Tag Archives: empathy

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.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten YA Book Recommendations For Empathy

15 Aug

empathy (1).png

It’s been a rough weekend of news and it’s heartbreaking that we live in a world where this type of thought and action still occur. So, now that we’re back to official Top Ten Tuesdays, I wanted to create a list that could teach, or at least, show students how other people live in the country (or mirror what other teens seen in their neighborhoods every day). There are so many more titles that could be on this list, but I wanted to provide a wide array of experiences that are far too commonplace today. These books may not be easy to read, but they are necessary and needed. I can guarantee they’ll rip your heart and stay with you for a long, long time.

  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  2. Dear Martin by Nic Stone
  3. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
  4. Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
  5. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

  6. How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
  7. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

  8. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
  9. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  10. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

20 Titles to Create a Classroom Community

11 Aug

school community

There’s a lot of talk about reading a book a day during the school year, the importance of reading aloud to students and the need to teach and show kids empathy and kindness in today’s world. This is a wonderful list of titles that you can share at any time of year, but would make a great way to start the school year – expecting kindness from every student in the classroom and using picture books to show that expectation.

  1. You’re Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt
  2. One by Kathryn Otoshi
  3. I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
  4. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
  5. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
  6. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
  7. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton
  8. Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
  9. Be A Friend by Salina Yoon
  10. I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow
  11. Zen Ties by Jon Muth
  12. Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose and Hannah Hoose, illustrated by Debbie Tilley
  13. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
  14. Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora
  15. Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
  16. It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr
  17. Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
  18. The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany Strelitz Haber, illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds
  19. Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea
  20. We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

2017 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Finalists

29 Mar

llama.jpgThe first annual Anna Dewdney Read Together Award finalists were announced last week and I didn’t get a chance to post this yet, so here goes. Anna Dewdney, children’s book author and illustrator, most well-known for her series Llama Llama passed away last year of brain cancer at the age of 50. Sadly, much too soon for the children’s book world, but Penguin Young Readers, the Children’s Book Council, and Every Child a Reader created an award in memory of Dewdney that will continue her legacy for years to come.

The Anna Dewdney Read Together Award, “will be given to a picture book published in the U.S. during the previous five years that inspires empathy and connection and makes for an exceptional read-aloud.” Dewdney’s own books were about the every day trials and tribulations of a young child’s llama’s life in which you feel empathetic toward his plight, and they also made amazing read alouds with such a great rhyme and rhythm.

The finalists are:

  • Edward Gets Messy by Rita Meade, illustrated by Olga Stern (Simon & Schuster)
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Putnam)
  • Mother Bruce by Ryan Higgins (Disney-Hyperion)
  • Toby by Hazel Mitchell (Candlewick)
  • Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Holt)

The winner will be chosen during Children’s Book Week, a week to celebrate children’s literature and the announcement of the Children’s and Teen Choice Book Award at the end of the week. If you haven’t had a chance to read all five of these titles, stop by your local independent book store or local library to grab copies of them all to share with your family!

10 Read Aloud Titles About Service for MLK Day

13 Jan

MLK.png

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day that many people spend time offering service to their community – small acts to make a difference. Volunteerism can start with the littlest ones in your family and sharing some of these stories is a great way to teach kids kindness and service. These books range from one small act of kindness that ripples through a community to even larger acts such as purchasing an animal for a family overseas which can make a big difference to their way of life. But no matter what you have to offer, teaching children kindness and to think of others is something that I think everyone can do. Holding the door for someone, smiling a hello as you pass them by and asking another child to play together are all simple ways to teach kids to think of others around them. Share some of these great stories for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and share some other titles with me!

  1. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
  2. Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt
  3. One Love by Cedella Marley and Bob Marley
  4. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
  5. The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen
  6. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
  7. Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
  8. Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
  9. One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway
  10. Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming
%d bloggers like this: