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Creating a Sense of Belonging: An Interview with Reading Guide Author Nasteho Ahmed

Note: Interview questions were prepared by Zapoura Newton-Calvert and answered by Reading Guide author Nasteho Ahmed.

Nasteho wrote reading guides for Your Name Is a Song and Our Favorite Day of the Year.

Zapoura (ZNC): What are you studying at PSU? What are your long-term goals for your work in the world?

Nasteho: I am studying Social Work and my long term goals in the world include me

starting a business something like a non-profit organization to help people.

Probably working with youth, single mothers, or homeless people.

ZNC: What were the big picture themes you were interested in exploring for this blog post


Nasteho: I work with elementary school students so I was really interested in diversity,

representation, and belonging.

ZNC: Where does your own identity intersect with what these books talk about? How does

your own identity impact the way you read, select books, experience books?

Nasteho: I am a Black, African-American Muslim woman, and I grew up in a country

that isn’t my own. A lot of people can’t pronounce my name or I didn’t see someone who

looked like me in books and a lot of my childhood I struggled with identity because it

was hard to go back and forth in both cultures. As we grow up it is important to see

people who look like us in movies and books because it creates a sense of belonging.

ZNC: What tools, resources, or processes did you find useful as you created these lesson


Nasteho: I really wanted to expand my perspectives and search for books that I hadn't read yet. The first lesson plan was easy to do for the first book because it was one of

Zapoura's recommendations, and as I wanted to do with my second lesson plan, I

was looking for books that were clearly about representation. If there was a book

that I thought was a good choice, I would read the books first, listen to the read

aloud just to make sure that the books were still a good fit for the subject. I was

searching for books that I felt would be a good idea for a diverse group of people.

ZNC: What do you hope readers will get from this content? What are your dreams for

change in the world?

Nasteho: My vision for the future is that children will be able to read books and see

someone who looks like them and will identify themselves in books. My dream is

that they would love to read, and that they will feel more beautiful and reflected.

From this material, I hope that readers will be able to recognize themselves in

books and recognize the value of the diversity and representation in books.




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