West Sound Academy’s students will be reading more books by diverse authors next school year, thanks to an Educators Making a Difference grant from We Need Diverse Books. The grant will also pay for one of those authors to make a virtual visit to WSA to talk to our Upper School students.
We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for putting more diverse books into the hands of children and teens, so that every reader “can see themselves in the pages of a book”. Their team was alarmed by the increasing number of book bans and challenges in the United States seeming to target titles featuring diverse characters, as documented in research by PEN America covering July, 2021 through March, 2022
WNDB’s answer was to establish the Educators Making a Difference grant “to support educators who believe in the importance of incorporating diverse books by diverse authors into their schools, libraries, and organizations.” After talking over diverse literature needs at our school with Alayna Garvin, WSA’s IB Language and Literature teacher, I applied for the grant. I proposed a project that would involve purchasing books by non-binary authors for use in Upper School English and IB Language and Literature classes, culminating with a virtual author visit to our school by one of the writers. And to my surprise and delight, I was one of the 35 applicants selected as a winner!
Work has begun on selecting the books to be included in the program, from authors like Akwaeke Emezi, Sarah Gailey, Emery Lee and several others. I was drawn to the idea of bringing non-binary authors to WSA because of the increasing number of today’s teens being very open about questioning the standard gender identity and expression. Our school has a culture of being caring and supportive of all of our students, but in the past we have not made any explicit efforts to normalize recognition of LGBTQI+ history or culture. By reading literature with queer characters and hearing a successful non-binary author talk about their writing, our students will learn how important it is to see, and recognize, the lives and stories of LGBTQI+ people.