EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — When we talk about diversity in the classroom we often focus on the students and teachers that fill the desks. But in this week’s What’s Right with Schools, we are talking about the diversity within the materials being used for the lessons.
Ivy Horan is a second-grade teacher at Mayberry Elementary School in East Hartford. For three years she’s worked to build up her own multicultural classroom library.
Horan tells News 8, “I started a lot of this work reflecting on my own K-12 education.”
Horan says, as a student she didn’t grow up with a lot of books that reflected her race or culture and that was something she wanted to provide her students.
Graduating with a master’s last spring, Horan worked for years collecting donated books to build a library that would fully represent her students: “When I started, I wanted to make sure I had as many different cultures, languages, family compositions, everything I could think of.”
It was something she was proud of and something she saw come to life during their Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.
“There was one book we read about a young girl who doesn’t speak Spanish, but her grandmother does and so they had to deal with the language barrier. Some students made a connection and said ‘my family speaks Spanish but I don’t know any of it, so when my grandma comes to visit that’s totally something that happens to me.’ They were excited to see their storylines represented in a book.”
Her multicultural classroom library is making an impact beyond her school community. During November they read Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America.
Deborah Diesen is the author of that book and sent Horan and her students a special package of signed bookmarks. In a note, Diesen writes, “I came across an article online about your classroom library and your work to expand the diversity of it. I know you’re not able to see your students in person right now, but when you are I thought they might like these bookmarks.”
The small but impactful step of this library is something principal Jospeh Leroy is proud of, “So were extremely diverse were over 90 percent and that’s something we celebrate day in and day out.”