Society problems

Duo is doing its part for a “more just society”

In support of the global collective against discrimination and gender bias on International Women’s Day 2022, The Star, as Chair of the Global Publishers Forum (Asian Chapter), and in collaboration with its regional media partners, will embark on a year-long initiative to highlight stories that celebrate and promote equality. Go to thestar.com.my for more #breakthebias stories.

CALLING themselves book nerds, a duo came together to spread their love of literature among high school students while shining a spotlight on gender equality.

As well as producing eight podcasts, each focusing on a book addressing relevant gender equality issues, they have designed classroom activities and learning materials to stimulate discussions on the topic.

The idea to start the Literature for Equality project came to Honey Ahmad and Diana Yeong after their “Two Book Nerds Talking” podcast caught the attention of some educators.

As podcasters, they have explored innovative ways to engage with literature, such as directing dramatized monologues, discussing television adaptations of books, as well as conducting book reviews and interviews. authors.

“We have often been approached by teachers and university professors wishing to collaborate with us to make literature more interesting for students, so we decided to launch this project to expose students to our perspectives on literature and how it can be used in a pleasant way,” they said. StarEdu in an email interview.

Since gender equality is an issue close to their hearts, they have made it the theme of the project.

“It impacts everyone in society because girls and boys are deeply affected when they are forced to adhere to rigid gender roles. So, we want to do our part to create a better and better society. fairer for all,” they explained.

Initially, book enthusiasts spent nearly a month researching and diving their noses into reading before choosing eight books to focus on from the roughly 50 books on their first long list.

When selecting the books, their main goal was to choose those that could easily start conversations about gender roles, as well as suitable readings for students, they shared.

Also, because they wanted to allow students to see gender equality from different perspectives, they included types of literature that are less commonly seen in the classroom, such as graphic novels and historical fiction.

Books that portray Asian and Malaysian perspectives were also chosen to raise awareness of gender bias and inequalities in the lives of young Malaysians.

“There were a lot of books that we wish we could have included. The final list allowed us to take a close look at issues of gender inequality – from how a girl’s worth is judged in society, to how fairy tales shaped our gender stereotypes,

“We hope the final list will resonate with students and help them think about the issues we highlight,” they shared.

Once the books were finalized, Honey and Yeong set about designing class activities for each book.

As this was the first time they had worked on such a project, they enlisted the help of teachers to better understand what was needed for an engaging lesson and to ensure that their material could be easily integrated into the programs to lighten the workload of teachers.

“We surveyed teachers and designed worksheets, class discussion questions, homework suggestions and activity ideas based on teacher suggestions.

“We have also come to respect the work of teachers to make subjects interesting for students,” they said.

Honey and Diana hope teachers and students will use the books, along with their podcasts and activities – which were published from October to December last year – to reflect on the effects of gender roles in their own lives, as well than to view literature as a lens from which they can understand themselves and their surroundings and, in turn, cultivate a reading habit.

“We push children’s books and train them to associate books with boredom and hard study, which is why a lot of people avoid books later in life when they don’t have to. read.

“As book lovers, however, we believe that books are wonderful, magical portals through which we can be inspired, find acceptance and belonging, or simply be entertained.

“We hope we can bring some of this magic to students to broaden their perspective on the possibilities of books,” they added.

The Literature for Equality project is supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, which was created by the Canadian government worldwide to promote small-scale projects that improve the prosperity and well-being of local communities.

To access the learning materials, go to https://rngdr.com/lfe/.

Shinz Jo, 18, a student at Selangor, is participating in the BRATs Young Journalist Program run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, visit facebook.com/niebrats.