Teacher Sign Up
Sign In
Investigate Diversity in Books

Students will examine the character traits and issues represented in books written for their age group. They will evaluate the results to determine whether or not the books are a realistic depiction of the diversity encountered and issues faced in their local communities.

PROCESS:

  1. Invite students to identify and describe some of their favorite characters from books. As they do, record key descriptors on the board. Then have students summarize the main issues covered in each book. Make a separate list of those issues.
  2. As a class, divide the traits into categories such as age, gender or race. Do the same with the issues. For example, a book might be about friendship, loneliness or bullying. Challenge students to create as many categories as possible for each list.
  3. Point out that the information you just recorded represents the diversity and content they encounter when they read books. 
  4. Have students select several age-appropriate books. Instruct them to identify the key traits of each character and to summarize the main issues in each book. Then have students tally the results based on the categories the class identified at the start of the activity.

ASSESSMENT: 

As a class, evaluate the results to identify the traits and issues most often depicted in the books students read. Do the books reflect the diversity your students see in their local community? Do they cover the most common issues your students face? Encourage volunteers to share their opinions.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:    

Grades 3-4:
Prior to conducting this activity, select 10 age-appropriate books. Divide the class into 10 groups. Have each group examine one book. Rejoin as a class to tally and evaluate the results.

Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Have each group select three books. Review their selections to make sure there are no repeats. Then have groups examine each of their books. Rejoin as a class to tally and evaluate the results.

Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Instruct each pair to select one book. Review their selections to make sure there are no repeats. Give partners time to do a thorough analysis of their books. Then rejoin as a class to tally and evaluate the results. Challenge students to identify the types of issues that could land a book on a banned book list. 

Grades 9-10:
Divide the class into pairs. Then assign each pair to a decade: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, or since 2010. Instruct each pair to select a book published within its assigned time period. Review the selections to make sure there are no repeats. Give partners time to do a thorough analysis of their books. Then rejoin to tally and evaluate the results. Have characters become more or less diverse over time? Are the issues written about the same? As a class, discuss how societal changes could influence people's ideas about what is appropriate content in a book for teenagers.