News

Mount faculty, students diversify Common Core

November 10, 2013

Newburgh, NY -

Jane Gangi Presentation

Left to right: Justin Lewis of Spring Valley, NY, a graduate student in literacy for K-sixth grade students; Bishop Dunn Memorial School fourth grade teacher Nancy Benfer; Lauren Feliciano of Poughkeepsie, NY, a history major on the childhood and special education track; Jane Tejeda of Middletown, NY, a Hispanic studies major; Alexandria Hercules of Newburgh, NY, history major on the childhood and special education track; Anthony Hazzard of Marlboro, NY, a history major on the childhood and special education track; and Jane Gangi, associate professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College

“If I can fit myself in a book because the character has curly hair, because she has skin that’s a little bit darker, it’s easier for me to read,” said Jane Tejeda of Middletown, NY, a Hispanic studies major at Mount Saint Mary College. “Then, the teacher’s questions are going to be so much easier.”

Jane Gangi, an associate professor of education who is active in the Mount’s Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning (CELL), along with student contributors, presented their findings on multicultural literature for K-5 students at the New York State Reading Association Literacy for All Learners conference in Albany.

They followed up with a presentation for Hudson Valley teachers, students and parents at the Mount.

Good readers, Gangi explained, make text-to-world, text-to-self, and text-to-text connections. That can be more difficult for children if the majority of books they read feature only characters of one race.

David Coleman and Sue Pimental, architects of the English Language Arts Common Core Standards, sent representatives to Mount Saint Mary College’s CELL program, requesting suggestions for literary diversity.

Out of 171 recommended texts for elementary school students in the English Language Arts Common Core, 18 are from authors of color.

Gangi Book Discussion

Jane Gangi, an associate professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College, discusses diverse literature with project contributors (left to right): Alexandria Hercules of Newburgh, NY, history major on the childhood and special education track; Anthony Hazzard of Marlboro, NY, a history major on the childhood and special education track; Lauren Feliciano of Poughkeepsie, NY, a history major on the childhood and special education track; Bishop Dunn Memorial School fourth grade teacher Nancy Benfer; and Justin Lewis of Spring Valley, NY, a graduate student in literacy for K-sixth grade students. Not pictured: Jane Tejeda of Middletown, NY, a Hispanic studies major.

Gangi, Bishop Dunn Memorial School fourth grade teacher Nancy Benfer, and 10 Mount Saint Mary College student annotators developed a list of more than 150 book suggestions to include in K-5 Common Core standards. The texts were recommended by educators across the nation, or had won multicultural awards.

Gangi said it’s important for children to see among their learning materials people whose appearance resembles theirs.

“It’s got to be so much more than Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King,” she said.

Lauren Feliciano of Poughkeepsie, NY, a history major on the childhood and special education track, agreed.

“This is one of the first times that I saw myself in texts,” said the student annotator. “That was a really big deal for me. That made me want to read more.”

Justin Lewis of Spring Valley, NY, a graduate student in literacy for K-sixth grade students, added, “Reading these books of color will help all children. In America, we are multicultural. To be successful, you have to know about other cultures, especially in the business world.”

Other Mount education faculty who have participated in CELL are director Janine Bixler, Reva Cowan, David Gallagher, and Matt Hollibush. Additionally, English professor Peter Witkowski recently lent his skills to the program.

Other CELL initiatives include Mount book clubs offered at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. College volunteers help their young students to explore books that reflect various cultural backgrounds and interests of the Newburgh community. Children actively share their own ideas and stories as well.

Faculty with Favorite Books

With their favorite multicultural book suggestions, left to right: Jane Gangi, Alexandria Hercules, Anthony Hazzard, Nancy Benfer, Lauren Feliciano, Jane Tejeda, and Justin Lewis