At the Ottawa Catholic School Board, our English classrooms aim to create a love of reading for all learners. When students read stories told from authentic perspectives, we know that they connect the text and the world around them in a more profound way. That’s why we’ve equipped all of our intermediate and high schools with Own Voices literature – an extensive inventory of books that reflect diverse perspectives and experiences. These books allow more students to see themselves reflected in the stories they read while expanding their understanding of how others experience the world.
Own Voices literature consists of books written by authors from marginalized or under-represented groups. They write from their own perspective, drawing upon their own experiences. In these books, the author and the protagonist share the same identity. We feature and listen to these underrepresented voices because their unique perspectives enrich our understanding of the world and allow us to take in and appreciate the beautifully diverse people God created in His image.
How these perspectives are impacting students
“[All American Boys] has made me think more about the fact that racism isn’t just harsh black on white, it’s often the little grey area in between, and you can be racist without hating people of a different colour”– OCSB High School Student, Grade 12
“I enjoy this class for the Indigenous learning aspect… I feel like this course is the spark I needed for motivation. I just wanted to thank you for being a part of that.”– OCSB Virtual Academy High School Student
“I just finished reading Just Mercy with my students this morning. To say they were moved by it would be an understatement. The positive responses and meaningful reflections they shared during class discussions and in their assignments have left me speechless. One of my students was in tears today as she proclaimed how inspiring she found the book. She said she has been recommending it to all of her friends at her former school in Saudi Arabia.”– Heather Bilder, OCSB High School Teacher
“I had another student who said that it was refreshing to finally see her culture presented in a positive light. This course [Understanding Contemporary First Nations Métis and Inuit Voices] is what I always imagined teaching and learning could be – it’s truly transformative.”– Laurel MacDonald-Boucher, OCSB High School Teacher
Examples of Own Voices literature your child might read
If your child is in grade 10 English, they might read one of these novels this year:
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone
- On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
- Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
- Brother by David Chirandy
- Black Boy by Richard Wright
- Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- On Beauty by Zadie Smith
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- All American Boys by Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiely
- Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
If your child is in the grade 11 English course Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices, they might read one of these book choices written by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit authors.
Your child’s high school Learning Commons also received several Own Voices books this year. If your child is interested in reading any of these resources, they can ask their teacher or teacher-librarian for more information!
Interested in learning more about Own Voices literature?
If you’re interested in reading some Own Voices literature, the SORA reading app on the Student Portal has thousands of digital and audiobooks available to students and teachers. Check out this tutorial to get started.