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Educator Experiences: Let’s Read Diversely…

February 22nd, 2024Umbrella News

Let’s Read Diversely…
By: Sophia Windett

Hi Everyone! My name is Sophia Windett. I am an Early Childhood Educator who has been in the field, and with the Umbrella for the last 19 years. When I’m not with the littles, you can find me blogging, writing children’s books, singing or travelling. I have had the pleasure of working with many phenomenal educators who have and continue to do amazing things under the Umbrella. I hope to share with you some of their stories, projects and create space where we can learn and grow from one another!

Happy Black History Month and welcome to the blog! I thought we’d kick off this month talking about diversity in literature! Come along with me on this journey as I share how some diverse reads are making their rounds in the infant program over at Viola Desmond.

But before I jump right into this story, let me tell you why diverse literature is so important to me. As a child, my parents cultivated a love of reading in me from a very early age. If you let my mother tell it, I was reading fluently at 3! It’s a love that has carried me all through life and is still a huge part of me now. If I have a few moments, you can probably find my nose in a book.

But, as a child, the options of literature available in my school and even in my library at that time, were extremely limited. While I was able to take joy in whatever character and storyline I saw, something happened to me on the inside when I encountered literature with characters who looked like me, shared the same core values as me, understood the struggles I inevitably faced as a young black child on the brink of young adulthood.  Those books, “Sister” and “Daydreamers” by Eloise Greenfield are the books that made a significant impact on me.

As an educator, I want to be able to provide those same experiences for the diverse children in the programs I am a part of; and not only that, I want to provide a safe space for all children to see and learn about the beauty of people of all races, colours and creeds.

Now, the infants over at Viola Desmond love books. Honestly, if you gave them a flyer from Walmart or the old school Yellow Pages, they probably gobble that right up too.

While we always strive to have a plethora of diverse reads available, considering we are celebrating Black History Month, I brought in a few from home to share.

Over the last few months, our infants have been asserting themselves by exploring the age-old right of passage of hair pulling. Upon observation of one infant, I noticed that he did not seem to be pulling hair out of duress or frustration. It appeared to be more of a sensory action for him. I also noticed he tended to gravitate towards those with thick, dense ,curly hair or what is known as a 4C texture pattern.

To help redirect this behavior, we provided stories about hair with illustrations of the type of hair our little friend seemed to have a desire to touch. Through these stories, we are able to articulate the beauty of black hair as well as take the teachable moment to share the importance of respecting it and your peer’s personal space. We were able (as little as they are) to model the language, “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Please ask”. In addition to the stories, we were able to obtain items that had the same texture of hair to help our infants feed that desire to explore.

That’s what literacy does. It leaves our little learners open to a wealth of knowledge and information that will shape the people they are becoming. People who are aware, empathetic, and accepting of things that may not be the “norm” in their world view.

Here are a few great book resources that you can check out. All of these are available at our local libraries.

Until next time fellow educators! Happy reading and Happy educating!

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