Project History

Spring 2020

Founded by Amanda Cloutier, the initial seed of this project was planted in Spring 2020. The Peel District School Board was under review by the Ministry of Education to "address concerns about equity, including anti-Black racism, and serious issues related to governance, leadership and human resources practices in the board" (Ministry of Education).

While the review began in November 2019, the disturbing results of the review were released March 13, 2020 (see press release) and the report detailed accounts of discrimination and systemic racism within the Peel School Board. Immediately thereafter, a list of directives for PDSB to follow were released (see here) to immediately stop and begin dismantling experiences of racism and discrimination felt by students, the community, and employees of the board.

One of the directives, Directive 18, diretly relates to updating resources that classroom teachers use to ensure staff are "utilizing resources that are inclusive and culturally responsive, relevant and reflective of students, and the Board’s broader school communities" (pg. 8). Although Directive 18 only calls for an audit of resources currently being used, this directive also pushed many classroom teachers, including Amanda, to reflect on the novels used in her FSL classes and the novels available in her book room for FSL teachers. The conclusion was clear: it was time to update the novels teachers were teaching.

Summer 2020

Over the summer break, Amanda, like many PDSB and Ontario teachers, took the opportunity to partake in professional develop to learn about how discrimination and systemic racism is "baked in" to the education world and to analyze means of dismantling the racism that existed. This was a new direction of learning for Amanda. She was shocked at just how profound systemic racism was in the education system (and in the rest of society).

Fall 2020

Over the summer following the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter and Defund The Police movements in the United States and Canada, Amanda recognized a shift in her social media professional learning networks, with many professionals offering resources to diversify classroom libraries and help teachers be actively anti-racist. However, there were few recommendations shared for French as a Second Language teachers, which made it frustrating to want to be a part of the change.

Amanda said to herself:

"If I had purchasing power in my school to buy new novels for my FSL classroom and the money to do so, I don't know where I would find the books to buy"

The added layer of complexity with buying new novels for FSL classes is ensuring that the language level of the novel is appropriate to those of the students in the classroom. While there were book lists of French novels being offered by publishers and book stores to diversify classroom libraries, it is very challenging tp find information that is publicly offered about the language level of such novels, making it very difficult to assess new novels, in French, that are at a language level appropriate for the secondary level FSL classroom.

The books we were after:

Our criteria have since been updated. Click here to view the updated list.

Amanda had the idea to combine the lists from book stores and publishers into one giant spreadsheet that also offered as much information as possible about the racial and cultural background of the author and characters (if it could be found on the Internet) as well as the page count. She then wanted to share this spreadsheet with a few FSL teacher friends. The goal would be to have everyone pick a book they think they could use to teach with, read it, and share their recommendations with the group.

Winter 2020-2021

Amanda shared this idea with Mandy, the co-chair of the Peel French and International Languages Teachers' Association, to see if other members would be interested, and Mandy thought so. At the next meeting in December 2020, Amanda pitched the idea to the members present, and there was interest. Following their enthusiasm, Amanda also posted about the project on Twitter where it garnered lots of enthusiasm and interest from teachers across the country!

At this point, Amanda also reached out to Mimi at the University of Ottawa to see about getting involved in the project. Amanda knew Mimi previously through a mutual friend and knew of Mimi's work towards culturally responsive education and using an equity and anti-racist lens to train teacher candidates. Mimi joined and also invited Alaa to join the team.

Spring 2021

Initially about 70 teachers signed up and ultimately about 50 participated. A total of 20 novels were read in winter 2020/2021 and program recommendations as well as overall information about the books were shared at two video meetings. The meeting were recorded and transcribed, creating the first version of the Collective Catalogue of FSL Books for Diversity, in PDF form!

After the second round of reading and sharing, Ruby joined the team, providing even more guidance and direction to the team, as well as insights from another school board and as a department head.

And thus was born the Collective Catalogue of FSL Books for Diversity! If you are interested in hearing about our future plans, click below!