How do we teach very young learners to appreciate each person’s unique story and background—especially those who are traditionally underrepresented? At GFS, author studies offer an engaging opportunity for students to take a deep dive into the works of one author or illustrator of color at a time to learn what their books reveal about different backgrounds, cultures, traditions, journeys, and families.
At GFS, teachers immerse students in our PreK Author Study, where children get to know the authors through a multimedia approach. Students watch a video of the author describing their experiences and writing process. Seeing the author as a person, and not just a name on the front of the book, is a primary goal. Next, children hear the author reading one of their stories. There are many examples of authors reading their own works currently available for schools and families. Hearing a story told by the author has a special power—children see the humanity behind the story. Finally, children draw connections, sometimes literally, to their own experiences.
This is where the window and mirror experience is particularly important. We ask our class what things in the story are familiar and what are new. For students in historically underrepresented groups, there is an opportunity to see, hear, and connect/contrast to their own lives in a very visible way. The children who are typically in the majority might learn about something that’s new to them and different from their own family life, and they’ll also likely find ways to connect with the characters in the stories.
As the final step, we bring the books into the classroom to become part of the library. There are digital versions of the books in addition to print copies that the students can hold and touch. The PreK classes have established a digital Bitmoji library, and it’s inspiring to see how excited the children become when they recognize books by authors they’ve studied.
The author study is a natural, developmentally appropriate way to expose children to various types of diversity. It allows students to dig deeper into subjects such as immigration, self-worth, race, diversity, gender, cultural differences, and equity in a meaningful, age-appropriate way. All children in the class find a way to recognize themselves in the books regardless of skin color or cultural background. When this activity is replicated at home, it reinforces to children that they, too, can be powerful authors.
Authors studied so far:
- Vanessa Brantley-Newton—Just Like Me; Grandma’s Purse
- Donald Crews—Bigmama’s; Shortcut
- Nina Crews—A Girl Like Me; One Hot Summer Day
- Grace Lin—A Big Bed for Little Snow; Kite Flying
- Oge Mora—Saturday; Thank You, Omu!
- Yuyi Morales—Just a Minute; Dreamers
- Kenard Pak—Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn; Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter