The Value in Diverse Reading
By Nadeen Gayle
When the discussion comes up about diversity, do you ever step back and examine your stance on the topic? Are you actively trying to make diversity a part of your life? I’m not sure if we, as a society, realize how crucial it is for us to learn about and interact with people from different cultures. We also don’t realize how important it is for us to share this idea with our children, making sure they recognize and embrace diversity early on in life.
I am the mother of a 6-year-old who is learning how to read (proud mommy moment!). We live in Brooklyn; I’m talking about old school Crown Heights, West Indian and Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn. Sometimes I go out of my way to give my son a different point of view by signing him up for classes at the Park Slope Y, where the experience is more diverse. Diversity means something to me and I want to share that with my child. I know how it shapes a person’s perception of life and people. One of the most inexpensive and efficient ways to encourage diversity in your child’s life is through reading diverse books. Different books can shape how a child perceives others, as well as expose them to unlikely heroes and people of different cultures with different ideas that they’ve never heard of in their daily lives.
The simple task of reading helps to shape the young mind. We are all born a clean slate. What we pour into our children is what they spit out as they get older. As an adult, I also try to implement diverse reading in my life in order to be an example. If you choose to never read anything about any other culture or by an author who is writing from a viewpoint that differs from your own, you are doing yourself and your child a disservice. My son reminded me of the importance of diversity the other day when he spoke to a neighbor of another culture and they didn’t speak back to him. You may not believe it, but this actually happens frequently.
My son then commented, “They don’t act nice like the people in the book or the people that live near my school.”
In that moment, I realized that he is taking in what he reads and applying it to his day to day life. He is comparing the stories that are read to him and comparing the characters to real life people. Stories such as, A Turn for Noah by Susan Remich Topek, Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, and Always Olivia by Carolivia Herron.
I became a literary agent because I LOVE the fact that knowledge is never ending, and what better place is there to find knowledge than on the pages of different books? There are no absolutes. There can be a norm but we must and should at times show the differences and different variations of people and situations among us, and celebrate them.