In true Covid-kindergarten fashion, I logged onto my morning meeting zoom from my kitchen table at 8:30 on a Wednesday morning. My class and I were quarantined and therefore spent many a day learning via zoom.
A year ago, the idea of teaching while quarantined from my kitchen table was completely overwhelming and seemed impossible. It’s been a year of learning and growing and it’s almost unbelievable that my learners this year don’t know school in any other way.
On this particular day, I had pulled “What Color is My Hijab?” by Hudda Ibrahim. It’s one we have read multiple times this year; at the beginning of the year to talk about colors, later in the year to talk about jobs, and now we were talking about characteristics of people and how they may exhibit these characteristics. I love the multi-dimensionality of this book.
When I was ready to start reading, I had 4 white boys logged into my zoom. I was excited to read this book to my kids knowing they’d be at home because I wanted my Muslim families to hear this book too. I wanted them to see that they are part of what we do, that they matter, that they are valued. I wanted my little Muslim girls to hear this book again, to feel those things too.
For a split second, I debated pulling another book from my pile, but the intentional learning and work I’ve been doing for the last couple of years kicked in and made me realize that this book was even more critical for my current audience.
So off we went, reading and thinking, talking and connecting. As time went on, more students joined, and the audience for this book grew. My learners and their families were in this book with us, doing the work together.
At the end, as we were processing, my boys (and the others) talked about their favorite colors. They talked about the jobs and characteristics they learned about. They talked about what they might want to try and why. And you know what? My five year olds didn’t spend a second identifying that any of the people in this book wore hijabs or were girls. They didn’t think anything was different, to them, it was just a “typical” read aloud Miss Masse chose.
I have always felt it’s critical to have my learners represented in the books we are reading. With the events of the last couple of years, this has become a significant focus for so many people. My hope is that in these small moments, where seeing a woman in a hijab as a doctor, an athlete, a model, a politician, is normal to a child, we are growing a generation of justice seekers, advocates, and allies.