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Diversify and decolonise your reading lists


An image of books stacked.This guide is here to support staff to diversify and decolonise the reading lists for the courses and modules that they teach on.

A reading list is a list of recommended reading for a specific module or course. Reading lists are a powerful pedagogical tool to help students plan reading and build core knowledge.

We will show you how you can evaluate your current reading list and provide practical tips and ideas for finding resources to amplify minoritized voices and narratives within your lists.

There is also a reading list below with some suggested reading for teaching staff at Sheffield Hallam University. The sources on the list have been selected to help you find out more diversification and decolonisation and how this applies to reading lists.

We encourage you to:

  • take a step back and look with a critical eye upon your reading list.
  • take practical steps to help diversify and decolonise reading lists. 
  • involve students in co-curation of reading lists 
  • reflect on what is considered to be the central 'canon of knowledge' within your subject discipline, and think about whether there may be content that should be included but is currently missing.

Let’s look at fresh possibilities for reading lists! As bell hooks wrote (1994, p,12) "The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy." 

How to use the guide

We recommend working through the guide section by section. Each section contains links to resources and actions to help you develop your reading list. There will be action points in the guide which signal an activity and they will be marked like this:



What is covered in the guide?

The guide covers why we need to diversify and decolonise reading lists, where to begin, how to get students involved, resources to help diversify and decolonise and Library action.

The work is also supported by a reading list with resources to support Colleges and Departments. You can find a link to the Reading List below.


What are the limitations to this guide?

This guide is focused on reading lists as a mechanism for change in relation to the decolonisation of the curriculum and the promotion of anti-racist culture. A list can be diversified with the amplification of minoritized voices and narratives, international writers and research being built into lists, and questioning the automatic centralisation of "western knowledge".

This is one step on the road to decolonising the curriculum but other actions are needed, and working with the University’s Academic Development & Diversity service is a way to begin these conversations and innovate practice.


Student action: campaigning for change

Find out more from your students

Decolonising the curriculum is something we need to do step by step, day by day in conjunction with students and staff. Working on reading lists is one action but it is only the beginning of moving towards a decolonised curriculum. It is not enough to look at reading lists but it is a good place to start and having these conversations with the students who experience the curriculum is a great place to begin.


 Activity: Chat to your students about reading lists and knowledge creation

Students are fantastic drivers of change and have been advocating for change and decolonising the curriculum for many years. Speak to your students about reading lists and the subject canon. Why not spend one session talking about the knowledge that has been created within your subject which the students are using to answer assignments and prepare for working life?

  • What is the purpose of the reading list? 
  • What does the term canon mean?
  • What is the subject canon for your subject area?
  • Are reading lists neutral?
  • Are the selected resources representative of global knowledge?
  • Who does the research benefit?
  • What would you expect to see on the lists?

These are challenging questions but asking them and encouraging engagement could lead to change and could create a richer reading list. More about this in the Co-Curate with students section of the guide.

You can find links here to the Sheffield Hallam Student Union campaign as well as the National Union of Students. You can find out more about specific campaigns at local level in Sheffield Hallam Students Union, institutional level at other universities and at national level with the National Union of Students.

Here are a range of student lead resources


This guide has been created by Hallam Library: Learning and Teaching Support team with support from Academic Development and Inclusion.