Inclusive Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing with a Social Justice Lens

BY STACEY SHUBITZ

GROWING UP IN THE MID-1980’S

I often felt different as one of three Jewish students in my grade. I was disengaged as a reader throughout most of elementary school. I remember our school’s librarian preparing us for an author visit sometime in third or fourth grade. She introduced us to one of Barbara Cohen’s books in advance of her visit by reading one of them — The Carp in the Bathtub — during library class. I adored The Carp in the Bathtub despite the fact that my parents bought our Passover gefilte fish at the store rather than making it from scratch, with a live fish. I’ve come to realize why The Carp in the Bathtub meant so much to me as a young child and remains one of the few picture books I remember from school. That book represents one of the only times I ever heard or read about a Jewish family in a book in elementary school.

HONOR, REFLECT, AND CELEBRATE THE DIVERSITY OF YOUR CLASSROOM

Back in November, I presented with Melanie Meehan and Meg Kearney at NCTE in Houston where we gave a presentation called “Honor, Reflect, and Celebrate the Diversity of Your Classroom with Mentor Texts.” We grounded the presentation by getting everyone on the same page about mentor texts and reading like a writer. Then, we shifted into sharing book titles with teachers and took the time to highlight how these books could be used not only to build cultural awareness, but also to lift the level of the teaching of writing.

So, before I share a book list with you, let’s make sure everyone is going into this together.