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.
|Female main character*||8||36%|
|Male main character*||14||63%|
|Middle Eastern 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%|
|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).
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.