This is part two of a four part series. For part one, please click here.

On September 27th, 2017, we welcomed Debbie LeeKeenan, Dr. Caryn Park and Dr. Maggie Beneke to kick off of 2017-2018 Educator Discussion Series focusing on Anti-Bias Education.

Their workshop titled: Using Children’s Literature to Provoke Conversations on Challenging Topics focused on how to use the power of pictures, illustrations, films, and literature to learn about, and rejoice in who we are as a diverse community.  This session also explored how to use children’s literature and read-alouds as a way to provoke and facilitate conversations on potentially challenging topics with young children.

As we approach our next event titled “Cultivating the Genius of Black Children” we revisit this session with part two of a four part series to help aid you in building a comprehensive list of Anti-Bias books.  After-all, as literary gatekeepers of our classrooms and homes, it is our duty to cultivate a more inclusive library collection!

Building an Anti-Bias Library – Economic Class, and Different Abilities 

When building an inclusive library and deciding on which resources should be a part of it, this workshop recommends that you ask yourself the following questions to ensure that each book you select is an appropriate book for your classroom as part of an anti-bias approach:

  • Timing: When is it appropriate to introduce this book? (developmentally appropriate, right time in the year)
  • Context: What needs to be in place for this book to be effective?
  • Relationships: Does this book connect authentically to you, your children, families or networks?
  • Knowledge/accuracy: What do you know about this issue? What is the source and accuracy of your information? What don’t you know? How can you learn more? (preparation, comfort level)
  • Children’s Knowledge: What do the children know about this topic/issue? What are their questions?
  • Pedagogy: How will you share this book and respond to questions/responses?
  • Continuity: How will you continue the issues raised in this book in the future – to ensure depth and complexity?

The visual and verbal messages young children absorb from books and other media strongly influence their ideas about themselves and others. (For a list of resources on Children’s Identity Formation, click here).  Therefore, carefully choosing children’s books is a vital educational task. Here are the third, fourth and fifth idea (out of ten) to consider when reviewing children’s books for misinformation and stereotypes.

3. Look at the lifestyles

Children needs to be exposed to all kinds of families and lifestyles to build understanding about how other people live and love. Think about the books in your collection.  Does it open up a new world of understanding and hopefully empathy for your children?

  • Does your library depict diversity among people within a specific racial/ethnic group (e.g. range of family structures, living environments, socioeconomic conditions, types of work, and gender roles within the family)?
  • Do the lives of people of color or people with low-income in the story contrast unfavorably with the norm of White, middle-class, suburban life (i.e., the dominant culture in the U.S.)?
  • Are negative value judgements implied about cultures different from the dominant culture?
  • Do images and information go beyond the simple and offer genuine insights into the lifestyles of the characters in the story?
  • Does the setting reflect historical assumptions about life but not contemporary life (e.g., multiple books in your collection about Native Americans/Indigenous Peoples in the 1800s but none from the present day)?

4. Weigh the relationships between people 

The relationships that people (and characters) form with others impact who they are. Think about the events of the story, how the characters spoke to each other, and how they behaved toward each other.

  • In the book, is there a balance of power among the characters?  Who are the central figures, and who serve as the supporting characters?
  • In your anti-bias library, is there a balance of what kind of characters play central roles and what kind of characters are supporting?  Are family relationships shown with great variety?

5. Note the heroes 

How often do you come across heroes of a story that are not white or male? Not very often, most likely. Think about the books in your collection and the protagonist of each.  Do they send a subliminal message to children that whiteness or maleness is akin to valor, morality and desirability?

  • Does your book collection include heroes of color, from low-income families, or with disabilities?
    • When they do appear, are they admired because they are a credit to a particular social identity, or are they admired for the same qualities that have made White individuals famous?
  • Do some of your books about important people include struggles for justice?
  • Ask yourself, “Whose interest is a particular hero really serving?”

To help you get started, here are a list of Children’s Books supporting Anti-Bias Education recommended by Debbie LeeKeenan:

Economic Class:
Smelling Sunshine by Anderson, C (2013)
Those Shoes by Boelts, M. (2007)
Last Stop On Market Street by de la Pena, M. (2015)
Home by Ellis, Carson (2015)
A Bus Called Heaven by Graham, B (2011)
A Chair for my Mother by Williams, V (2007)

Different Abilities:
Abuela’s Weave by Castenanda, O (2013)
The Black Book of Colors by Cottin, M (2006)
Mama Zooms by Cowen-Fletcher, J (1995)
Amazing Eric by Huber, M (2014)
Where’s Chimpy? by Rabe, B (1988)
We Can Do It by Wright, L (2005)

A child’s foundation for respecting and valuing difference beyond their own families and communities starts with you!  Please check back for the third installment of our series where we will recommend children’s books focusing on Cross-Cultural Folktales and Gender Identity.

Join us for our final event of the 2017-2018 Educator Discussion Series on Tuesday, May 8th at Seattle City Hall titled: Cultivating the Genius of Black Children –


While most anti-bias curriculums begins by focusing on the children and families – creating the foundation for valuing differences – some organizations forget to focus on the staff that represents their programs.  Hilltop Study Days and Inquiry Days (multi-day visits), are full day visits to Hilltop to see child-centered and reflective practice in action, while exploring proven models for supporting responsive curriculum in your own programs.  These visits will allow educators and leadership staff to discuss practical strategies for planning curriculum that builds directly from the interests and needs of the children and families in your schools.  Join us to discover organizational systems and administrative practices that can bring your own program values to life! For more information please visit either Hilltop Study Days or Inquiry Visits, or email Mike at