At Hamlin, students never hesitate to honor our mission and “meet the challenges of their time.” Last year students in Grade 4 discovered that many of the books in their classroom library were outdated and didn’t truly represent diverse voices. Of the over 1,000 books, not many addressed topics like: non-traditional family structures, sexual orientation, gender identity, or the nuance of cultural identity. For example, one student found that most of the books about African-Americans were about the Civil Rights Movement, and didn’t connect to her life in 2019.
Using the website We Need Diverse Books, our girls were able to find a wider range of titles for their classroom reading pleasure. Working with their teachers, students ordered these new books from Ms. Cardone in our main library and from the San Francisco Public Library. After vetting several books, students then wrote a persuasive essay explaining why a particular book was important to them. Girls also took the opportunity to share their favorite books with each other, doing some wonderful peer-to-peer teaching.
The last component of this 6-week project was an invitation to speak with Hamlin administrators at a SCOPE meeting (our Standing Committee On Program Excellence). A group of girls articulated the importance of adding these 30 books to the Grade 4 library. Impressed, SCOPE members asked for a budget to purchase the new books.
These girls, (now Grade 5 students) came back down to the Lower School and unveiled the more diverse books for their younger peers. Their thoughtful work has created a legacy that future readers will enjoy for many moons.