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Final Project: First Chapter Fridays

Increasing Diverse Literature Exposure in the Elementary Classroom

Katherine Hallford

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

April 30th, 2018


In my time as an educator, I have formed a passion and desire to provide children not

only with a plethora of books, but books that have characters that look like them, have similar

experiences as they do in life, or show them a point of view they might not have experienced

otherwise. For my classroom and my students, that has proven to be more of a challenge that it

would in a less diverse classroom. I have students from many different cultures and backgrounds,

from different countries and different life and family experiences. Many of my students are

either underrepresented or not represented at all by mainstream novels. Knowing, this, I made it

a mission this school year to introduce more diverse novels into their circle of knowledge.

Throughout the year, I chose one novel a week to read the first chapter of aloud to the class. In

doing so, I made sure to select relevant novels with a diverse selection of characters and authors.

Some of the selections I chose this year include ​The First Rule of Punk​, ​The Sky At Our

Feet​, ​Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus​, and ​The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora​, among

many others. With these selections, I presented them as a sort of interactive read aloud with my

students. They were asked questions about the characters, their backgrounds, and ways they

might be able to relate to the characters we read about. Many students related to Aven in

Insignificant Events​, as they have also had to make big moves that seemed daunting and scary.

We dug deeper than one chapter with ​The Sky At Our Feet​, and several students immediately

connected with having a parent that is not legally in the country. With every novel I chose, I put

thought and purpose into it. If we had students who were struggling with friendship problems, or

feeling like a fish out of water, I made sure to tailor that Friday’s selection to that.
In many cases, I chose a picture book for the First Chapter Friday instead of a novel,

selecting books such as Matt De La Pena’s ​LOVE​, or Dan Santat’s ​After the Fall​. We studied

poetry in Margarita Engle’s ​Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics​, studying the way

Hispanic culture has influenced the world in ways we may not know. We looked at ​Crown: An

Ode to the Fresh Cut​ by Derrick Barnes and discussed the ways a small change in our

appearance can boost our self confidence, but that in the end, it’s who you are that counts. In all

situations, I focused on the connection of student to book, making sure students were exposed to

a variety of novels, picture books, and poetry that represented them as students and global

citizens.

As a result of our course, I am focused on bringing more diversity to my ELA classroom.

We have built our library an incredible amount this year, and I am moving forward with the

mission that my library be built with diversity, inclusivity, and equity in mind. I don’t know who

my future students may be, but I hope that no matter who they are and what they believe about

themselves and the world around them, they’ll find something in the classroom library that

makes them feel at home or stretches their world view.