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Empowering collaborative communities

High School Reading List is 75% white, 75% male

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Students often consider the books they read in school as the authority on a subject.  Because of this, the books presented to our students can influence 1) how they think, 2) what they feel is normal, and 3) what roles and characteristics are appropriate for people like them.  The creators of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) say that multicultural education is valuable for all students, but not in action.  While the CCSS do not mandate reading lists for grade levels, a suggested reading list has been published as Appendix B. The CCSS suggested readings do not represent the diverse demographics and worldviews represented in American public schools. The following table describes the 9th-10th grade readings.

Results

Category

CCSS #

Female author 9 20%
Male author 37 80%
Female main character* 8 36%
Male main character* 14 63%
European author 15 33%
Asian author 1 2%
African author 2 4%
Middle Eastern author 0 0
Australian author 0 0
African American author 5 11%
Asian American author 1 2%
Hispanic American author 1.5 3%
White American author 18 40%
Native American author .5 1%
LBGTQ 0 0
Author or characters with disabilities 0 0

* Not all of the selections had characters.

In short, the authors on the list are 75% male (of all ethnicities) or 75% white (both male and female).

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Discussion

There is a tremendous overrepresentation of white male authors.  There are more male authors than female authors, as is the case in the K-1 band and in other textbooks I have analyzed. The number of male authors of color is also too low.  The male authors of color included one black African, four African-American (counting Martin Luther King, Jr. twice for two works), and one author who identifies as half Chicano and half Native American.  For women of color, Amy Tan is Chinese American, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou are African-American, and Julia Alvarez is Dominican American.  Where are Sojourner Truth, Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Phyllis Wheatley, or bell hooks, just to name a few?  The authors of the CCSS should include more perspectives and voices across race, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, religion, and age to present diverse perspectives and issues. As Rudine Sims Bishop says, all of our students need window and mirror books. It is important for children to see a reflection of themselves in the books they read, so they can connect to reading and value literacy in a very personal way.

 

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Author: 4 the World

4 the World identifies and collaborates with communities across the globe to empower them to identify and solve the most pressing needs of their communities within the areas of health and education. By partnering with the communities in these areas, we provide critical support and capacity-building initiatives to ensure these communities are capable of continuing to grow and thrive in the future.

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