Tips for book diversity in the classroom

Here are Candy Gourlay’s top tips for book diversity in the classroom

Award winning children’s author, Candy Gourlay, has been appointed the new online Writer in Residence for the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, BookTrust. As part of her residency Candy chats with us about the importance of diversity in books.

Philippines-born and London-based, Candy is well-known for her books Bone Talk, Is It a Mermaid (illustrated by Francesca Chessa), Shine and Tall Story. She has been nominated for top industry prizes including the Guardian Children’s Book Prize, the Carnegie Medal, the Branford Boase Award and Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

Growing up in the Philippines in uncertain times made me think I would probably never get a chance to see the world. But books proved me wrong. Between the covers of books, I travelled all over the world, met the most extraordinary characters and learned that there were more ways to live than I knew. Someone said books are windows and mirrors. Windows because they allow you to look beyond your own experience. Mirrors because they reflect the universality of humanity. Windows and Mirrors – as BookTrust’s Writer in Residence, I hope everyone will join in exploring this theme.

Here are my tops tips to help foster diversity, creativity and a love of reading in your classroom:

  1. Classroom book selection: It’s so incredibly important to make a conscious effort to keep a diverse range of books in the classroom. Make sure that the books are reflective of people and experiences that can happen all over the world to give students the best opportunities to learn.
  2. Fiction Vs. Fact: This is all about a book balance which can come quite naturally in a classroom. Fact books about the world of course will teach children about diversity and exploration; however fiction books can explore diversity in so many different ways from the characters in the books to the infinite number the themes and emotions explored through stories. It’s important to keep a close eye on the balance of fact and fiction in the classroom.
  3. Bi-lingual books: Regardless of whether you have students in your class who speak multiple languages – having bi-lingual books in the classroom will educate all your students about different languages and ways people communicate around the world. It will also show the ability to become a writer no matter your background.
  4. Creative writing: Get your students thinking from a new perspective and keep it fun! Encourage kids to put themselves in someone else’s shoes or challenge them to write a story about adventure. Creative writing is such a great way to explore your own mind and learn to overcome boundaries as a child.
  5. Book swaps: As I mentioned earlier books are like windows and mirrors to the world – you can both see yourself in books and also look out of the window to new worlds. Why not get students to pick a book they love or feel resonates with them (like a mirror) and swap it with their classmates as a way to look through the window into another child’s world!

The BookTrust Writer in Residence project has been running since March 2009 and has featured authors and illustrators including Nadia Shireen, Cressida Cowell, Nicola Davies, Sita Brahmachari, Patrick Ness, Polly Dunbar, Bali Rai, Matt Haig, Laura Dockrill, Chris Riddell, Sarah McIntyre, Philip Ardagh, Taran Matharu and Phil Earle. The residency encourages each writer or illustrator to explore topics that they are passionate about, with past residents exploring themes such as the power of stories, diversity in children’s literature and the importance of libraries.

Keep up-to-date with all of Candy’s blogs here.

Here at Pupil Asset we are proud to support Book Trust’s Pyjamarama! On Friday 7th June, everyone is encouraged to put on their PJs and donate £1 to BookTrust so that no child misses out on the magic of the bedtime story. 

Click here for 8 fun ways to get involved.