Adversity uncovers realities and makes them painfully visible. The year 2020 came with challenges, from earthquakes to a pandemic caused by COVID-19. These events have shown the inequality that exists in Puerto Rican children. Educators have always seen it very closely. We recognize that childhood is unequal in terms of race, class, family life, and opportunities. Our work as educators requires constant reflection on how this influences our practice and how we achieve social justice for our students. This process can be overwhelming, because there are many situations that are beyond our control. However, we know that inequality has a strong impact on the socio-emotional development of children, which directly affects their academic performance. So we have to do something about it and join our voices.
A good starting point is to ensure that each student feels safe, welcomed, respected, and represented in the classroom, even if it is virtual. Celebrating diversity requires a willingness to re-educate yourself. Our new teaching reality serves as an opportunity to rethink everything, from the images that decorate the space and the vocabulary we use, to the content and books we select. An inclusive virtual environment is possible. It should be one where all families feel welcome, where all cultures are represented, where functional diversity is respected, and where girls and boys have equal opportunities.
Children's literature is the best support resource in this process. Our childhood deserves to have access to books that serve as windows, from where they can see and develop empathy towards different realities. But above all, books must serve as mirrors where each one can be authentically reflected. Representation matters and has a positive impact on the development of self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and love and interest in reading. All of these are determinants of academic success. When we listen, recognize and value all the voices, we confront inequality.