Build Your Stack: Books as Reflections


Hi, my name is Gary. I am Black and Canadian; I grew up in the
largest Black community in Canada, and now I’m teaching internationally in Singapore. Hi, my name is Narin. My family is Indian. I was born in Kenya, grew up in Toronto, am teaching in Singapore, and am about to move to Manila to teach there. Gary: I was never really a reader, not until
recently. My wife Narin, who’s a sixth-grade teacher,
started giving me books that interested me and also that gave me the opportunity to see
people that look like me. One of those authors was Jason Reynolds. I remember reading his books and thinking
about family barbeques, heating my house with the oven, the joy of going to a funeral. One of those things that I feel is super exciting
about these books is that I can consistently think and reminisce about the time that I
had in my community. Narin: I was so excited to put those books
in Gary’s hand because I knew he was about to have an experience seeing himself in those
books that I don’t think I’ve quite had yet. One of the reasons I think that I loved Anne
of Green Gables is that she was an orphan and her parents had just passed away and I
was figuring out what that meant. But Lucy Maud Montgomery had created this
character that had gone through an obstacle that no one around me had gone through, and
had not only made her this fun-loving and bright, intelligent girl, but also she was
the hero of her own story. And for me, even though I didn’t know it
then, that was incredibly powerful. Gary: All right, so what is the perfect stack
of books? Do you know? Narin: I know, but let’s see how much you
know. Gary: I believe the perfect stack of books
definitely resembles a diverse world. I mean, all of us want to see ourselves in
books, and how great does it feel when you’re reading and you can see yourself within the
words and within the pictures? Narin: And that is what we want for our students,
right? Books that reflect the diversity of our world,
not just in terms of gender or race or culture, but also the diversity of the struggles and
challenges that we face in life. Gary: One of those books that I love is called
Those Shoes. One of the reasons I love this book so much
is that it talks about a variety of issues that a lot of us go through— poverty, friendship,
community, hardship—and I definitely see myself in this book. I remember when I was in, I don’t know,
I think I was in fifth grade, and I wanted a pair of shoes and I couldn’t get them. I also remember my mom and dad going back
on bills so I could get these shoes to play basketball. This is definitely a book that looks like
me and I’m sure it looks like a lot of you as well. Narin: For me, the most incredible book is
Love, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Loren Long. In this book, I think what Matt does so well,
what he sets out to do (he wrote about this in a blog), was to represent all the different
aspects that come with love. Sometimes, love is magical and comforting
and utterly beautiful and the way we want it to be. And other times, love is hard and relationships
are tough, and as a child trying to understand that adults’ world, that is hard. But Matt does it in a way that is so profound
that kids just naturally gravitate towards it. They will go from the back of the room, closer
and closer until they are looking down on those pages, totally seeing themselves in
this book. Gary: These are not the only books in our
stack. We want to continue to find books to help
our kids see a diverse world. Narin: We want books to look like us! Gary: I think so. What’s in your stack?

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