Equity in Reading Spaces

by Eugenia Cooley, NJLA Board Member



I have had both personal and professional experiences that helped form my understanding of the impact of race, culture, and ethnicity on teaching and learning. With that understanding, I recognize the importance of equity in reading spaces. My personal experience is rooted in my upbringing in an urban public school system with few teachers that looked like me. This experience was further impacted during years of helping my daughters navigate from kindergarten and beyond, while facing racially insensitive adults, culturally irresponsive teaching, and a lack of equity at times in various settings.


As a student and parent, I learned to use these encounters to help make us better rather than bitter. As an educator, my personal background knowledge helped me be a more culturally responsive facilitator, colleague, and learner. My focus is always on what is best for all learners, how I can best establish rapport with my community of learners (and their parents), and how I can develop a sense of appreciation for those who may have cultural or ethnic differences than myself. It is of equal importance to provide students with opportunities in their reading spaces to see themselves in literature.


Racism and ethnic stereotypes exist where there is a lack of knowledge and understanding. That gap can be diminished by providing culturally responsive resources to help students learn about their peers from different backgrounds. As educators we are in a position to help grow a future of global citizens that will do better simply because they know better.


Suggested Readings for Educators:


Not by Light, But Fire by Matthew R. Kay

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Suggested Classroom Resources for Educators:


26 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias, and Identify with Students

Learning for Justice


Suggested Books for Students (or Read Alouds):


I Am Enough by Grace Byers

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi