What It Means to Read Diversely

In this week’s lesson, we were asked to consider a few different questions:

 

What does diversifying your reading life mean to you?

Diverse authors, topics, genres?  Something else?

Diversifying my reading life means many different things, at least in my opinion.  It means all of the above: the diverse authors, the different topics, the varied genres.  However, it means more than that as well.  It means consciously making an effort to read books, short stories, poetry, whatever that have been written by diverse authors about diverse people.  It is one thing to read an author’s attempt at portraying a diversity that they have no personal knowledge about, but it is something else completely to read it from a truly up-close-and-personal standpoint.  Diversifying means making a conscious effort to step outside my comfort zone to power through the new and like-new books that the students of this day and age and reading and absorbing.  If I do not do that, then how am I to have any sort of conversation or dialogue with them about it?  How am I to capably do research to discover whether that book is fairly and accurately portraying diversity in a respectful and healthy manner?  How am I to truly educate?

 

What are your goals for diversifying your reading life?

My main goals for diversifying my reading life are research and the dissemination of knowledge.  Therefore, as mentioned previously, it is essential that I am not only reading many different books by different authors, but I must also make sure that I am consciously making an effort to read diversely following the points I mentioned previously.  Along that vein, I am also going to make an effort to connect with my local library more and keep a variety of books within my own personal library.  At this point in time, most of my books have come from the free book shelf outside the English and Humanities offices because I had to leave the rest of my books at home.  My goal is to bring up the rest of my books once I get settled into a space for the long-term.

 

 

What challenges have you already experienced or foresee?

The challenges that I have already experienced are the issues with publishing and inauthentic representation.  Far too often have diverse characters been used as plot devices or the token “diverse” character.  This is definitively not authentic representation as the diversity is not being represented accurately or respectfully or even as a true character in the sense that they have a personality and place within the world built throughout the story.  Some challenges I foresee are the continuation of such behaviors towards diverse characters.  I also foresee people who are not actually part of the demographic being represented attempting to write diverse characters with minimal research and input from that demographic just for the sake of selling more books or being able to beef up their author bios..

 

What would a diverse reading life look like for you?

I have mentioned previously that a diverse reading life means trying to read widely.  This means that I wish to read about different cultures, different belief systems, different lifestyles, and different demographics in order to learn about those groups and give them the respect and acknowledgment that is their right.  However, I do not wish to do this in a superficial manner.  It is also important that I read deeply into these different groups so that I have more than a “skin-deep” understanding as I have never encountered anything that can be truly understood when given just a cursory glance.  As the world continues to grow and change, it also becomes important to read about the past and the present in order to prepare for the future.  Essentially, I wish to have a four-dimensional reading life of sorts.

 

How important do you think it is for our students to have diverse reading lives?

I think that it is crucial for our students to have diverse reading lives.  When students are not given the opportunity to read diversely, it is all too easy for stereotypes and biases to be perpetuated and even worsened.  This is dangerous for individuals, communities, and the world as a whole.  Students need to understand that the world is a diverse place with diverse people, and such knowledge will allow them to traverse the global community successfully as will be required of them in the near future.  As such, they will have the potential to change the world, whether that be on a small scale or a large scale, for the better.

 

What might you do in the classroom to invite students to read more diversely?

I would stock my shelves with books of all types and genres that have a more global view being depicted.  This is because I believe that the first step is presenting them with the materials to capitalize on the opportunity being presented.  Next, I would try to build my lesson plans so that it aligns more with a diverse worldview as well.  It is critical that students see why they are being asked to do something as choice and autonomy is of the utmost importance to them.  I would also read alongside them so they can see that I am not just blowing smoke.  Solidarity and cooperation has the power to make or break student willingness and interest in the goals being encouraged.

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Sourced from Pardesi* on Flickr
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2 thoughts on “What It Means to Read Diversely

  1. I really love this notion of a four-dimensional reading life. There is so much here in this post that we need to think about and take seriously as teachers AND readers. It’s always interesting to me what a pushback I get to the lessons on diversity and diverse reading in this class. So many students say they don’t or don’t want to consider questions of race and ethnicity in their reading, but I would say we’re always speaking from a position of privilege when we say we don’t want to consider those.

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    1. Yes! And the very notion of “colorblindness” is, from what I’ve seen, really just homogenizing everything in favor of perpetuating that preexisting power imbalance. As a future educator, I feel that to have such an ideal would be incredibly harmful to all of my students and not just those from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Thank you for your comment!

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