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Teaching Diversity through Read-Alouds: an Interview with Megan Hartley

Learn from educator and book influencer Megan Hartley about the importance of diverse children's books and get their recommendations for diversifying your little learner's reading routine!

Megan Hartley (she/they) is many things: a mom, a reading teacher, a book influencer, and a Novel Effect storytime hero. She is also an advocate for diverse children’s books.

Aptly known as @ihaveabook4that on their popular Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter accounts, Megan shares engaging content to help teachers, parents, and caregivers find diverse books to read aloud with little learners. Megan’s book recommendations showcase the growing diversity of characters represented in children’s literature and highlight the importance of stories that affirm and celebrate a wide variety of cultures and lived experiences. 

We recently connected with Megan to chat about read-alouds, book recommendations, and the powerful role storytime can play in engaging students in important discussions about topics like equity, inclusion, and social justice. Read on to get Megan’s expert perspective and learn their tips for incorporating diverse titles into your own at-home and summer read-aloud routines.

Novel Effect: In your opinion, why are read-alouds so important for kids?

Megan Hartley: Read-alouds are important for so many reasons. Before a child is able to read independently, they benefit from being read to. These read-alouds are especially important because they help kids develop a love of literacy early in life. Read-alouds also strengthen vocabulary, promote bonding time between the child & the caregiver, and build connections between their life and the life of others. Lastly, and I’d argue most importantly, read-alouds provide entertainment.

NE: What are your favorite books to read aloud with Novel Effect?

MH: Can I really only pick one? 🙂 My favorite book to read aloud with Novel Effect is Jabari Jumps. My students’ favorite is The Oldest Student.

NE: What differences do you notice when you use Novel Effect during storytime? 

MH: When I use Novel Effect during read-alouds, my students are more excited and engaged. They don’t want to miss the sound effects since they never know when it’s coming… Whenever I teach something, I prefer to introduce and reinforce it with a read-aloud. Having Novel Effect, takes what I already love to do and enhances it by making the read-aloud more exciting. 

NE: What are your favorite books for teaching kids about topics like diversity, equity, racism, representation, and social justice? 

MH: [Some of] my favorite books for these topics are The Oldest Student, When We Say Black Lives Matter, Let the Children March, Stonewall, Malala’s Magic Pencil, and Sparkle Boy. I enjoy using these specific books because they are written in a narrative format. This format keeps my students engaged with the story because they want to know what is going to happen. I also like that many of these books include children that they can relate to.

NE: Do you have any tips for parents, caretakers, or other educators who want to incorporate more diverse books into their read-aloud routines?

MH: If you want to incorporate more diverse books into your read-aloud routine, my simple advice is to just do it. You can find so many wonderful diverse books online, in local bookstores, and at your local library. I also recommend incorporating these books based on your child’s interest. For example, if your child loves astronauts, include a book about the first Black woman in space

NE: How can parents and caretakers better engage their students in these topics during summer reading?

MH: If you want to encourage your child to read over the summer, lead by example. Let them see you reading. It doesn’t always have to be books. It can be a magazine, newspaper clipping, and/or online article. All reading is good reading. Many public libraries and bookstores have summer reading programs that are fun to be a part of. 

What’s on your family’s summer reading list? We’d love to know! Share what you’re reading aloud this summer by tagging us on InstagramTwitter, or TikTok!

Need some inspiration? Consider following Megan’s advice and join a summer reading program! The Novel Effect Summer Reading Program is FREE and offers 5 weeks of self-paced programming designed by educators and librarians to support literacy development for K-3 students. Join us as we learn together and read aloud our favorite diverse titles, including Hair Love, All Are Welcome, The Proudest Blue, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, and Eyes That Kiss in the Corners.

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