SLJ Diversity Workshop To Be Presented at Scholastic Reading Summits

A 90-minute version of SLJ's workshop will be available to attendees of Scholastic Reading Summits held in Chicago on June 20 and Austin, on July 16.

School Library Journal is taking its Diversity Workshop on the road this summer. Kiera Parrott, reviews director for SLJ and Library Journal, and Mahnaz Dar, reference and professional reading editor for SLJ and LJ, will present Identifying and Evaluating Harmful Stereotypes & Tropes in Children’s Literature at the Scholastic Reading Summit in Chicago in June and Austin, TX, in July.

The Reading Summits, an initiative of Scholastic Book Fairs, are one-day learning conferences where educators come together with colleagues and authors and can participate in workshops of their choice throughout the day. Parrott and Dar are happy to have the opportunity to bring this 90-minute abbreviated version of the typically full-day program to a new audience.

“This partnership gives us an opportunity to bring the work we’ve been doing at SLJ to a much wider audience—not just librarians, but classroom teachers as well, who have just as much, if not more, influence on what, how, and whether kids read,” says Parrott, who will be in Chicago on June 20 and Austin on July 16.

A full day or an hour and a half, the objective remains the same.

“Our goal is to help librarians and educators recognize and understand how implicit bias pervades our professions in order to move them from being passive actors within a system that privileges some people, viewpoints, and experiences over others to active allies and accomplices, skilled and able to take positive action towards making their library and classroom collections more equitable, diverse, and inclusive,” she says. 

The abbreviated 90-minute version will focus on identifying bias.

“We do this by first examining frameworks designed to help us look at ourselves—our identities, implicit biases, privileges, and experiences,” says Parrott.

Kiera Parrott

In the one-day workshops, attendees are taught in depth about foundational concepts such as Kimberlé Crenshaw's theory of intersectionality, Peggy McIntosh’s “Invisible Knapsack,” and the Bennett Model of Cultural Competency. They also learn ways to conduct diversity audits.

The shortened Reading Summit workshop will move from theory to actionable goals relatively quickly to be sure attendees leave with an overview of the issues, a guide to how to think about them, and the practical applications for their classrooms.

After an introduction to the issues and ideas involved, and some self-reflection about implicit bias and privilege, the lens turns outward to literature and media.

“We practice recognizing harmful stereotypes and tropes, for examine, by evaluating picture books (some recent, some classics) and flagging potentially problematic content for discussion,” says Parrott.

Mahnaz Dar

The focus of these sessions will be on the most common stereotypes and tropes about gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality found in literature and media.

“In small groups, [educators] will then spend some time evaluating and discussing a picture book. We like to use a mix of new titles and ‘beloved classics,’ some of which have not aged well but often still remain on library shelves and in classrooms,” says Parrott.

It is not a lecture nor is it designed to pass judgment on particular books. The titles are tools to help educators become more aware of content issues and practice thinking critically about them in a practical way.

“We strive to give librarians tools to help them better adopt a critical lens and apply that lens to the work they do in selecting, teaching, and promoting books,” she says.

The partnership with Scholastic and ability to be part of the Reading Summits helps further these much-needed discussions, according to Parrott.

“Ten years ago—even five or six years ago—there were far fewer conversations happening about the need for diverse books and the importance of examining our institutions for bias and seeking out authentic narratives that reflect and affirm the lives and experiences of readers of all ages,” says Parrott. “Today, I would say these topics are among the most important ones happening in our professions.”

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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