Exploring Multiple Identities in Children’s Literature With Project LIT
Only in the last 20 years have we seen seeds of intersectional identities planted in children’s/ young adult literature. Even in this shift, the majority of authors writing books with diverse characters are white. In 2017, 31 percent of published Kidlit contained diverse characters, yet only 7 percent published were written by Black, Latinx, and Native authors combined (Jalissa, 2018).
I work in the Beaverton School District. Forty-eight percent of our students are white, which means students of color are the majority. Yet, 87 percent of our teachers are white (Oregon Department of Education, 2018). The staff/student ethnicity ratio is problematic for most of our students needing “mirrors” in their learning environment. Until this balances out in districts around Oregon, literature can serve these students in reflective ways, as well as providing windows to peer into each others’ lives and cultures.
As a librarian, it is imperative for me to display books in which every student at our middle school can see their reflections. In those same reads, different students will gain empathy for others. Which book will impact which student may not be easy to predict. Ensuring the library is stocked with encouraging stories emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion is under my control. How else can I provide mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors to our learning community? I found a way using the Project LIT model.