Growing up, I was an avid reader; from a really young age, my passion for the written word was literally a part of me, growing stronger and more forceful a presence as I got older. I would read any and every thing I could get my hands on, consumed with an almost visceral need to read.

From reading the information on the back of bottles while in the washroom to getting in trouble for reading books not appropriate for young eyes because I ran out of books to read, I could NOT stop reading!

It’s no surprise then, dear reader, that reading was/is a compulsion for me, an inner drive, a necessity as important as breathing. This passion, this relationship with reading is an essential part of who I am, one way I choose to define myself.

And that’s why it hurts so much to describe many of the literary experiences I was exposed to as a child, even as an adult.

Have you ever wondered why the books read to you or the ones that are a part of your classroom library at school, do not represent you?

Have you ever felt like you never really belonged? An outsider looking in on yourself as tiny pieces of you are slowly torn away, piece by painful piece, because you do not see yourself in the curriculum taught, the text books, the books read aloud?

I. Have. Numerous No. Hundreds of times.

This is why equity and diversity in the classroom and at home is so important! It is essential for teachers and parents to expose their students/children to different cultures and experiences, not only on a “special” day/week/month but every day! You have no idea how children internalize what they see and hear and how they end up synthesizing the information they’re bombarded with on a daily basis. We, I say a collective we, need to ensure our children feel represented, validated, welcomed and if that means stepping outside of your comfort zone, take the risk!

As you can see, I am very passionate about equity and will dedicate the next few blogs to introducing you to some children’s texts rich in content and diversity.

Enter Isabella in @Sharon Draper’s Blended. She is torn for a number of reasons. One, is not knowing who she really is. Born to a Black father and a White mother, she struggles with her identity and the labels so easily placed on people in society. Is she Black or is she White? What is she? Two, her parents get a divorce. Every child who has exerienced this, myself included, know what this feels like. Isabella flounders in unknown waters, trying to make sense of the breakdown of her family. She now feels torn between two worlds, her father’s and her mother’s. Where does she really belong? Isabella navigates through a world where she doesn’t feel completely comfortable and experiences fear, pain, and racial injustice. She searches for understanding by seeking comfort from her friends and step-brother and often immerses herself in her music as a way to cope with becoming a part of two blended families

Isabella’s story will speak to you, making it easy for your students or children to connect with her experiences in a profound way. I guarantee that they will come out of the experience more empathetic and understanding of the world we live in. An absolutely excellent book!

This class favourite explores some really relevant issues children face today, divorce, identity, racial injustices, friendship, family. I highly recommend reading this book with your students or children! You won’t be disappointed!

My next recommendation is one that I read to my students every year, regardless of age, because it reflects a part of Canadian history many did not know about until recently. Residential Schools.

That horrific time in history when our government tried to completely eradicate an entire group of people, our First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples, in an effort to “assimilate” them into White, Canadian society.

In I Am Not A Number by @Jenny Kay Dupuis and @Kathy Kacer and illustrated by @Gillian Newland, the real-life story of Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother, Irene Couchie Dupuis is told in stark, painful words. This story reflects the humiliating and heartwrenching experiences of Irene being torn from her family and being denied every part of her heritage, including her name. I Am Not A Number shows how our government and different Christian religious institutions failed our Indigenous peoples by subjecting them to abuse, hard labour, malnutrition, deprivation, harsh punishments, even death. Denied basic human kindness and forced to exist without the security of family, Irene’s journey is one every child and adult should experience.

I highly recommend this important book as it sheds light on a painful history, one that continues to resonate in the lives of survivors and their families. We can do better as Canadians if we can only see each other as fellow human beings.

I sincerely hope you are inspired to embed equity and diversity into your classroom or household. It is essential for every child to feel represented, to be visible in a world prone to invisibility.

Take a risk. Be okay with feeling uncomfortable.

Our children are worth it.

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