Classroom Library Assessment: How Culturally Responsive is Your Library?

Teachers, let’s talk about a popular topic across education blogs and Pinterest: the classroom library. A quick search on the Internet results in numerous tips, tricks, and ideas for different ways to configure and organize your classroom library. It’s an intensive and thoughtful process that involves thinking about genre, reading levels, interest levels, grade-level content, categories, and themes.

Unfortunately, we often see classroom libraries that group diverse books into categories that isolate or limit their use. Simply having a book bin labeled “cultures from around the world” or “black history month books” does not mean your library is culturally responsive. We need to think critically about how these books reflect the diversity of our students, their backgrounds, and the communities in which we live while exposing them to new ideas and concepts. Does your classroom library contain books that include main characters of color or with disabilities? Do your books featuring people of color only focus on issues of race, prejudice, or discrimination? Do they go beyond ethnic heritage months? Do they only focus on cultural traditions and foods?

To help you do so, LEE & LOW BOOKS has created a Classroom Library Questionnaire for you to use as a tool to analyze the books in your library and determine where there are strengths and gaps in diversity. It isn’t enough just to have diverse and culturally responsive books, but we also need to think about how and when we use these books in the classroom.

Click here to download the free Classroom Library Questionnaire.classroom lib

For more information about building a culturally responsive classroom library:

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking or hanging out with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

7 thoughts on “Classroom Library Assessment: How Culturally Responsive is Your Library?”

  1. Great idea and tool. At Center for the Collaborative Classroom we established a diversity book review team in 2015 and systematically reviewed 350+ books in our flagship program, Collaborative Literacy. Our primary focus was race, ethnicity, gender, and character complexity (e.g. were females and/ or characters of color sufficiently complex as to be realistic), but we also looked at family structure and geographic representation.
    We tried to narrow categories to those that could be determined fairly objectively. That said, subjectivity is an inevitable part of any analysis. To minimize reviewer bias, we ensured that the review team itself brought a variety of lived experiences and perspectives to the table. We met a few times as a group to discuss approach, issues, ideas, final results, and did the majority of our actual book reviewing individually (and after hours) using a google form.
    If a school staff has the resources (time) to bring together a diversity review team, I highly recommend this type of group process. We found that not only did we gather valuable data and learn a tremendous amount about the books in our program, we learned about each other as well.

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