Teaching Students to Select Diverse Texts

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Getting students to choose diverse texts can be a challenge for any teacher. This lesson offers you some strategies for expanding students' horizons as they choose what to read.

Why Text Diversity Matters

Text diversity refers to the idea that different books and genres reflect different worldviews. Often, students get caught up in reading one particular type of book all the time. This is natural, as we all gravitate toward books we love, and the more we read of a particular author, genre, or style, the easier it becomes for us. Yet, is it important to encourage students to step outside of their reading comfort zone and diversify their text selection.

When students learn to read a variety of different authors, genres and styles, they learn to open their mind to new perspectives and ways of seeing things. Students who read diversely learn to think critically and formulate their own points of view by synthesizing information and opinions from a variety of sources. As a teacher, you may be wondering how you can encourage students to diversify their text selection. This lesson gives you some ideas!

Discuss It Openly

One way to encourage students to read more diversely is to discuss the issue openly with them. Be sure not to criticize students for their reading choices, but ask them to think about what makes them gravitate toward particular books. Explain your reasoning for why it might be important to sometimes try different types of text, and encourage students to talk together about what obstacles might be preventing them from branching out. Maintain this conversation over time as a way of helping students reflect on their literature choices.

Switch It Up and Reflect

If, even after an open conversation, students remain rigid about their text selections, you may need to mandate a switch it up week, or month. During this period of time, instruct students that they must read something different from usual.

For instance, if they always read white authors, explain that for the next month, they must read only works by authors of color. If they always read nonfiction, tell them that the next month will be spent on fiction or poetry. Be sure to give students plenty of opportunity to reflect orally or in writing about what they learn from doing this switch. Ask them what they like and dislike about the new texts they are reading, and how it makes them think differently about the world.

Peer Recommendations

Another great way to get kids to diversify their selection is by making use of peer recommendations. Sometimes, students listen to each other in ways that they will not listen to an adult.

Ask each student to prepare one recommendation of a book, author or genre that they love. The recommendation should include a brief synopsis and insight into what makes that particular text great. Have students share their recommendations with their classmates. Then, tell your class that each of them must try out a book that a friend recommended and share their feedback with that peer. The book they choose should be one they would not ordinarily select.

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