Almost immediately I knew I wanted my work to focus around choosing and using culturally responsive textswith my students. As an ESL and Bilingual Teacher , I have long struggled with finding texts that reflected mystudents own life and linguistic and cultural experiences. Like many other schools, we followed a a balancedliteracy curriculum that incorporates shared reading, read aloud, and independent reading. Our specificcurriculum and past professional development encouraged teachers and literacy coaches to use and purchaseseveral titles that were deemed "mentor texts". These texts were considered the bricks our reading andwriting units were built upon and understanding these texts were essential to fully accessing the skills andstrategies within the unit. While these titles were rich and engaging texts, many simply did not reflect thecultural experience of my students. The characters were predominantly Caucasian or African American andthe settings were almost always suburban or rural.
any drew upon cultural or historical references thatwere foreign to my students. In order to help my students fully comprehend these texts I would need tospend a great deal of time introducing vocabulary, building background knowledge, and looking for hard -found connections to my students' own lives. Students were spending more time trying to build a schema tounderstand the story, that we infrequently were able to delve deep into the true purpose of using thesetexts. Additionally, I began to feel like a I wasn't doing enough to show my students that there ownexperiences were valuable. We tell them constantly to write from their lives and to make text-to-selfconnections, yet none of the texts we were reading remotely resembled their own experiences. I found thatmy students were often frustrated and unmotivated and I knew I needed to make some changes.I knew there were equally rich and engaging texts that my students could connect to and could be used in thesame way.
any of these texts were in our building , while some needed to be ordered. They were found inbook baskets labeled " Hispanic Heritage" or "Bilingual Texts". They were packaged in catalogs as "mutli-cultural books".
any teachers, included myself have read these texts to our students and watched as theireyes light up, yet when we planned our units we found ourselves returning the the "recommended texts" fromour curriculum.I decided that my work would focus on highlighting and pulling these books out of the bins and the catalogsand getting them in the hands of students and teachers. I wanted to selected 6-8 books that could be lookedupon with the same validity as our "mentor texts" and provide a wealth of supportive planning materials forteachers. I wanted to select text that would be strong teaching texts that my students could relate andengage with. I wanted my students to hear a read aloud, flip through a text, or read a poem and see a bit oftheir own life or the lives of their classmates.