Think back to the books you read in school. How many had a Latinx female protagonist? Did any feature a non-binary character? Were any by or about someone with a disability?

Diversity has historically been lacking in school reading lists, but representation in the content young people consume is critical to developing self-esteem and confidence. What can teachers do to ensure that their reading curricula reflect all their students’ lives while also exposing them to experiences beyond their own?

How Reading Curricula Relate to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Rudine Sims Bishop, Ph.D., coined the now familiar phrase “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” in her 1990 essay. This concept refers to the importance of books as mirrors of one’s own experiences and windows into the lives and experiences of others. The sliding doors? They invite readers into the worlds authors create.

All children benefit from books and other reading materials that reflect the true diversity of our world. Yet, there is still a lack of representation in the content youth consume.

As of 2020, 52.7% of the under-18 population belongs to a minority group. Yet, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only 26.8% of children’s books published in 2020 were written by authors of color. Only 30% are about racially diverse characters or subjects.

Diversity is underrepresented in other areas as well, including gender identity, family structure and disability. Ensuring that books represent students’ diverse lives and experiences creates a more equitable and inclusive space for all.

How Can Teachers Increase Representation in Reading Curricula?

There is a lot to consider when selecting diverse children’s books, such as whether storylines or illustrations include stereotypes. Following are a few suggestions for getting started.

1. Browse booklists.

Brittany Smith is a teacher who shared a list of books on social media to help children deal with racism following the various, public social justice events of 2020. Her list, which went viral, underscores the need for diverse books.

A sampling of other lists for expanding diversity in reading spaces follows:

  • Multicultural Children’s Book Day is a nonprofit centered on placing more diverse book titles into classrooms and libraries. The organization provides plenty of lists, including diversity awards that honor outstanding authors and books. Teachers can sign up to receive a free hardcover book (as of July 2022).
  • Harvard Ed. Magazine offers this alternative to the same old book list.
  • Diverse Book Finder was named 2021 Best Digital Tool by the American Association of School Libraries. This searchable list includes over 4,000 children’s books featuring Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC).

2. Increase access to diverse texts and authors with online sources.

In her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb,” Amanda Gorman describes “a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”

Helping students access diverse literature that covers various, social, lived experiences, such as Amanda Gorman’s poem, is important to create a more inclusive, empathetic world. offers over 2,000+ texts spanning 30+ genres. Linda Alvarado writes about being told she couldn’t do something because she was a girl in “Jumping Over Boundaries.” In Walter Dean Myer’s short story “Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push,” a boy finds a new way to do what he loves after an accident.

3. Ask for suggestions.

Writing for We Need Diverse Books, Alaina Lavoie suggests ways to build a more diverse classroom library. A good place to start is to take an inventory of the books on hand. What aspects of diversity do the authors and stories represent? Identify gaps and ask colleagues, students and others in the community for recommendations.

How Can Earning a Master of Arts in Reading Help?

A master’s degree in reading can equip educators to become leaders in shaping literacy instruction that supports all students in their schools and districts. For example, Eastern Michigan University offers a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Reading that prepares educators to make a difference in culturally and linguistically diverse K-12 settings.

Coursework includes a class titled Multicultural Curriculum Development, which advances educators’ multicultural skills and understandings, which includes analyzing and creating curricular and multicultural materials. EMU’s online M.A. in Reading is CAEP-accredited and leads to the Reading Specialist (BR), a K-12 endorsement from the state of Michigan.

Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s Master of Arts in Reading online program.