Sharing diversity through reading at Woodson Kindergarten Center

Published 5:30 pm Friday, November 19, 2021

By Woodson Principal Jill Rollie

Woodson EL Teacher Deb Nelson

Woodson EL Teacher Hiedy Morey

The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and the calendar is moving quickly into the holiday season. The month of November provides us with a chance to remember all that we are grateful for and to reflect on the many reasons we have to be thankful.

At Woodson Kindergarten Center, we are grateful for the over 400 families and children we serve. Our families are a colorful reflection of the community of Austin, representing numerous diverse backgrounds and cultures.  This year, our students speak a total of 18 different home languages. With that in mind, some of our key values are literacy, diversity, and inclusion.

Rudine Sims Bishop, a scholar of children’s literature, wrote in a 1990 article, “When children find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.”  Conversely, when they see themselves represented in a positive way, it can have a similarly powerful effect. “Our classrooms need to be places where all children  . . .  of American society can find their mirrors” (Bishop, 1990).

We want our students to be able to see themselves in the literature we share with them, and this year we have been working extra hard to provide opportunities for our students to interact with multicultural literature.

Over the summer, each Woodson classroom received a set of multicultural books and our school library received two sets.  These stories have given our students the opportunity to see children like themselves in the books they are reading. Why is it important for children to see themselves in the books they read?  Research shows that even at the age of 3, children begin to form racial biases, and by the age of 7, those biases become fixed. Therefore, exposure to diversity in books and media from a young age will help our students to develop into more “caring critters.”

Speaking of diversity, Woodson hosted a very special event this fall during Austin’s Welcoming Week.  A group of community leaders from diverse backgrounds and cultures came together at Woodson to share some of their favorite books with our students.  This provided the opportunity for our kiddos to experience a bit of the diversity within the community of Austin.

At Woodson we strive every single day to welcome each child to a safe and happy space where the child is known and valued. We are grateful we ‘get’ to serve our littlest learners. Lucky us!

Source:  Rudine Sims Bishop, The Ohio State University.  “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” originally appeared in Perspectives:  Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom. Vol. 6, no. 3. Summer 1990.