Tag Archives: children’s books

Racism, Children’s Classics and the World Today

18 Aug

newshour.jpgThis post has been in my heart and mind for a few days now and after seeing Grace Lin speak about this very issue on PBS NewsHour and in light of recent events, I think it’s an important subject that kids, parents, teachers, librarians and everyone in between should be thinking about and discussing.

Grace Lin’s talk was titled, “What to do When You Realize Classic Books From Your Childhood Are Racist.” Recently, I’ve seen a number of posts about The Little House on the Prairie books being labeled as racist (and they are). So this wasn’t a new idea to me, but one I hadn’t really thought about much before and that’s where my white privilege comes in. I loved reading The Little House books when I was younger, in fact, historical fiction was one of my favorite genres – Caddie Woodlawn (also racist), Anne of Green Gables (relatively forward thinking) and the American Girl books were my bread and butter. As a child, I don’t think the fact that Ma hated Indians was something I saw as racist, I knew the history of the migration of European settlers onto Indian land and understood that Ma’s hatred grew out of her fear for her family as wrong as it was. The same way I knew that you didn’t use the words that Mark Twain used to describe black people in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or how I have a fond memory of a teacher reading aloud The Indian In the Cupboard, but now as an adult see how truly incorrect the depiction of Native Americans truly was in this story. It’s not that I read them and accepted them as truth, I knew that because they spoke of the past, there were things that didn’t bear repeating in the world today.

You have to realize that many of these classics were written during a time (50+ years ago) that this vocabulary, depiction, illustration, language was, if not widely used, accepted by many. That doesn’t make these stories any less racist, but it does in fact leave an opening for an adult in a child’s life to open up conversation about history (and presents times as we’ve been seeing lately). It’s a chance to teach kids why we don’t use certain words, why a certain depiction is incorrect or why an illustration is offensive, hurtful and just plain wrong.

Does it mean we clean up these stories, removing language, illustrations and whitewashing our history? No. Does it mean we ban these books from children, never letting them read what we grew up reading? No. In fact, I think it’s a great way to teach children current events, history and so much more. I have a teacher-friend who recently shared this story on Facebook – a few years ago he had the most difficult class of children he has ever taught, a fifth grade class that wasn’t afraid to throw racial slurs around the cafeteria and playground like it meant nothing. So he paired the kids up and had them interview each other with a list of predetermined questions and a Venn diagram to illustrate their differences and similarities. Of course it didn’t take long for the kids to realize they had more in common with each other than they thought and were surprised by this revelation.

Kids aren’t born hating people that are different from them. They are taught hatred and  books are a great door in which to show kids the effects of racism, sexism, and just about every other -ism out there, but it’s also about showing them what it means to have respect, empathy, kindness, compassion and hope – all things we need a little more of in this world.

Each summer we offer a book discussion for middle grade students and on more than one occasion, I’ve offered a title with a character who is portrayed as having a disability. Kids are open in a book discussion to asking questions to better understand a character’s life and they feel comfortable in the book club space to be able to ask these questions. I know that asking questions can be microagressive to people who are different from yourself and I think there’s a way to ask questions respectfully and insightfully (which is a whole other post), but I think what this world could use is more instances of kids being comfortable asking the questions they have to understand the world around them, after all they’ll be here longer than we will and I’d love to see acceptance become the norm instead of the exception. So don’t be afraid to talk to kids about what they’re reading, kids want to be able to ask questions and to understand, but if no one is there to ask the questions to, how will they find their answers?

Okay, so this post has been meandering for much longer than I anticipated, but if you’re still with me…. check out Grace Lin’s absolutely astounding Tedx Talk or her books, including Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and so many others, she’s pretty awesome.

Children’s Resource: Reading Beyond Booklist

16 Jun

ReadingBeyondLOGO-_FINALI’m so excited to promote this amazing booklist, just in time for summer reading and all those parents looking for books for their kids who read beyond their grade level.

The Reading Beyond booklist is a list of “75 titles chosen by the ALA-CBC (American Library Association & Children’s Book Council) Joint Committee to provide guidance to parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and anyone interested in discovering books for children who read at an advanced level and are seeking more challenging, but still age-appropriate, books.” (CBC website)

The list is broken down into three areas:

  • Kindergarten & 1st graders reading at a 3rd grade level
  • 2nd & 3rd graders reading at a 5th grade level
  • 4th & 5th graders reading at a 7th grade level

This list was curated with special care looking for diverse titles in different genres in the hopes that there is something for each and every child looking for some new titles. And I know, because I was able to be on this amazing committee working on this list for the past year. It was not an easy list of books to come up with as there was a lot of back and forth – whether the content was appropriate for the reader, whether the reading level was too easy or too difficult and ensuring that diversity was well represented with the list.

Share this great curated and annotated reading list with friends, family and your libraries!

Children’s Book Week

3 May

CBWLogoDates.jpgBefore I let another day go by, I want everyone to know that it’s Children’s Book Week from May 1-7! This week celebrates children’s books and reading and has been since 1919. It is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country, which in my opinion, makes this a pretty awesome thing!

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/2/17

2 Jan

Well, that’s weird… the first time I wrote the New Year down.  Anyway, it’s a new year with new books to read and what better way to start than on my first day off of the New Year with dreary weather outside and no plans to get off this couch. I’m hoping to spend a good chunk of my day reading, just because I can.

I started The Bookshop On the Corner by Jenny Colgan last night and am excited to delve into her quaint little world again today.  My other plans for this week include The Reader by Traci Chee, Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner and The Inquisitor’s Tale Or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz. I don’t usually make any sort of reading goals for the year.  I joke that I have very few outside interests, so reading is something that I really enjoy doing and don’t want to feel obligated to read a certain number of books or certain types of books.  I’m thinking about a couple of different types of challenges, but we’ll see where the year takes me.

Over the course of this week, I plan on reviewing my last year and looking forward for what I want to do over the next year. Thanks for checking in on my blogging journey, I have a good feeling about 2017!


imwayr

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

A Renaissance of Children’s Literature

29 Dec

I saw this terminology (or something very similar) on Twitter over the past week and it seems to continually be popping up after hearing many librarians, teachers, parents and kids enjoying soooooo many of this year’s books published for children.

Don’t get me wrong, according to statistics, the publishing world still publishes primarily white, cisgender, “traditional” characters, but I think that now, more than ever the world of children’s literature is not only asking, but demanding that every child will see themselves in the books they read.  The quote that so many people continually come back to is a quote that describes books as windows and mirrors:

mirrors.png

That being said, publishers have taken these demands to heart and although I don’t know that more books are being published about diversity, I think that the books that are being published are often times extremely well done and getting a lot of buzz in the children’s literature world. What I most appreciate are the books that are diverse without being about diversity.  You don’t need to scream diversity when writing these books, just be sure to include characters that are diverse.

Award committees both through ALA and across the blogging world are promoting diverse books as well which makes them even more wanted by kids, teachers, bloggers, librarians and parents. What I love about this community more than anything else is everyone’s passion for getting the right books into the right hands.  Every podcast I listen to, every interview I read, continues to amaze me.  Authors and illustrators in the children’s literature field are some of the most kind, humble and beautiful human beings on this planet. I’m convinced. They care so much for getting these stories into the hands of kids and their love for teachers and librarians shines just as bright.

Still not convinced we’re in a Renaissance? Check out the upcoming list of titles for middle grade novels coming out in 2017 from Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook. Check out the Mock Caldecott from Watch. Connect. Read., the Newbery and Caldecott Predictions from Fuse #8 Production and if you Google “best of children’s literature 2016” you’ll be sure to find lists upon lists of amazing literature published over the course of the past year.  Soak it all in and update your TBR lists!

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