One School, Many Cultures – Diversity in Literature

This week, Ms. Scheffer and I will be hosting our first Holiday Family Traditions Maker Day in the Fox Hill Learning Commons. In addition to this hands-on Maker Day event, we have also curated a powerful selection of books for grades K-5 to further promote understanding, empathy, and knowledge of the people and cultures on this big blue marble we all call home. Our goal is to continue to educate students about our school wide theme of “One School, Many Cultures” and teach students about diversity, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. With such a diverse student population, all following a wide variety of year end traditions, we wanted a collection that reflects each and every child at Fox Hill. Of course, development of this special collection will be an ongoing and evolving project. We encourage teachers to explore the many book titles we have gathered and we’d love to develop a collaborative lesson or project that teaches students about diversity in a creative, authentic manner.

Here I’d like to highlight just three of the books in our large, curated collection, if you need a recommendation or a starting point, or wish to continue building upon the diversity lessons you’ve already taught in your classroom.

Wishtree by Catherine Applegate – Recommended for grades 3-5

In a small town a tree has stood for generations. Once a year, the people in the town hang their wishes of love and hope in the tree, both serious and funny. However, not long after ten year old Samar’s family moves to the neighborhood, a message of hate and intolerance appears carved into the tree. What will happen to Samar, her family, and her community after this act of hate? Read Wishtree to find out!

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama – Recommended for grades K-5

In this touching book, President Obama writes a letter to his daughters telling them about inspiring Americans that came before and the qualities they possessed. From Jackie Robinson, to Sitting Bull, to Maya Lin, to George Washington, we learn how we can make a huge change in our world and better our country for all starting with very simple everyday ideas.

The Sandwich Swap by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah – Recommended for grades K-3

This wonderful picture book tells the story of two friends, Lily and Salma. Everyday for lunch, Lily brings PB&J while Salma brings hummus and pita. Each thinks the other’s lunch is strange and different, until one day they decide to trade sandwiches. What will the results be, both for their friendship, and their school? To find out, read The Sandwich Swap.

All students are always welcomed in the Fox Hill Learning Commons. Ms. Scheffer and I hope that we can start small with our own students and teach kindness and inclusion, and create an environment and learning space where all feel welcomed, and where all students feel they can be themselves. As students progress through the grades and onto middle school, they will take the global message out into the world, and be stewards for the next generation, our country, our environment, and our planet.

In curating this collection of literature for our students, Ms. Scheffer and I believe it’s of the upmost importance to have a wide range of books that can serve as both “windows” and “mirrors” for all of our students. Books can be “windows,” meaning they can be a teaching tool to give students a new point of view or a perspective into someone’s life that may, at first, seem different from theirs. Books can also be “mirrors,” which are books that contain themes, characters, or settings which convey experiences that the reader can easily identify with and related to personal experience. A curated collection of books that are windows and mirrors helps us see that while we are all individuals, we also have much in common and are stronger, and more worldly, with inclusiveness and diversity.

We hope that all Fox Hill kids have a blast at our Holiday Family Traditions Maker Day next week, and that kids will check out a book from our collection that we’ve picked to supplement the event. Take them home to read and share over vacation so our creative work, our thoughtfulness, and our understanding continues outside of our school, and flourishes in our communities, and hopefully from there, our global population!


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