As a one-day-a-week librarian in a small, rural elementary school, I feel responsible for bringing the larger world (and the people who live there) to my kiddos. Most have lived locally for all of their lives and their exposure to different cultures has been limited. What good is a library if it doesn't provide a portal to "away?"
I'm a new-ish librarian and I'm a newish elementary teacher. I'm also a white, cis woman. There's a lot I don't know when it comes to selecting materials, but I know enough to know that I need to ask instead of assuming. So after I finished weeding all of the easy stuff (like the book that breathlessly anticipated the day we might arrive on the moon), I turned my attention to building a collection that could help my kiddos explore the world beyond our little town, with a particular eye to destroying the tropes and stereotypes that are so prevalent in literature. I wanted stories of diverse characters just living their lives. I wanted black characters who weren't gangsters or foster children or civil rights heroes, Muslim characters who weren't refugees or terrorists, and GLBTQ* characters who weren't painted in the broadest, easiest terms. I wanted good literature that featured all the kinds of people and families who exist in the world so my kids could find the commonalities between their own lives and the lives of kids who live in different ways in different places.
That's where my PLN came in. Or rather, my PLN's PLN. I asked @RusulAlrubail to start me off with some books that feature Muslim characters and she pointed me to resources, that then led to other resources and people who helped me create my Big Social Justice Book List. It's a project in the purest, messiest, most collaborative sense of the word because it's still in process. I hope it will always been in process, as new books are published. For now, I'm enjoying adding some wonderful new books to our collection and looking forward to bringing the big, wide, world into our little community in the fall!
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.