Unconscious Bias in Read Alouds

I had to pick a read aloud book from the books in my house that was appropriate for grade 5 because I’m teaching grade 5 online. I chose “The Horse and His Boy” by CS Lewis from the Narnia Chronicles. I love this series, although it has been about 15 years since I read them. None of the students in my class had read it, yet lots had read, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” from the same series.

As I got into the book, I found that the main character is a fair skinned, fair haired boy. He is trying to escape from evil, dark skinned, turban wearing men. Most of my students are brown. This is not a message I want my students to receive from books we read. So what do I do?

I could stop reading this book and start on another read aloud (although I may have a mutiny from my students if I do this as they are enjoying the story). I could continue on and choose a better book next time. I could continue with the book, editing out the parts about skin colour and turbans.

We have had many conversations in the class about skin colour, discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism. This book will provide us with another opportunity to talk about it. Perhaps we can decide as a class what to do.

p.s. I still love The Narnia Chronicles even as I realize the flaws. My class will watch “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” in June!

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