BU Wheelock is part of a new partnership that is exploring ways to increase early childhood educators’ access to high-quality children’s books. Shana E. Rochester, an affiliate with the Center on the Ecology of Early Development (CEED), is partnering with Laura Jiménez for the Diverse Books Project 2.0. The partnership grew out of an existing initiative at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s (UMBC) Sherman Center for Early Learning in Urban Communities (Sherman Center), where Rochester is currently a research associate. The Diverse Books Project 2.0 is a three-year project supported by the Foundation for Child Development.
The new project, which builds on the Sherman Center’s original Diverse Books Project, focuses on improving teachers’ ability to identify and facilitate classroom discussions about social issues (e.g., racism, classism, gender bias) using multicultural children’s books. The Diverse Books Project 2.0 is informed by Sherman Center Kindergarten to Grade 2 teachers’ request for more information on effectively integrating diverse books into their daily instruction. The study will take place at Sherman Center partner schools in Baltimore City.
“The project seeks to provide targeted professional development to teachers who incorporate multicultural picture books in their literacy instruction,” explains Rochester.
In the first phase of the project, Rochester will conduct a critical content analysis of children’s books from the Diverse Books Collection and Baltimore City’s literacy curriculum. Dr. Jiménez, a leading expert on social justice in literature and literacy, will serve as a consultant throughout the book examination process and will provide analytic support for the project’s content analysis of multicultural picture books. This analysis will then inform the professional development series.
“The field of children’s literature has been calling on publishers to provide all readers with texts that do not center Whiteness. What Dr. Rochester is doing in this project is showing what teachers can do when equipped with more diverse books,” explains Jiménez. “Those books can change the fabric of education.”
In the second phase of the project, Rochester will pilot and test the effectiveness of literacy professional development sessions on teachers’ attitudes and self-efficacy. She will also investigate teachers’ understanding and use of critical literacy strategies during classroom read-aloud discussions.
“The Diverse Books Project 2.0 melds nicely with the work CEED has been doing on racially affirming book lists and our passion for books and children’s literacy overall,” says Stephanie Curenton, director of CEED. “It is great to be able to connect the bridge across universities for two centers that have similar missions and dedication to children of color.”
Prior to joining UMBC, Rochester was an inaugural AACTE/Holmes Postdoctoral Fellow at BU Wheelock. A former Ford Foundation Predoctoral fellow, she earned a PhD in education and psychology from the University of Michigan and a BA in psychology from Spelman College.
At BU Wheelock, Jiménez is the associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion. Her work examines the elements of purpose, person, text, and context, especially in relation to children’s and young adult literature. She is a founding advisory board member of Research on Diversity in Youth Literature (RDYL) and a strong advocate for social justice-oriented approaches to literacy and literature.