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“In my four years of high school we have read two books written by people of color and I was like we have so many more diverse students here we shouldn’t just be reading two books,” said Khanna.
She then decided to take action and asked one of her teachers what would need to be done to get more books written by people of color into the curriculum.
Khanna was told it was a task that would require time, a brand-new curriculum and money to buy new books.
“And then I thought okay. I need to actually create a curriculum because teachers don’t really have the time to do it,” said Khanna.
Over the summer, she decided to write the curriculum with vocabulary lists, reading comprehension questions and other items for teachers to be able to take and make it their own.
When it came time to buy the books, she used the $1,000 she won after winning National History Day.
With that money, she was able to buy 100 copies of “The House On Mango Street,” which she donated to Clovis North.
After receiving more books from Barnes and Noble through the assistance league, it was time to offer her curriculum to teachers.
“Sometimes their responses have been, no they are too busy, they are already teaching something and that’s totally fine, but a lot of the time their responses have been yes and they are just like this is crazy that you’re a kid and you care so much about this,” said Khanna.
Now nine different school districts are using her curriculum, including Clovis Unified, Kern, Madera, Tulare, and a couple in the Sacramento area.
For Khanna, who says she doesn’t see herself represented in the media enough, she wants other kids to have more awareness of other cultures and ethnicities.
“We don’t read about issues that affect so many people in society, because in a book with all Caucasian characters, no one is going to be talking about really important things like racism or any of that stuff, said Khanna.
Khanna chose “The House On Mango Street” because of the large Hispanic population in California and the Central Valley.
It was written almost 40 years ago, by Sandra Cisneros, who says she didn’t read any books written by people of color through her school growing up, a struggle Khanna is still facing today.
“I’m not surprised that someone would need to search for a book that would nourish her, but I am astonished that she had the strength and conviction to challenge people in positions of power,” said Cisneros. “I’m very proud of her.”
One of Khanna’s teachers was the first to implement her curriculum into his English 9 class and says that the work Khanna has done is unique.
“Taking real action and making something substantial come out of it, I think that’s rare,” said Chad Hayden.
If you would like to find out more information on how to support Khanna’s diverse book project, you can do so by emailing her at email@example.com.