I know it’s hard to believe but we’re over halfway through April and I know many summer programs start in early June and some maybe as early as late May!
I suspect most of us are deep in the throes of summer prep and planning, unless you’re one of those who is a miracle worker and has already done. At my library, we’re finishing up our summer flyers (each age group gets one flyer for the whole summer on programs), working on our suggested summer lists by grade and working with the schools on a Dewey Decimal based STEAM list for our program which starts late June. And those are just the big projects! I’m still running my regular slew of programs, it was April Break here last week, the usual library world goes on but, in every way by the actual weather, summer feels just on the edge of the horizon.
I want to talk today about reading lists. Our suggested list is read voraciously by our summer regulars and it’s most of what a lot of them read during the course of the summer. Which means it has Influence.
For my three big projects listed above, the flyer was a snap (fourth year doing it, I have it down to a science), the STEAM list was pretty easy too because we started it back in January and so this week I’ve moved on to my suggested summer lists. For various long winded reasons, I am not in charge of the high school one, although I have input, but it’s also a good, huge and fairly diverse list. There is then a 5th/6th list and a 7th/8th list for our middle schoolers. I inherited these lists and have slowly been culling and adding new things.
As I looked over both lists this year, especially after the school asked me to remove Hush by Jacqueline Woodson from the 7/8 list for curriculum reasons (which YAY, reading diverse in school but boo, I have to remove a great book), I came to a terrible realization. Even though I’ve added some diversity to the lists, they are very, very white. And generally very, very male (although I’ve already shifted the 7/8 to be more female oriented already but not through a concentrated effort).
So my goal this year is to add only diverse books onto the list. If this is what my middle schoolers are going to be primarily reading this summer, I want it to more accurately reflect the world, even if the local population is generally pretty white. I’ve got a captive audience, to a degree, and not just having the diverse books in the collection is enough. I want them front and center, especially during our busiest season.
So I’m deleting much larger swaths of the current list than I have previously (extra copies were bought especially for these lists and so I’ve felt bad in the past deleting them but no longer) and installing at least a one to one ratio – for every book deleted, there will be a diverse one in its place. I’d like a two to one ratio but I’ll admit I have limited space.
This is just one small way that I can make sure diverse books of all shapes and sizes – I’m not limiting ‘diverse’ to mean different races, but also any character(s) who is different in some way from that default norm – get into the hands of my pretty default norm population.
What sort of changes have you or could you make to have an impact?