June 14, 2023
Representation in literature is important because it can positively affect one’s perception of themselves and society. It teaches our youth about minority experiences, various family structures, and also expresses intersectionality within identities. For myself, growing up as a queer, non-binary child in the deep south was never easy, especially when you were the quiet kid who would spend their free time in the library. With as much time as I spent there reading, I know my life would have been easier and a little bit happier if I had had the chance to see and read about people like me. Having representation for everyone and allowing people from different backgrounds and walks of life to know that they are not alone is vital to the human experience. Minorities need to have the opportunity to see themselves represented in literature, especially children.
These goals are what University Park Elementary school teacher, Alexis Matter, was trying to achieve when she applied for a Denver Public Schools Foundation A to Z Fund grant. Her goal was to provide a diverse selection of books that would accurately represent the students in her classroom. Teachers have been able to provide 182 hardcover books to students in University Park classrooms and have already started seeing a difference in students’ perspectives thanks to the A to Z Fund grant awarded to their school. Ms. Matter also noted that the books have already made a difference by not only empowering students and demonstrating diversity, but also by providing historically accurate information that is being used in instruction to educate students.
According to one student, while they were reading “M is Melanin”, by Tiffany Rose, the student reached the page titled, “P is for Pride” and stated how she was “happy that we have books like this in school. My aunt is married to a girl and I’m proud of her being who she is.” Students have also written reflective assignments in which they express empowerment, hope, pride in themselves, and empathy for others. This demonstrates how the A to Z Fund can help make a difference on how children view themselves and others in a positive way by providing them with the resources they need to grow their minds. If changing one classroom’s library has this much of a positive impact, one can only imagine the difference the A to Z Fund could make for every Denver Public School library.