A Call for Diverse Books in NYC Schools

Ahead of the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action in the Washington D.C., Teaching for Change’s D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice and Project Unlearn hosted the “Exploring Race, Representation, and History in Children’s Literature” session for early childhood teachers using a diverse collection of books. (Photo from Teaching for Change, Creative Commons license)

Earlier this year, the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice released a report on the “exclusion of people of color from NYC elementary school curricula” which found that while Black, Latino and Asian students make up more than 80 percent of the student population in public schools, few of the books they read in school come from authors of color. Furthermore, Latino and Asian children “graduate 5th grade having rarely read a book about a character of their cultural background.”

The CEJ wants the Department of Education (DOE) to start implementing changes by the summer, Amsterdam News’ Levar Alonzo reports. In covering the study, he writes:

Parents and the CEJ are calling on the Department of Education to adopt a more culturally responsive curriculum citywide. They want books to reflect students of color because they believe this form of positive reinforcement will lead to more success in their respective communities.

Following the release of the study, families joined CEJ in a protest for a more diverse curriculum, at the Tweed Courthouse where the Department of Education is located. But it shouldn’t be the parents and students protesting, said Adolfo Muhammad, principal at Bedford Academy High School in Brooklyn.

“It’s our job as educators to demand that we have culturally representative works for our students, everyone has to be included,” he said. “We are molding the minds of our future generations.”

He added that when students of color see themselves positively represented it breaks down years of mythology that their superstardom is only reached by sports or music.

What is the CEJ asking of the DOE in addition to a culturally responsive curriculum? And what is Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s position on the issue? Find out at Amsterdam News.

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