlight assets and the cultural capital of communities and social groups? (as opposed to being deficit-focused or ignoring/erasing/minimizing these assets)
    • Will all of the students/children you serve be able to see themselves and their families in your library collection? Will they see one or more characters with whom they can positively identify? Are children’s various social identities affirmed?
  • Evaluate historical accuracy and look for honest depictions, particularly around themes that deal with historical oppression
    • Is the dignity and the resilience of the oppressed group emphasized?
    • Are depictions of the experiences of marginalized groups depicted honestly? Or are they sugarcoated?
    • Does the text avoid suggestions that there are simple or easy answers to complex sociopolitical historical contexts?
  • Assess the quality and appeal of the book
    • Will the reader be interested in reading this book and enjoy it?

*For more details, refer to the related Guidelines

 

References and Resources for Guidelines

Framed: The Politics of Stereotypes in News

Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books

Is your classroom library Culturally Responsive? 

 

Ten Tips for Selecting Multicultural Books for Reading Instruction

Why You Need to Diversify Your Diverse Books

Where to Find Books

American Indians in Children’s Literature

From Debbie Reese (founder), “…a primary purpose of American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) is to help you know who we are. Knowing who we are can help you understand why we strenuously object to being misrepresented. Though I am certain that no author ever sets out to deliberately misrepresent who we are in his or her writing, it happens over and over again. Information is the only way to counter those misrepresentations. On American Indians in Children’s Literature, I publish analyses of children’s books, lesson plans, films, and other items related to the topic of American Indians and/or how we this topic is taught in school.”

 

Cooperative Children’s Book Center

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) is a unique and vital gathering place for books, ideas, and expertise in the field of children’s and young adult literature. The CCBC is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) School of Education (SoE), and receives additional support from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

 

First Book

First Book works to provide low-income children with books through various partnerships. The First Book Marketplace offers a range of resources including high-quality children’s books to eligible community programs and schools at a highly discounted price.

 

Lee & Low Books

Lee & Low Books is a minority-owned, multicultural children’s book publisher.

 

Teaching for Change

Teaching for Change operates from the belief that schools can provide students the skills, knowledge and inspiration to be citizens and architects of a better world — or they can fortify the status quo. By drawing direct connections to real world issues, Teaching for Change encourages teachers and students to question and re-think the world inside and outside their classrooms, build a more equitable, multicultural society, and become active global citizens.

 

Teaching Tolerance

Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center that is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. They provide free educational materials to teachers and other school practitioners.

 

We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.