September 30, 2021
Rachel Slaughter M'00
Can you recall the last book that made a permanent impact or impression on you? Did it have multidimensional protagonists? Was the plot well-developed, or maybe more importantly, contemporary? Consider the last story or text that indelibly changed you, and then try to remember an assignment from middle or high school. Were you inspired, or simply disinterested in reading the same novels that your parents (and possibly your grandparents) read before you?
According To Dr. Rachel Slaughter M’00, young children in primary school are exposed to a wide range of literature, but that typically ends by the time they reach seventh grade. Instead of reading multicultural texts which reflect the diversity of their lives, dated books are often distributed to yet another generation. She’s trying to end that by working with school stakeholders, and challenging them to create an environment where multicultural texts are incorporated into the curriculum.
“I grew up in a little town in Yeadon, Pa., and attended predominantly white institutions,” she said. “I was one of the only children of color, and every day we would read about cultures that didn’t reflect mine. ‘Why am I invisible in school?’ I wondered. I want teachers to look outside of the canon for books that represent the BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) experience. You would be surprised at how much kids love the genre because it reflects our reality.”
Slaughter believes that while there is merit in teaching canonical texts, like “The Catcher
in the Rye,” or “Flowers for Algernon,” it is urgent for middle and high school English teachers to focus on multicultural literature, so students can learn about diverse cultures, ethnicities and identities. Texts like “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas or “The House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros, can serve as catalysts to help young people love reading, and they initiate crucial conversations about race, diversity and inclusion.
“I want educators to consider assigning texts that will facilitate an understanding of other cultures and ethnicities as we move into a world where the minority is becoming the majority,” she explained. “I firmly believe an increase in multicultural literature will decrease racism in schools.”
When Slaughter was researching graduate programs to further her education, several professional colleagues recommended Kutztown due to its robust elementary education department, available courses and distinguished professors. She credits her early work in “Methods of Research” for igniting an interest in the benefits of multicultural literature, which formed the bedrock of her research and dissertation.
“I enjoyed KU’s College of Education, its course offerings, and the amazing people who made the university a home away from home,” Slaughter recalled. “Lytle Hall was where most of my courses were offered – I spent countless hours there. It is where I learned how to form a critical response to literature.”
Following the completion of her master’s in education with a reading specialist certification, Slaughter went on to complete her Ed.D. at Widener University in cognitive studies in reading.
Today, Slaughter is an author and learning specialist living in Lansdowne, Pa. Her latest
publication, “Turning the Page: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers to Multicultural Literature,” advises teachers on how to incorporate multicultural texts in the classroom, and provides a variety of resources, including curated book lists and lesson plans.
Every month, she publishes a column of “The Reading QUILT,” which highlights a book that parents or teachers can use to begin talking about culture and race, at home or in the classroom. Her column can be read in Chalkbeat Philadelphia; Successful Black Parenting; and Funtimes Magazine. The acronym QUILT stands for Quality of writing; Universal theme; Imaginative plot; as well as a mini-Lesson plan; and Talking points. Recently featured books include “Another Brooklyn” by Jacqueline Woodson, “Rachel” by Angelina Weld Grimke, and “The Lesser Blessed” by Richard Van Camp.
This article appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of The Tower.