The school librarian who is looking for professional development reading titles to add to his or her summer list has a plethora of books to choose from: titles written by other educators, fellow school librarians and leaders in the field. We may not always consider memoirs or even fiction as reading for professional development. However, titles in this genre can serve as amazing professional development resources. Let me give you a few examples.
1. This summer, my husband and his brother – both of whom are teaching in rural areas in South Georgia – decided to form a mini book club. They are reading The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray. If you are interested in this title, the New York Times wrote a detailed review. The reason both Green boys decided to read this title is because it is a memoir written by an author that grew up in the same area (and under similar circumstances) as many of their students. By reading titles such as these, they hope to develop a deeper understanding and knowledge of their students’ background, cultural history, and experiences. Hopefully, this understanding will lead to deeper connections between themselves and their students, and will aid them in teaching their respective subjects in ways that relate better to their kids.
2. When I was 12 years old, my family immigrated to the United States. As many first generation immigrants will tell you, it was a challenging and difficult experience. Sadly, I made the mistake of assuming that my own immigration experience equipped me to understand and relate to the immigration experience of my students in West Texas. It was a mistake that cost me several student and teacher connections. Eventually, I read Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt. Reading these two different stories really helped me to see how immigrating from Mexico to work as a migrant worker in West Texas was a unique experience for my students. It helped me to learn to listen to them more openly, without attempting to layer my own preconceived ideas on top of their stories. It was a beneficial and humbling lesson that helped me become a better school librarian.
Most of us do not teach and serve in the schools we attended as children. We have very different backgrounds and different life stories than those of our students. Reading memoirs and tales written by local authors is a great way to begin exploring the context of where we teach – an insider’s perspective into the communities we serve and the students who live there. This summer, add diverse fiction and local authors to your reading list. Look for stories that will help you develop an empathy and understanding for your school. Here are great places to begin your search:
1. On Twitter: #WeNeedDiverseBooks
3. Local and Independent Book Stores (if you are lucky to have one near you, these often maintain close relationships with local authors and can give you great recommendations).