SMART’s New Book Selection Process
Focus on Program Quality and Equity Means New and Improved Book Selection for Students
As part of SMART’s commitment to program quality and equity, we are undertaking a renewed and intentional focus on the type and quality of books provided in our program. Research suggests that access to a diverse array of books plays an important role in building self-esteem (mirror books) as well as promoting understanding of cultures different from one’s own (window books).
SMART is committed to ensuring that all students have access to high-quality, authentic literature, story books and non-fiction titles representing diverse and multicultural perspectives. Increasingly, students are expected to read and comprehend a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts. In addition to supporting students in meeting grade-level reading benchmarks, SMART believes all students should have the opportunity to see themselves reflected back, as well as to be exposed to cultures and experiences that may differ from their own, in the literature and non-fiction stories they read.
Mirrors allow readers to see images and reflections of their own lives. When children find their own culture and values in the book, it can develop a positive sense of cultural identity and it can be a powerful tool in building self-esteem. When they are familiar with the scenes and traditions portrayed, they experience a sense of belonging.
Windows allow readers to see the lives of others. To build bridges of cultural understanding, books are needed that are uniquely representative of a culture. Stories can present unfamiliar groups and their customs and traditions in ways that show them to be natural and understandable. Connecting with and relating to multicultural characters could reduce prejudices toward that culture. A variety of books representing diverse cultures are important to develop attitudes of openness around difference.
SMART’s Process for Book Selection
During the past year, SMART has been actively engaging and consulting with community members, librarians and other professionals with significant experience and knowledge around children’s books and literature. These experts helped to develop lists of the best culturally specific books and made recommendations for a core list of high-quality fiction and non-fiction books that every SMART program should have available. To support the shift in significantly expanding the selection of diverse culturally specific books, informational text and non-fiction, SMART has looked into a variety of vendors and book ordering options.
Our volunteers and students will notice some changes in the books that are available in our program this year.
- Book selection will be very intentional at each site. Considerations such as grades of participating classrooms and race/ethnicity of students will be taken into consideration when ordering books for a particular site.
- There will be a significant increase in the number of culturally specific titles available at each site. Sites that lack racial and ethnic diversity among the students and volunteers will be encouraged to read a variety of culturally diverse titles that provide a window into other cultures and ways of life. This is important for students to develop curiosity and understanding of cultural difference and promote inclusiveness and appreciation for diversity.
- There will be an increase in the number of informational and non-fiction texts at each site. In their classrooms, students are being required to read and comprehend a variety of non-fiction texts to meet grade-appropriate standards and benchmarks. SMART supports students’ success by providing more access to titles that students may find interesting and promote a love of learning.
- There may be fewer commercial interest or popular TV character books in the collections. While these titles are extremely popular with students and provide an important gateway into a love of reading, particularly for some reluctant readers, high-quality authentic literature is preferred for students to promote learning and critical thinking.
Stay tuned for more information about SMART’s book selection. Do you have a suggestion for a multicultural book title you’d like to see in our program? Send an email with the title to SMART@getsmartoregon.org.