How schools diversify library book collections
A diversity initiative that’s adding more books about people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigration and drug use to classroom libraries in a Northern Virginia school district has faced intense backlash from some parents, WTOP-FM reported.
“Classroom and school libraries reflect our values and contribute to developing student identities; therefore, our collections must reflect and honor our student population and those around them,” according to Loudoun County Schools’ the website for the Diverse Classroom Libraries K-12 program.
But some parents have called content in some of the books inappropriate, according to WTOP-FM.
“The excerpts from these books are so explicit that they would garner an ‘R’ rating or an ‘X’ rating,” Larry Ward, of the conservative Constitutional Rights PAC, told the radio station. “They’re not only sexually explicit, but include scenes of rape and pedophilia.”
At a recent school board meeting, however, one district English teacher said removing any of the books would amount to censorship, the Loudoun Times-Mirror reported.
“Removing all books with LGBTQ content from these classroom libraries because a handful of parents are opposed to their content would be a hugely disproportionate and inappropriate response,” said Jonathan Radow, according the Times-Mirror. “These types of books often reach kids who feel like they have never been heard before in their lives.”
Other districts have also diversified their library collections to be more inclusive. Read Woke book clubs have formed at several high schools, including Theodore Roosevelt High School, part of Kent City School District in Kent, Ohio, the Record-Courier reported.
“The first time I saw a character that looked like me was really good because with being part of a black family, it helped me realize I’m not the only person who looks this way or identifies this way,” one Roosevelt High School student told the Record-Courier.
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In Connecticut, the state chapter of GLSEN, a student advocacy organization, has launched the Rainbow Library Community Reads Project to provide LGBTQ+-themed books and other educational resources to school libraries.
The organization is distributing Rainbow Library kits, which come with fiction and nonfiction books geared toward readers at all grade levels and placing an emphasis on people of color.
“We know that even in blue states, things are still really hard for LGBTQ+ students at school,” Michael Rady, the teacher who founded the Rainbow Library project, told District Administration in July. “Having books that affirm their identities will get them more engaged because they’ll see themselves in literature and history.”
A School Library Journal survey found that 81% of school librarians consider it “very important” to have a diverse book collection.
About half of the respondents said developing an inclusive collection was an official administration goal.
“As a teen librarian in the whitest state in the union, I feel it is my duty to not have the collection reflect my community, but rather to reflect the wider world,” Melissa Orth, a teen librarian at Curtis Memorial Library, in Brunswick, Maine, told the Journal.