As an educator in the seventh-largest school district in the United States, I’ve never had the opportunity nor the option to share stories centered around Black and Brown girls. Literature in which female characters of color are depicted as leaders, innovators, and/or creators is simply not a part of the core curriculum. For so long, girls, in general, have been raised with the ideology that their life role is to become domesticated. 

We see it in the toy section, where there are baby dolls, play kitchens, and dress-up and cosmetics kits. It is apparent in social settings, when they are encouraged to keep quiet, “act like a lady,” and smile. At what point do we challenge those societal norms and encourage our girls to be more? 

Rising Voices: Books Empowering Girls in STEAM offers a curated collection of wonderfully written books that help us introduce new norms into the classroom and challenge the old ones. The books in this collection highlight girls and women, including many Black and Brown main characters, placing them center stage in settings where they are often marginalized in the real world. It gives them a voice where they have been grossly underrepresented. 

I grew up in similar circumstances to the students I serve, in which overcoming adversity was a part of everyday life. Often, books were my only means of escape. Reading about the possibilities and learning that there was more than my current environment was a beacon of hope for me as a child. We have a social responsibility as educators to provide that same hope and relevance to the children in our classrooms.

This Rising Voices Library offers children the crossroads between aspirations and endless possibilities. As educators, we know firsthand how impactful lessons we teach can be to our students. When students can identify with the main character, envision themselves in similar roles, etc., the lessons we teach become so much more. They become relatable and, most importantly, attainable. “I can…” becomes a part of our students’ vocabulary, and they begin to believe that they can achieve the same successes they have seen via literature. 

It is important to provide a safe space in which girls can see themselves as future scientists, IT experts, mathematicians, and engineers of the future— not only for them to believe that they are capable, but also to facilitate a learning environment in which success is normalized. Creating a classroom culture in which the minority of any gender or background is heard, seen, and welcomed normalizes diversity and cultural acceptance among students and their peers. 

Rising Voices: Books Empowering Girls in STEAM not only exposes all children to the world of STEAM, it also teaches valuable life skills by having the main characters model them. Readers will be inspired, like the protagonists they meet in the library, to be critical thinkers, make inquiries, value their own observations, and problem-solve. These life skills are valuable in shaping students’ ability to be accountable for their own learning. Children of all genders and backgrounds can build on and benefit from learning these skills.

About Estephanie Mosquera-Ortiz

Estephanie Mosquera-Ortiz is the founder of Beaut&Beast Co., a company dedicated to teaching women and children self-sufficiency and awareness. An important part of Beaut&Beast Co.’s mission is to empower children to build on such characteristics in hopes of living healthier, happier lives. This is accomplished via flash cards and workbooks aimed at teaching children cultural diversity, history, comprehensive vocabulary, and selfawareness.

Estephanie uses her own personal story as not only a source of encouragement but also a testament to the impact of education and selfawareness. She is currently an elementary educator at a local achievement school. As a teacher, she actively promotes the importance of inclusion and cultural diversity. She also teaches students to become self-aware and to build mentally stimulating habits, such as critical thinking, problemsolving, positive thinking, and leadership skills. She has seen firsthand the effectiveness of representation, guided discussions, and self-identification in the classroom.

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