Seeing ourselves in literature

March 19, 2021

I don’t know many Liberty students that are part of minority groups who have seen a main character that reminds them of themselves in our literature.”

— Charlene Agbayekhai (12)

Although the core curriculum has improved, literature constantly needs updating. According to Richard Mellish, ISD’s Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Services, curricula update timelines have changed to accommodate this need. Now, schools can regularly add a new choice novel each year.

This was necessary to prevent recycling narratives that students couldn’t quite connect with anymore while also giving teachers a chance to refresh the curriculum with novels they personally think are valuable for students. 

As for district-mandated literature, there’s a demand for updated texts, but they will take some time to fully administer to all schools within ISD.

“Creating and launching a new curriculum at one time is unrealistic,” English teacher and Equity Club advisor Joan King said. “If we go forward with the understanding that archaic, irrelevant novels should be slowly phased out, we can get to a place where each novel is considered ‘essential’ for the constantly changing world.”

Yet maintaining relevance isn’t the only change needed–we also need to ensure proper representation of students. While there’s certainly value in Shakespeare and Dickens, students often resonate with texts more when they can see themselves in the narrative. Unfortunately, most current Liberty students haven’t been able to experience this. 

“I don’t know many Liberty students that are part of minority groups who have seen a main character that reminds them of themselves in our literature,” Equity Club member senior Charlene Agbayekhai said.

That lack of minority representation is what the district and Liberty staff are continuously working to remedy.

“There are far more than nine groups to be represented, so I don’t think that we can ever capture full representation, but the steps we’ve taken are moving us towards much greater diversity,” Level said.

At the end of the day, the goal is to improve and progress literature representation. The district is making meaningful strides towards equity in literature and doing its best to keep the momentum of these changes going.

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