The Decorah Community School District is a collaborative, innovative, learning-centered organization that values equity and well-being for all students and staff. In an effort to continue to support their mission, vison, and values, a team of teachers, librarians, and community members set a goal to increase the selection of diverse literature in preschool through 4th grade classroom libraries to ensure all students have the opportunity to see themselves in books as well as to learn about and celebrate the differences of others. Decorah Administrator Dana Bockman stated, “Children’s experiences shape their self-image, their aspirations, beliefs, understanding, and more. By seeing themselves–beginning at a young age–in the strong characters within books, children develop a positive view of themselves and others, aspire to greater things, feel a greater sense of ability, and are happier. We want this for every student who enters our buildings.”
Grants were written and generous financial support was provided by the Decorah Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and the Decorah Foundation. To reach their goal, preschool through fourth grade teachers had the opportunity to participate in a book preview day. Each teacher selected 15-20 books from a selection of over 100 quality children’s books celebrating diversity, featuring strong characters and joyful stories from diverse races, genders, cultures, ability levels, socio-economic backgrounds, and gender identities.
Instructional Coach Zach Fromm described the importance of this project in this way: “Minority voices in America have been suppressed until recent modernity. Representation of these voices for our youngest learners is essential to their future success as learners. Students embracing and celebrating differences is a great starting point for solving a lot of other societal problems.”