Conducting a Writing Cohort with the Support of the Bonnie Campbell Hill Award
BY KATIE SCHRODT
CLA Blog: Knowledge is Power: Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors
BY MELISSA ANTINOFF
I was honored to be named one of the 2020 Bonnie Campbell Hill National Literacy Leader Award recipients. My project was to continue my equity work as a literacy leader. It is imperative that every classroom in every school district has books with BIPOC characters by BIPOC authors. Students need to see themselves in books (like a mirror) and see the rest of the world as well (like looking out a window). Books are the perfect gateway for this (like a sliding glass door that automatically opens and invites you in).
While I have learned so much from the conferences I have attended so far this year, the most important piece of knowledge I’ve gained is that my equity work has spread from my school to my community. I now have language to teach my friends and family how to advocate for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. Recently, the fervor over Dr. Seuss Enterprises no longer publishing 6 books with racist imagery was all over my social media feeds. I was shocked and disappointed by friends that thought the company was “going overboard.” One friend even said, “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.”
I replied with pictures of the offensive illustrations by Seuss, explaining why those 6 books were no longer going to be published. I used the analogy of windows. mirrors, and sliding glass doors to explain how none of those pictures have a place in our society. As librarian Leslie Edwards said, “A book published in 1937 with images that are considered racist by the group publishing the book...doesn't have a place in an elementary classroom or school library in 2021. Nostalgia isn't a reason for keeping a book. In schools and school libraries, the collection should reflect diverse viewpoints in an age- and developmentally appropriate manner. These diverse viewpoints should not demean or diminish others.”
Some of my colleagues refuse to even touch the subject of racism and prejudice with their students, much less have diverse books in their classroom libraries. Last year, when I used our language arts budget for diverse books for each of my grade level’s classroom libraries, a colleague told me that the money was better spent on other materials. After attending my workshop on Culturally Responsive Teaching Through Diverse Literature, she changed her mind. She now could now understand the importance of a diverse library and how it will help her reach all of her students.
I recently read aloud Lailah’s Luncbox, by Reem Faruqi. It’s a book about a girl fasting for Ramadan. I have a Muslim student in my third grade class that fasts. The other students now have an appreciation for her culture and she was so happy to share her knowledge with her classmates. Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.
With all of this professional and personal development, I now have the language and knowledge to change people’s minds. My students, colleagues, and community do, too.
Katie Schrodt is a professor of literacy at Middle Tennessee State University where she works with pre-service and serving teachers. Katie’s research interests include reading and writing motivation with young children. She is one of the 2020 Bonnie Campbell Hill Award recipients.
Melissa Antinoff is the 2019 Burlington County Teacher of the Year. She has been an elementary educator since 1992. Melissa specializes in developing a love of reading in her students.