All Are Welcome

I held back tears the first time I read All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold aloud to my family. I knew immediately that this book needed to be shared with everyone of my students during the first weeks of school. Every year, I need to establish from the very beginning that each individual child is welcome in my classroom. No matter what skin color you have, no matter what clothes you wear, no matter what higher power you believe in, no matter how much or how little money your family has, no matter what gender you are, no matter what _____________________ … 

You Are Welcome, I am glad that you are here
and I look forward to learning with you this year.

From my readings, I have learned that this book was a response of an illustrator with an image and a writer with a message who were joined together through social media after the breaking news of the Trump administration’s travel ban. Over the last four years, such news releases of: travel bans, building walls, hate marches, division speeches have affected us all. As I write this, the nation mourns another black life stolen from this earth and the world reflects upon these injustices of people.

All of these acts find us at a loss of reaction or have created an action; for good or for bad. Stories from the classroom, show us that our students are hearing these messages of both love and hate. My response is to provide an inclusive classroom by providing opportunities of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors through diverse books we read and the activities we complete.

“We need diverse books because we need books in which children can see reflections of themselves – but also look through and see other lives other than their own.”

Rudine Sims Bishop

Please watch the video below, from Reading Rockets which explains the idea of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. You may view the entire interview within this YouTube playlist, Rudine Sims BishopRead her essay, Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors that she discusses in this video.

I believe all children are valued in Penfold’s All Are Welcome and they will be able to see themselves represented within the story. Through rhyming phrases and repetition the message is repeated in a variety of ways in order for the students to take hold of its personal meaning. For this, the book is a mirror; a reflection of who we are as individuals.

I also believe all children are valued in this picture book and they will see that diversity is represented within the story. The words and the images expressed on the page allows the student to understand the importance of acceptance of all in this classroom. For this, the book is a window; a look into our classroom and our community. 

In addition, for those children who see their reflection in the people around them, they are shown the unknown. For this, the book is a sliding glass door for students to become aware of the country and world that surrounds them, that they have not yet experienced. 

I do not have all the answers on how we move forward from where we currently are. But I do know that people are hurting and ought to be seen and heard. We need to listen, learn, and change. Be better.

As teachers we have the platform to provide diverse books in the hands of our students to listen, learn, and change. Not just purchasing them and placing them in your classroom library to collect dust. They need to be read aloud, showcased, and discussed!

Last August, I read this book to all 158 middle school students within the first week of school. As I read these words, tears welled up into my eyes as I observed them listening and responding. There were no side conversations, no heads laid down to rest, no inappropriate gestures, etc. It was a beginning of a school year long discussion of All Are Welcome.

I am in hopes that this post inspires you to begin listening, learning, changing, and filling your classroom (and homes too) with diverse books providing opportunities of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors in the lives of the children you are honored to be a part of.

Until next time – a latte of blessings & sparkles,

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