Last August, when I was 35 weeks pregnant, my family and I threw a baby shower fiesta! It was amazing watching family and friends from different cultural backgrounds and experiences speak common languages like love, celebration and dance.
My mom and aunts blessed me one by one by putting a marigold in my lap and placing a dot of sindoor (red vermilion) on my forehead and Sam’s. In India, marigolds represent good fortune, blessings and celebration. Putting the sindoor on our foreheads during the baby shower symbolized a peaceful and prosperous marriage. The sindoor was also supposed to awaken positive energy within us. The blessings, marigolds and sindoor made the party culturally relevant for my family and I. It was also a window into Indian culture for many of the party’s attendees.
Responding to the culture and shared experiences of all of the attendees at an event is just as important to me as making sure I teach in a culturally relevant way. I encourage children to browse for books independently so that they can choose books with themes and characters that are relevant to their lived experiences. I design writing prompts that reflect a child’s culture, experiences and values. Research by Gloria Ladson Billings exemplifies that culturally relevant pedagogy motivates children, nurtures teacher-student relationships and leads to greater achievement.
One of the parents I am working with took her child to browse for books at the library. The parent waited for more than an hour for her child to browse through books and read a few pages in each of the ones she liked. In the end her child chose a chapter book. The book’s main characters were YouTube and TikTok influencers. The parent told me that her daughter is motivated to read the book because the characters interest her and they’re relevant to her.
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“Books that are culturally relevant can motivate children to read and boost their confidence. They can increase empathy and make the world less racist.”
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